A Teacher for Unlearning

Survival in its most primal form is based on evolutionary advantages and an ability to learn how to navigate one’s environment. But living and living happily takes a little more finesse. Although happiness, for the most part, means different things to different people, Jean Liedloff proposes some game changing ideas in how to achieve and sustain genuine happiness in The Continuum Concept for those “In Search of Happiness Lost”.

First and foremost, in the journey to happiness, understanding and accepting that some of the things you’ve learned on your walk through life are actually detrimental to the cultivation of happiness. In order to remedy this problem, Liedloff proposes that we simply unlearn the perceptions, ideas, and ways of thinking, etc. that block us from the paradise within ourselves. A tall order but I think a lot can be said about the unlearning process because it is through unfavorable experiences and or outcomes that we learn the fears, doubts, and insecurities (aka the perceptions, ideas, and ways of thinking about ourselves and how the world views us) that can really shape who we are and how we live out our lives. So, in order to do more than survive, which is live happily, we must unlearn the things that hold us back from our potential. However, because the unlearning process challenges everything you know without an outward promise to replace what was given up with a new more enlightened outlook, the risks of unlearning can start to feel like they outweigh the possible rewards. What has helped me look past the daunting nature of unlearning, ironically enough, is having a teacher.

Tango is surprisingly remarkable at taking a real long look at you and pointing out insecurities you didn’t even know you had. Because tango is so good at revealing your hidden fears, doubts, and insecurities, it is an excellent unlearning teacher.  First showing you their existence and then giving you exactly what you need to conquer them; always finding a new way to approach you. So sometimes tango be all like, “Girl, I know your arms are pulled in tight against your body cause your afraid of letting people in”. But sometimes tango is firm like, “If you’re going to lead you must take charge, where is your confidence!”. Other times tango takes a more gentle approach saying something like, “Mi amor, you mustn’t be afraid to relinquish control and allow the music as well as your partner to move you”.

Since tango has said all this to me and more, if I ever want to become a better dancer and overall happier person I must unlearn the underlying fears, doubts, and insecurities that manifest themselves as an arm pulled in too close to the body or following with hesitation.  In all the things that tango has brought to my attention, trusting my body has become a fundamental theme.  I can’t really pinpoint where I learned to distrust my body but I just know that it’s a caution that’s always been there. Although I am not ready to throw caution to the wind, tango has helped me nurture a will to set it aside for a few songs and remember that moving beautifully comes naturally.

Through tango I can do more than survive. I can move beautifully and live happily. I can unlearn instilled fears, doubts, and insecurities, however mysterious their origins, so that I may reclaim the sort of happiness that transcends the dance floor.

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