Tango: the social or Argentine form of tango is a dance where you embrace the ‘other’ (your partner) and then lead or follow improvised steps.
Shadow: a Jungian term with many interpretations. Mine is: the character qualities, emotions or versions of ourselves that we put away in our unconscious and label the ‘not me’ because it does not align with our idea of ourselves.
Shadows can be positive or negative and often are projected on others. The positive projection can lead to putting the object/person of our projection on a pedestal, the negative to labeling the object/person as bad or evil. Either way it is a waste of energy and good connection---with ourselves and with others. If we admit and see our shadow there is less inner and outer conflict.
What do I mean by ‘tango with your shadow’? First is the invitation: I want to know more about this hidden part of myself. I am willing to not like myself. I am willing to consider that I could do things as wonderful as my most admired people.
Next is the observation phase: Who do I label with generalized criticism or praise? (He is always so stupid! She is the most wonderful woman in the world!) Deconstructing these statements can lead to insights and new directions such as, ‘What does this tell me about myself? Is there a part of me that has these qualities?”
Thirdly, I firmly take the leader position and embrace my shadow while gently leading it step by improvised step into new patterns and possibilities, all the time listening to the music and to the shape of who I am leading. The music provides a flow that makes change easier. The music can be kind words of acceptance or just being understanding of what has created the shadow.
Energy is released and relaxation occurs. It is a good dance.
Our whole lives we are becoming ourselves. Whose shoes will we walk in? Will they be ours? Or society’s? Or our family expectations? Or survival shoes? We go through through the fiery crucibles and storms of experience: edited and carved into new shapes. Hopefully, we still have a feeling of being ‘our self’.
I am an artist according to this definition: An artist expresses from a dimension just beyond the senses and inspires others to see life symbolically. However, most of my life I feel I have spent chasing after, trying to own, the identities of singer, guitar player, songwriter, writer, musician while actually believing that I was only a “helper, listener, worker”. Those latter identities were and are important (and creative in their own way) but there was a problem: the artist in me always seemed to get a back seat and certainly not a seat at the table. She did not get the effort and attention she deserved. This was connected to the implicit beliefs of society and myself that someone who did not look ‘normal’ (eg facial disability) could not own the identity of performing artist that for many years I wanted more than anything. I did achieve this dream for a brief period but could not rest in it and vaguely felt I was on borrowed time. This was true in part because I had an undiagnosed condition of spasmodic vocal dystonia making my singing voice randomly disappear.
I did keep pivoting to guitar playing but was stopped by the fear of failure generated by the leftover heartbreak of failing at singing my own songs. I did believe in my songs but I abandoned many of them. I often would hire other people to record them and then for sure I would leave them in the dust. Eventually the songs stopped coming even after I developed a way of writing them in my head (not being able to sing them).
The pandemic seemed to stir up my ability to create again. Because I couldn’t default to my favored defense system of overwork, I had time to write. I wrote two songs and resuscitated two old ones. I wrote and collaborated on some tango instrumentals. I began to develop a way of speak-singing. (my speaking voice was less affected by the dystonia). Still I had lingering complex ptsd feelings of giving up.
Then I had the following dream. “I am running barefoot through an airport to catch a plane. I am carrying a large disintegrating box with my mother’s ashes. I trip and fall spilling the ashes. I lay there collapsed in a sense of failure until I hear voices around me saying, “What is the matter here?” And a man with kindly eyes says “Don’t give up---ever” I listen to him and receive the help they give me—new ticket, shoes, a small secure box of the ashes.”
This dream and watching ‘Colin in Black and White’ the inspiring story of Colin Kaepernick’s struggle to become what he wanted to be (a quarterback) against all odds, pulled me out of my creative slump. I try to remember everyday what he said in the last episode, “To all the overlooked…..trust in your power”
Kristi Magraw is known for having developed a unique synthesis of Eastern healing (Five Element theory) and Western ways of working with the mind, called the Magraw Method, which she established in 1979. This method uses metaphoric language and release techniques to help people heal physical and emotional pain.