Sunday, September 4, 2011

Re-finding Tango as a Safe Haven

This is my Safe Place.  You cannot take it from me!

Recently I suggested that tango is a "Safe Place" for many people.  Many people can just imagine dancing and they feel calm and safe.  A friend pointed out that tango no longer feels safe for her because trust was broken, and now she no longer feels safe with tango in general.

I am glad that she brought this out.  In all cases, one's safe place can be challenged by human experience.  In some cases that Safe Place never comes back.   Tango can lose its feel of safety too because tango with certain people is not safe.  Never was.

My Safe Place is a mountain in Nevada behind the home where I grew up. Had I experienced a rattlesnake biting me on that mountain, I probably would not choose that particular place as my favorite Safe Place.  Chances are, I would choose a different place.  However, tango is not a place that can be easily replaced.  Some Safe Places are worth preserving.  Tango belongs to this class of Safe Places that are worth retaining forever.  Tango itself is not itself archetypal, but the embrace, movement to music, mastery of improvisation are archetypal.  Here are some examples of archetypal Safe Places:

  • Mothers:  I have some clients whose mothers severely abused them, but a motherly figure replaced the abusive mother.  An archetypal motherly figure creates a Safe Place for even people who have not had a loving mother.
  • Fathers:  The same as above, but this one is particularly clear for many people with their sense of a fatherly God -- a loving father whom they experience only in a mental realm.
  • The Opposite Sex:  Because of physical or mental abuse many people lose their trust of the opposite sex, but through their own resiliency or therapy, they find freedom from generalizing against all women or all men.
  • Races or classes of people:  This is similar to the opposite sex, even more insidious .  In all cases of trauma that I have worked with up to now, there is some sort of hate of a class of people that at some point drops.  Without this change, true freedom from trauma was not achieved.
  • A place of worship.  Sometimes when a bad experience in paired with a place of worship, the person loses more than just that place, but the whole idea of a sanctuary and a holy Safe Place and faith.  Regaining that safety -- perhaps in a different community -- is part of engaging oneself in the world.
Like the above five things, tango is worth preserving as a Safe Place.  It is an embrace, and the joy of movement to music and the mastery of improvisation.  Also tango is a community of people, and unless we plan on being hermits, living fully requires us to learn that all communities will have safe and unsafe people.

The work that a person must do to regain resiliency after being at war, after rape, after trust is broken, after suffering a loss or after being abused is an important fork in the road that will surely come in some way for all of us who live very long.  Re-finding your safe place is an important life task!  Bad experiences tied to good things one by one could have you living in a world with nothing good.  

Let's say you left salsa because of "the crowd."  Now, you find solace in the tango community.  But there are unsafe people everywhere you go, and sooner or later, someone will come along to challenge your Safe Place in tango (or anything beautiful in the world).  So live and learn.

Re-finding tango is an important task for anyone who has found its beauty.  A person who has been raped has to re-find sex or men in general.  Divorced people have to re-find the opposite sex.  People robbed by a particular person of a certain race may have to re-find their trust of that race and fight inner racism.

My dance shoes are my Safe Place.  I like it here.
Perhaps going to a therapist is the best place to start.  Some therapists might have you leaving tango, especially if you mention that some say it is an "addiction," which is a poor, medicalized analogy of something very beautiful.  So be careful of framing tango in this way, or the therapist will only go along with your avoidance behaviors.  Then the problem will be solved by not solving it.  The best actions to support your therapy is to "get back on the horse."  Get back out there dancing!  Also align yourself well with people who can be trusted.  I also suggest the eight solutions I mentioned earlier in my blog for rejection.  Losing a Safe Place is not "rejection"; however, these solutions help in both rejection or a loss of trust in tango.

A future blog entitled "Tango Vultures" will also help to identify whom you can trust, what to do to instill trust with others who know your struggle, and finally what the tango community needs to do about the Tango Vulture.  

Photo Credit:
Cat in her Safe Place

Safe Place Shoes

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