Guilty as charged
Yes… I am guilty as charged. In my post, a couple of weeks ago about the “high stool” problem, I received some very interesting comments. In one of them, a reader commented that I was trying to invent a clever mechanism to get people on their guilt trip. I understand the point. I was judging some behavior and I was maybe making people feel guilty. Maybe some people felt tempted to defend themselves and tell me I was wrong (which I may be). So yes… I accept the accusations… I was trying to make people feel guilty. But did I really try to do that?
There is often a discussion in Tango about how you navigate this feeling of guilt that you might have when you reject an invitation. I am not talking about a normal rejection because of whatever reason. I am talking about constant rejections. Or even more so rejections to people that you used to dance with but not so much anymore. You probably have such stories of people you danced with frequently and then at some point, you started getting some distance. Maybe you progressed faster… maybe they stayed behind… You still see them… You still know and like them as a person… But you don’t feel like dancing and the awkwardness of trying to avoid an invitation makes you take distance from the person in general and not just from dancing with them. You end up behaving in a way that shows you are avoiding them. Yelizaveta had a very nice podcast episode about it the other day. Go check it out.
Dealing with guilt
I started thinking about guilt in general. Why do we generally feel guilty? When do we feel guilty? If you see it from the legal perspective guilty is a person that goes against a predefined set of rules that we have set as a society to ensure our well-being in living with other people. So guilt means going against the rules… the laws to be exact in this case.
This helps us understand why and when we feel guilty. We have guilt when we break our inner rules. But what are these rules? Nobody has ever written a personal rulebook but we all have some values and ideas that we live by. I mean, some people want to help others, some people value honesty and cannot lie, some others value physical items and want to get rich and make as much money as possible etc. Whatever your values are in your life, you will have guilt when you break them because you go against your personality. You go against yourself. So the person who values money might feel guilt if they donate to a charity, while on the other side, a person who values helping others will probably feel guilt if they gather too much money. The same action can have different effects depending on their values and personality.
So what does it mean if you ever felt guilt in a milonga? It means something simple. That you went against yourself, against your values. I did have such moments in my dancing journey so far. Moments where I felt guilt. When I felt I neglected or avoided a person who I otherwise liked just because we somehow did not fit in the dance and I didn’t want to dance with them anymore. Do you know what happened then? I reacted. Next time in a milonga I would pay more attention to dancing with someone with whom I hadn’t danced for long… next time I would seek some beginner… next time I would be more open to dancing with someone new than usual. My route was deviating from my moral compass and I had to correct it. I felt I was going off my path and I had to take corrective action.
We are all like ships travelling to a destination. Our routes are based on our values in life. Your values are your moral compass, they are what guides many of your actions and what defines you as a personality in this world. If you already have steady values and you know your destination and you feel ok with it, then good for you. Stay on your course. If you ever doubt your values, you reevaluate and maybe change route. It is never too late.
But if you ever feel guilt, this is not because of some clever guilt trip mechanism somebody invented. It is because you go against your values. Granted… sometimes going against your values can be good… can be necessary… so feeling guilty can be a necessary evil. If on the other hand, you are set on your trip, you know your values and some of my texts trigger guilt in you… then maybe you need to check your course… maybe you deviated from your route. Observe, evaluate, reevaluate and either correct your course or understand that you are going to a different destination!
The problem is if you try to find excuses for your deviations when you feel guilty. If you try to reduce the guilt by finding excuses it means that you know you are on a different route but you refuse to accept that reality and continue your trip ignoring the fact that you are off route. The more you ignore it… the more you don’t face the problem the more difficult it will be to correct your course later. So make sure that your excuses are not hiding the problem but they redefine your values. Then they stop being excuses and they become your new compass.
There is one more thing you need to understand. What I write here is based on my values. Right or wrong… they are what they are. If you ever felt guilty when you read something… you may align with my values or think so but in reality, you deviate from them. If not… you are in a different direction… on a different route. As much as you may try to explain to me your values, your compass, and your route, this doesn’t mean I will change my route and the same I expect from you. We can exchange ideas about our trips… but we all sail our own unique trips. Let them be what each of us wants them to be.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is about different paths. Two people who have chosen different paths based on different values in their lives and split apart. Sometimes, you need to change your route, redefine yourself, or even better find yourself. some other times those changes lead to destinations you never wanted to reach. In the lyrics, one of the lovers who split sings “Maybe one night you will cry for me”. Whatever changes you make in your route, I hope that you will never cry for them.
So how about you? Have you ever felt guilty reading a text of this blog? Have you ever felt guilt in your life? In your dance journey so far? How are dealing with it? Are you changing your route?… or are you correcting your deviation and turning back to your values?