martes, 8 de enero de 2008

Dealing with Emotions

Do you feel overwhelmed by your feelings sometimes? Is it difficult for you to react to strong emotions in an appropriate manner? Don't you know how to stop feeling bad? That's a problem I've had for a long, long time. I found a few useful ways to handle it and thought it could be of some value for you to hear about them.

Taking 100% responsibility

First of all, what helped me most is to understand that it's never the other person or the situation itself that creates my emotion: it's my thoughts about this person or situation. We don't all have the same reaction when in the same situation. It's the thoughts and judgments we have about this situation that lead us to have the feelings we have.

This means that no situation and no other person has any power over how I feel. Everything I feel is 100% my own responsibility. The downside is that I can't blame anyone else for what I feel anymore, 'cause what I feel is caused by nothing else than my own thoughts. It's all me. The upside is that I'm in control: by changing my thoughts, I can change my feelings. And another upside is that I'm not forced to react to a given situation in a certain way. I'm free to react just like I want to. It's my choice.

(Edit: more details about this here: Your Feelings are Self-Made)

The old stinky sneaker

One very simple way to apply this elementar wisdom is the old stinky sneaker image. I can't remember if I invented that image myself or read about it somewhere. It doesn't matter. Imagine you're in a given situation and you feel a strong emotion you'd rather not have. For example, someone is insulting you, and you feel angry. Now imagine that this person insulting you is throwing an old, stinky sneaker at your feet. You're free to put that old shoe on, or not. You can put it on, and feel stinky (angry). Or you can let it lie where it is. And feel good. You're not forced to react to the insults. It's your choice.

Visualizing this old sneaker in every unpleasant situation helps me a lot! I just imagine myself saying "No, thanks!" to the person or situation throwing this old shoe at my feet, and then just going away. I'm not forced to put the old shoe on and feel bad. It makes me feel very free to choose consciously if I want to be perturbed at their shoe or not!

What about positive emotions?

Sometimes positive emotions overwhelm me too, and make me feel bad because it's just too much. It's more than I can express or bear inside of me without exploding. I had to find a better reaction than to dance around crying and laughing hysterically altogether. The old stinky sneaker trick helps me in that case too.

I wouldn't call beautiful, moving and happy situations an old stinky sneaker, so I found another image: imagine that the person or situation is smiling at you and handing you a big, gorgeous chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries on the top of it (or some other cake you like). Eating the entire cake would be too much, obviously. So tell this person or situation "Oh, thank you so much, that's very nice of you! I'll have a piece of it!" And then take only a small piece of the cake. You're not forced to swallow the whole cake. A small piece of this delicious cake is enough to make you happy.

When I use this cake image, I'm able to stay in control of myself and to allow strong positive emotions without being immediately overwhelmed by them.

What if "no thanks" doesn't work?

Sometimes a situation or statement bugs me so much that the old stinky sneaker doesn't work so really well. Just saying "No thanks" somehow is not a solution in that moment. Then I need to take a look at another aspect of feelings and emotions: they're but signals. They show you whether what you think about this person/statement/situation is currently positive or negative. In this respect, they're very useful. A positive feeling is the result of a positive thought. A negative feeling points to a negative thought. Here's a method to get rid of nasty emotions by getting rid of the negative thoughts that are producing them:

