Complex Emotions at Tango Weekend

I am sore! My body aches all over from participating in the West Coast Tango Marathon this weekend, which is the first time since entering treatment that I have been allowed to dance to my heart’s content.

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I have mixed feelings about the tango experience from this weekend.

First, I am grateful for the freedom to dance. A research study published in 2012 titled “Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control: A randomised trial for treating depression” by Pinniger et al (Complementary Therapies in Medicine) found that Argentine tango is “as effective as mindfulness meditation in reducing levels of self-reported depression.” Like mindfulness, tango brings me to a zen state of being. In tango, my mind is free from all other distractions and stresses and I truly feel like I exist only present in the moment, connecting with the music and my partner. I advocate for everyone to have an activity that clears the mind, acting as a brain reset button. Tango also substantially improves my mood; it is nearly always guaranteed to make me happy.

That said, I no longer experience the high highs that tango once offered. When I was a beginner dancer, every dance was amazing. I was thankful for anyone and everyone who gave me a chance. As I improved, I learned that some people have a stiff tango embrace that would pinch my back and others do not listen to the music or their partners. Now, I would rather sit and wait for a quality dance than dance all night with a mix of people who make me uncomfortable. When I went dancing this weekend, I did not have to sit and wait very long between dances. Even though I have not been dancing as much as I used to, and was afraid I would look out of shape, many of my favorite leaders remembered me and asked me to dance for many delicious tandas (sets of 3 – 4 tango songs danced with the same partner). I enjoyed dancing with every one of my dance partners; and yet, tango does not give me the same endorphin rush it once used to.

When I was lonely, I craved the hugs that the tango embrace offers. My need to be hugged helped me develop a strong and yet sweet embrace that is often complimented. When I was previously unsatisfied in my personal relationships, tango was my favorite form of physical contact. But, I am not lonely anymore, and I do not crave and need closeness in tango to the same degree. I am finally in a fulfilling romantic relationship wherein my favorite hugs are from my boyfriend, Ben. While I am happy in tango, I am happiest with Ben.

Tango pales in comparison now, which is sometimes a tough adjustment. I miss the way I used to feel about tango even while I am grateful I have found something better. Dancing this weekend was no longer pure joy; I felt some sadness at the loss of the way tango used to make me feel. Originally, I tried to numb out that sadness. As I begin to acknowledge the sadness, I feel happier again about participating in the tango marathon this weekend. I am learning to feel two contradictory emotions simultaneously.

I look forward to having another opportunity to explore my increasingly complex feelings about tango at the San Francisco Tango Marathon next month, which has consistently been my favorite tango event.

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