Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dancing in your safe place, part II

The spectrum of vision probably does not include seeing your soul
Pablo Casals, considered by many the greatest cellist to  have ever lived, was known for playing soulfully.  At times he would play and weep.  I think he got into his inner safe place.  That was his "zone."  Can you dance like that?  Find your zone and walk there with another person?  This is your safe place, the epicenter of soulful expression.

This post is part II of a meditation about dancing in your safe place.  As any meditation of value, it has changed my opinion about this subject of being observed as a dancer.  Many of my reflections in the past have eschewed "dancing for the crowds."  Although that is generally a good idea, there is in fact a spectrum of being observed.  However, on both ends of the spectrum one must remain centered on one's very intimate safe place.  For example, whether Pablo Casals was playing alone, in a duet, or before thousands of people, I believe this great artist could quickly find his safe place.  He was confident in all settings.  There are some performers who do not start from their soul but from their need to be watched.  I believe that one cannot find one's soul from starting with the joy of being confident in front of the crowds, but one can start from one's soul and feel comfortable in front of crowds.

I have used the word soul, which is very problematic, because the modern mind is ignorant about the soul.  I have learned (late in life) that "soul" is a very concrete part of being human.  The Greeks knew this, but we modern people find it hard to define.   I would have never thought of one's inner safe place as being our sense of "soul" until I started working with combat veterans as a therapist.  Veterans of war often say "I lost my soul" and it means to them:  "I no longer feel safe, anywhere or anytime."  Feeling safe inside is what puts you in touch with your soul.  Without it, you have a soul, but you are unaware of its presence.  A person who does not feel safe lives like a wild animal, not knowing whom to trust and having no recollection of the tender care of others who helped you survive before going off to war or being traumatized in some tragic event in your life.

Psyche (of psychology) is "soul" in Greek.  So if you want to say that finding, maintaining, and knowing about the epicenter of knowing and feeling is "psychology" instead of "the science of the soul," that is okay with me, but why hide behind big words?   It seems natural to me that the study of the soul is often required course work by higher learning institutions all over the world.

Why do tangueros keep coming back to hold another person, to move to the music, to find our "zone" in which we are safe to laugh or cry?  I believe it is because we want to study our soul, to know more about it.  What a terrible misunderstanding it is to say, as many do, that we are "addicted" to tango.  Are we addicted to the thirst to find joy?  To seek the "water" of touch in a modern world which fears touch is addiction?  Or is it our deprived "addictive" self that hungers after another moment in which our soul finds a moment of safety?

Feed your soul.  You do not have an addiction.  You have a hunger, a thirst, a basic need at the center of your psychological well being.

Photo credits:
Spectrum from eye:


  1. I liked this.

    There is another way to look at how greeks such as Plato thought about soul. That man is born with an embryo of a soul, but needs to nurture so the soul grows. The same idea exists also in many Eastern religions, with the symbol of seed and tree etc.

    While I fully agree with what you write about the hunger, it is also possible to be addicted, in a bad way, to tango.

    It is an addiction when anybody else can see that it is no longer really joyful for you, but somehow you keep doing it because you think you enjoy it -- in fact you cannot imagine life without it.

    Everything in moderation, even nurturing of the soul :).

  2. Mikko... great points. I think we agree in principle; however, the problem is the unfortunate, widely accepted vocabulary of the pseudo-science of behavioral medicine. Have we all be "infected"? Are all of our computers susceptible of "viruses"? The world of the behavioral medicine (mental health) is full of very poetic analogies. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual V is about to come out with a lot more things we can be addicted to; therefore more people will need expensive treatments. Will tango be one? Tango, food, touch, tai chi and other things that bring pleasure are NOT cocaine. Addictions are false needs that are registered in our bodies and minds, and not other substances that are not necessary for survival. Tango and tai chi, for example, have elements of things we absolutely need. Movement is necessary. Make someone sit down and be still for a long about of time and they will go crazy. We do need to move, be touched. Tango is great to meet these needs. Sure food and other needs can get out of whack, but in reality they are not addictions by soul problems and best treated as such. My problem is that the medicalization of every aspect of life is the medical world's tendency to use the soma (body) analogy to understand the universe. Plato, as other Greek philosophers used psyche (soul), pneuma (spirt/wind/breath) and soma (body) as overlapping circles. The medical model uses only one circle: The body. So even the Greek word "trauma" (physical wound) is used to include the psyche (soul). The great philosophers used the word "tragedy" which may or may not leave lasting negative effects (scars). Which would you rather have after seeing a so-called "traumatic" event (tragedy): Scars or the possibility that it would bring some higher level of understanding? The great religious leaders often found higher enlightenment after a tragedy. So I do agree with you in principle, but in the world of therapy for addictions, don't you think that people using the science of the soul (psychology) would be more exact about their language? In making the universe an analogy to the body, psychiatry has over-stepped their bounds unwittingly into a world of poetry-as-science. Nurturing you soul is not to be done in moderation; feeding your soul takes a whole menu of nutrition, not just one. Perhaps some folks have an "unbalanced diet" of tango -- but even this analogy uses the somatic model. You see, even I, am "infected" by the medical/body model. :-)

  3. Yes, I see your point.

    However, there is a certain specific pattern of behavior that lay people mean when they say that "tango can be an addiction".

    For example, it seems I am experiencing this pattern of behavior right now. (Of course, the fact that I now see that I enjoy it on some level, whereas I really do not enjoy it on another level already changes my attitude towards it.)

    I think "unhealthy diet" is an understatement for the behavioral pattern I am talking about. In terms of food, comparable "diet" would be a daily diet of fast food from McDonald's, where no alternative would no longer be acceptable.

    There is a need for a word that describes such a behavioral pattern. We need common words for common concepts that we see around us. Otherwise we cannot communicate. If you think "addiction" is not useful word, perhaps you could suggest an alternative?

  4. Mikko... In a word, "over-indulgence" of a good thing. Addictions are indulgence in something unnecessary (cocain and alcohol). My assumption is that tango is therapeutic. I think that your request for a alternaive expression is worthy of a blog. I would like to send you a rough draft and work on clarification with you. My email is Here are some more references to tango as NOT being an addiction: and

  5. Ok, I sent you an email.

    I would only add that, I also believe that tango can be therapeutic.

    On the other hand, I think one cannot generalize that tango is therapeutic, because it is many things to many people. To some people it may be therapeutic and healthy, to others unhealthy.

    If we continue with the example of food, tango can be useful food, like a decent salad etc. Tango can also be fast food. We need food, but we do not need fast food.

    With regards to your earlier writings, the fact that some people stop dancing tango after they are "healed of addiction" may actually not be a result of "thinking in terms of behavioural medicine", but because tango was therapeutic for them. After the therapy "worked", they no longer felt the need to dance tango.


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