Identify the emotion //"oh, I'm feeling angry"
Try to be as precise as possible. Observe the emotion: is it anger, or hate, or are you upset?
Allow the emotion to be //"It's perfectly ok to be angry now. That's all right."
Accept your emotion and welcome it warmly.
Thank the emotion //"Thank you anger for being here and showing me that I'm having negative thoughts that are not profitable to me"
Aknowledge that your emotions are just a signal pointing to your thoughts.
Identify the thoughts //"ok, which thoughts are making me feel angry?"
This part can be difficult for you if you're not used to such exercises. Be patient, you'll get better with time. Maybe it can help you to write your thoughts down. Allow any thought to pop into your mind, even if it sounds ridiculous or childish.
Let the emotion go //"Thanks anger, I don't need you anymore now, go in peace"
Now that you're aware of your underlying thought, you don't need the signal anymore.
Change the thoughts //"Which thought would feel better than that?"
Now look for a thought that would feel a bit better right now. It doesn't have to be realistic, or true. It can be complete nonsense, imaginary or a lie, that's not important. Important is only that when you think this thought, you feel a bit better. Concentrate on the new thought for about twenty seconds. You'll feel better. Then look for another thought that feels even better and concentrate on it for twenty seconds again. And so on.
If you practice this method a bit, you'll notice that you're always able to choose how you feel by deliberately thinking thoughts that make you feel this way. It doesn't just happen to you. You have full control over how you feel, because you have full control over what you think.

What if I can't identify any thoughts?

This happens to me when confronted to very strong emotions. In such a case the physical symptoms are so overwhelming that there are just no thoughts. At least no thoughts I could be aware of. Recently I was looking for nice tibetan songs on youtube and by mistake saw a horrible video where some animals were being killed. I felt so bad that I almost vomited. My chest was burning, I was crying and sweating. The emotion was so strong that the intellectual approach above would not have helped me. More precisely, I wouldn't have been able to apply it.

In such cases I use EFT. EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, is a very powerful way to deal with emotions. It's easy and fast to learn, it works quickly and it's highly efficient. EFT is a more physical approach of the problem. It can be used to cure physical pain too, btw.

The principle is that a negative emotion is a blockade in your energy system. By tapping some energetic points on your body while focusing on your problem, you remove the blockade and teach your body to let the energy flow even when you think of this problem. It won't solve the problem itself. But you'll feel good even when confronted to that problem again. After this youtube accident, these images were pursueing me. I tapped it every time it came up. I had to do it 3-4 times a day for a few days. But now I can think of that video without having any bad emotions.

I highly recommend EFT to everyone. If you're interested, look at There are infos about the theory behind EFT, a nice free tutorial for beginners, and a lot more.

miércoles, 2 de enero de 2008

Dancing Tango Argentino

I HAVE to tell you about tango! I love dancing tango argentino. When I dance, I have a wonderful feeling of freedom and lightheartedness. I can express myself, express the music, express my feelings about the music and about my partner. That makes me so happy. Every time I dance tango, I feel in love :)

Please read my explanations before you watch the videos. It's important that you know a few things about tango before actually seeing it. If you don't know what's exactly going on, you might find it boring, or ridiculous. Only when you know what that really is will you see how amazing it is.

Tango, the music

Tango music is very beautiful. I'll write more in details about it later in another post, since I'd like to focus on the dance here.

Essentially, there are five music types you can dance tango argentino to:

traditional tango
vals: tango in 3/4
milonga: a related dance, generally faster and more down-to-earth than tango
electrotango: the "modern" tango with electronic instruments
non-tango: everything else :)

Tango can be danced to just everything that has a clear and regular rythm, from Vivaldi to Metallica via lebanese folksongs. My former teachers, who are very conservative, would kill me if they hear that (hope they'll never discover this blog), but I want to dance tango to just everything! Every time I hear a song I like, I immediately have some tango impulses going through my body, and imagine how I would dance tango to that now. Some people however (like my former teachers) categorically refuse to dance to non-tango, or even to electrotango.

You'll hear some examples in a moment.

Tango, the dance

What is tango argentino?

Tango argentino is essentially walking around together. One plays the leading role, the other one the following role. Traditionally "the man leads, the woman seduces". But that's changing nowadays. You'll find women dancing with women, men with men, and women leading men. What I would love to try is do both and switch roles several times during the dance :)

How does it work?

