A Close Embrace
June 24, 2014
My husband and I are in an Argentine Tango beginner’s class at a local dance studio. When we learn a new move or sequence, we practice with each other first, and then we change partners. Sometimes, more advanced male dancers join us because we often have more women than men. Last week was one of these times.
It was my turn to dance with Bob. (Not his real name.) He and I had danced together some the week before and I had really appreciated his gentle guidance and encouragement. He was a good lead: confident, firm, guiding. He made me comfortable and unafraid of making a mistake. This week we rehearsed the old moves and added some that were more complicated. At the end of the evening he wanted to lead me through another more advanced sequence. I wasn’t getting it because I couldn’t feel it. After my third try he said,
“Are you comfortable with a close embrace?”
My first thought was, “How nice! He asked first. Decorum!”
“Sure,” I said quickly, not wanting to act like a resistant beginner. My husband was in the room, watching. I didn’t feel unsafe but I wasn’t fully comfortable either. I was anxious. What was going to happen in a close embrace?
So Bob wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into a full frontal embrace. We were cheek to cheek and torso to torso. He said, “Close your eyes and see if you can feel it.” And I did. Both of those things. Closed my eyes, and felt where he was trying to move me. He continued to encourage me by saying things like, “Yes, yes, that’s it. Good. Don’t rush.”
When we released the close hold, he and I were both smiling.
“Thanks. That really helped,” I said.
“You’re good. A quick learner,” he said. He looked for my husband. “She’s good.”
My husband grinned. “She is,” he said.
There are so many ways to practice the tango. No embrace. One-sided embrace. Holding hands. Social embrace. But it was in the close embrace that I had to surrender my usual orientation. I couldn’t follow his chest (I usually look at the base of my partner’s neck). I couldn’t see his hand. With my eyes closed I didn’t even really know where we were in the room. But I could feel the move. I could follow the lead and let myself go exactly where he wanted me.
And so I think it is with any relationship. There are many ways to practice. But if we really want to feel the other person, want to follow their lead, want to move in unison with them, we might have to symbolically take that close embrace. We might have to surrender our usual orientation. We might have to trust their way of doing things. We have to make ourselves available and vulnerable. This can be true with our life partners and equally true with our children. If we desire to see it from their perspective, the close embrace may be the way.
This can also be true in business. If we want to get to understand another’s way of doing the job, another’s way of meeting the world, we may have to surrender our usual orientation and allow them to lead, at least for a moment. If we are trying to sell something, we must follow our customer’s lead, speak their language, find out how to meet them. When managing others, we need to be not only aware of how we lead, but aware of how they most like to be led.
It is certainly true in the world of therapy. My clients and I can symbolically hold hands, practice one- sided and social embraces. But if we are going to journey together to where the action is, then we have to be willing to be in a symbolic close embrace. We have to be willing to really meet each other. Of course it must be safe. And safety and trust are developed over time. When the relationship is safe enough, the real dance can begin.
If you are having trouble “feeling” those close to you…partners, children, friends, colleagues…try the close embrace. If only for a minute, see if you can allow the other to take the lead. See if you can feel the dance from their perspective. You might be surprised at how things can change!
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