Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Many Hands of Manipulation

Literally "manipulation" is skillfully working with one's hand,
just as a sculptor manipulates clay.
What you learn from tango will help you in life.  As we dance, our hands are constantly touching and we both have a hand on each other's back.  Are all hands the same?  Of course not.  And so from tango we learn that hands have a spectrum of behaviors, feelings and emotions behind them.

In the "real world" hands are not so often experienced by others at work and between friends as we dancers experience them.  And many languages* do not help clarify this spectrum in the definition of "manipulation," meaning "the work of hands."  Manipulation in day-to-day usage has mostly negative connotations as I hear it.

Official definition for Manipulation
Manipulation's official definition does not help us understand the wide spectrum of behaviors of manipulative behavior, ranging from "ethical and appropriate handling" to "unethical and over-bearing handling."  So I am going suggest more clarity to the subject by adding five different Greek prefixes to help clarify, using social tango as a way to understand the complexities of social interaction.

Not just dancers need better clarity of of the Spectrum of Manipulation, but perhaps these definitions will help you better navigate the sometimes stormy waters of social tango, and for that matter, everyday life.

The 5 Types of Manipulation:

Eu-manipulation causes joy. It feels like a massage from a someone you trust with gentle hands.  "Euphoria" is an example of a "eu-" word.  Kind people use eu-manipulation to gently mold an environment of trust.  "Asking" for a dance with one's eyes and not one's mouth and from a distance is a type of eu-manipulation.

Syn-manipulation: Syn-manipulation is also like a mutual massage, but both are taking turns or manipulating each other, and life is good!  One gives and gets at the same time. (Syn-phoria is not a word, but would mean to bear together: The ancient Greek σύν (“with") usually means "in company with, together with”).  "Symphony" is the bringing together of sound for a mutually wonderful effect.  Dancing with respect and listening to one another on the dance floor is a type of syn-manipulation that will "sculpt and mold the future" for more dances.

Synépeia-manipulation:   Is natural consequence-manipulation--often not even intended--usually between two very close people.  When a neglected partner is being forgotten and suddenly the other notices she's dancing with a lot, this would be the manipulation-through-consequences.  Consequence manipulation can be gentle or very rough.  Saying "no" to an rough-handed manipulator in the right way has a better chance of modifying inappropriate manipulation.  This is the best use of consequence-manipulation.

Pan-Manipulation: "Pan-" is the Greek prefix for "all" or "all-inclusive." This type of manipulation is usually seen by all as a type of exaggerated manipulation, but it is widely interpreted both as appropriate (eu-manipulation) inappropriate manipulation (dys-manipulation).  The short skirt woman or seductively handsome tomcat man may irritate many as being manipulative, but some will delight in this manipulation.  Let it be!

Dys-manipulation: Dys-manipulation means "bad-handed" or "heavy-handed." Dys-manipulation is one-sided and self-serving manipulation. (Dysphoria, a real word, is an example of
a "dys-" word. It means difficult to bear something, excessive pain from the Greek δυσ- (dus-, “bad”). At its very worse, dys-manipulation too often results in the person feeling guilty, shamed or
even physically/psychologically intimidated. However, most dys-manipulation is a low-level aggression that leaves its target feeling used, and "manipulated," as the word now is often used.  Feeling guilty?  You are probably experiencing dys-manipulation.

Conclusion:  Please practise your eu-manipulation freely and without any more guilt or feelings as if it isn't right.  If it is ethical manipulation, it goes back to the true meaning of the word--to make or form something with one's hands, just as "manufacture" once meant "to make with ones hands"!

Let your hands be gentle.   The practical application here is really quite easy.  Most dys-manipulation happens from speaking.  I recommended a short script that one can apply to situations:  "Please! Non-verbal requests only."  Be nice. Walk away if you have to. More than that is not necessary. Why get into a discussion with a dys-manipulator?  This is tango, and with its traditions come education.  I hope you will watch very carefully, and learn from the best eu-manipulators out there.  They are the social geniuses among us.  I very much believe that being equipped to recognize the many "hands" of manipulation, that you will spot the whole spectrum of manipulation all around you.

Have fun protecting yourself from dys-manipulation, and enjoying perhaps better tandas as you become a refined eu-manipulator.

Photo credit for woman being sculpted
You must watch this video! It contains both artistry and a moving message.  For dancers it is an example of eu-manipulation turning into dys-manipulation--a beautiful mother being molded by the hands substance abuse.

*The languages that I have studied have the same root of "hand" in them.  English, Spanish, German and French share the same word for manipulation.  Greek includes the word "hand," (χείρ) but unfortunately, none of these languages has separated out the nuances of manipulation.  I had hoped to find that the very exacting language of Greek would have had the "eu" for manipulation, as I have suggested in "εὐχειραγώγηση," but it does not.  

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