There are no fixed figures in tango argentino. The leaders have to improvise everything. They invent the dance in the very moment they dance it. And they have to lead everything. In some dances, when the leading person doesn't lead anything new, the following person just keeps on with the base step. That's different in tango argentino. There is no base step. When the leading person doesn't lead anything new, the following person does... nothing at all. Not even shift their weight from one foot to the other. Since everything is improvised, the following person never knows what comes next. Every step is unique, you don't know what the next one will be. That's very exciting!

How do the leaders lead?

With their chest. The chests communicate with each other. The leaders give move impulses with their chest, or open some space for the follower in a particular direction. The impulse the followers receive goes through their body into the legs, and since the legs are (ideally) totally relaxed, they just follow the law of gravitation and move.

That's why a high technical level is required, so that the impulses flow correctly. You mustn't lose the connection between the chests, or else leading becomes impossible. If you're having a bad posture, the energy can't flow correctly through your body, and you won't communicate well. If your back isn't straight, the impulses will get lost somewhere before they reach your legs. If your legs aren't relaxed enough, they won't move freely. As the leader, if your leading impulses aren't clear enough, the follower will perform unfinished, confused moves - or do something you didn't intend. It's all about communication!

Another aspect is that leading means giving impulses, no orders. It's just a proposition. The followers can block certain moves, they are no passive puppets. They have a great influence on the dance. And they use the leader's propositions to improvise as well. With the impulse they get, they're free to do whatever they want. If I get an impulse to move laterally, I can choose to move immediately and close my legs, or I can let one leg hang behind, or do fancy things with my feet along the way. I can slow down in the middle of my move, or even completely stop. The leader has to wait for me. There are thousands of ways you can go one single step. That's where many factors play a role, like your personality, your creativity, the music, the chemistry with your partner...

This very precise and very intensive communication with a partner on a physical, energetical level is an amazing experience!

What does it look like?

There are many different tango argentino styles, like tango nuevo, tango de salón... But if you're not familiar with tango, going into the details wouldn't make any sense here. (and if you are, you already know about that) When you'll watch the videos, you'll notice that some dancers always stand on their own axis, whereas others strongly lean against their partner. Some dance very close, in tight embrace, whereas others let a lot of free space between them. Some make wide moves or particular moves that others don't use. Everything is possible! It's a matter of style. But the elementar principles are the same.

Now that you know what tango is about (according to me), you will appreciate what you see much more. You may watch the videos now :)

Take a look at this one and bear in mind that everything is improvised, everything is lead. Isn't such a communication just amazing? The music is traditional tango, a very beautiful song called Poema (poem): Geraldine Rojas & Javier Rodrigues.

And now I'll show you El Indio, a very cool dancer, to give you an idea about how freely you can improvise and how many fun things you can do: El Indio plays around.

I promised I would give you examples of all music styles. Here you have an example of a milonga: Geraldine Rojas & Javier Rodrigues again. Listen, how fast and lively. And watch what he leads, at that incredible pace...

That's a vals: Adriana salgado y Orlando Reyes. I chose this one because I absolutely wanted you to hear Desde el Alma, that's one of my favorite songs.

And here we have some electrotango: Mariano "Chicho" Frúmboli & Eugenia Parilla. That's the kind of stuff I particularly love dancing to!

Last but not least, I even found a video with non-tango: Klaus Petritsch & Karen Garnett dance to Tom Jones.

As you could see, tango argentino is multifaceted. If you like it, take a look at these:

Here Geraldine Rojas again, with another partner. The video is a bit dark, I'm sorry, but the dance is brilliant: Geraldine Rojas & Ezequiel Paludi.

Finally you mustn't miss Carlos Gavito & Maria Plazaola. Sexy, huh?

So! Aren't you convinced, now, that tango argentino is incredibly fantastic?! Wanna dance with me? :)

Tango dancing parties are called milongas. Every milonga traditionally ends with a special song called La Cumparsita. To close this post, here you have a cumparsita.

I chose one with Eduardo Cappussi and Mariana Flores. They dance very well, but are also very good at performing tango parodies...

Eduardo Cappussi & Mariana Flores.