Psychotherapy and the Argentine Tango–A Secret to Successful Aging

Yes, that’s me!

I admit it. I’m sixty-something. Hard to believe, because I was thirty-something yesterday. But I know a secret to success in your post-menopausal or geezer-ish years. And I’m going to share it with you.

Two things:

One: Get lots of psychotherapy and then set up your own practice. (if you can’t set up a practice, still get the therapy…)

Two: Learn the Argentine tango.

Let me explain.

First, the psychotherapy. Most of us don’t make it out of childhood unscathed. Even with the best parents, our hearts are broken on many occasions. When we’re little, we’re totally dependent on these parents. This gives them a lot of power: The power to influence how we feel about ourselves and to determine who we think we are. That much power.

If you’ve grown up with neglect or any type of abuse, then, the understanding of who you are will be distorted and inaccurate. This sets up unhealthy patterns that follow you into adulthood. Anxiety. Depression. Difficult relationships. Lack of self-confidence. Instability. Good therapy will help you understand the impact of these experiences and grieve for your many losses. Then, over time, you can release the negative beliefs and the trauma lodged in your body, find your authenticity and your self-love, and live well. Age well. Be your fully compassionate, powerful, influential rainforest-minded self.

I grew up in a typical, middle class, dysfunctional family: Passive aggression, betrayal, unexpressed rage, boundary violations, trust and safety issues, anxiety, fear, and deep misery. In my own therapy, I came to understand that my anxieties, melancholy, and relationship issues were not the result of my terrible inadequacies as a deeply flawed human being. Instead, my fears, sadnesses, and self-deprecation were normal responses to an unsafe, abusive childhood. Therapy has transformed my self-perceptions and healed my broken heart. Given me the confidence to be seen in the larger world and to have an impact.

Becoming a psychotherapist, then, I know the process from the inside out. Working through many of my mental health issues, I come to the profession with more awareness, empathy, and compassion. Not only that. The career itself is perfect for us older souls (especially if you’re an introvert). Think about it. I get to have deep, intense, sweet relationships. One person at a time. I contribute to creating a better world. All that, and: I don’t have to do any heavy lifting or much actual moving. I get better at it as I gain experience, which means that the older I am, the more in demand I become. Is this the perfect career for older souls? You betcha.

But what does this have to do with the Argentine tango, you ask?

Well. I started dancing the tango at 47. It was shocking. I had no idea that I could experience that much pleasure within my own body and with another person. Learning to dance was a therapy, too, of sorts. To dance well, I had to get to know myself intimately as a human with a body. I had to move with assertiveness and ease while my feet were gliding over the dance floor and my heart was beating in tune with my partner and the music. It was transformative. Insight. Expansion. Grace.

My age? No one cared. I was popular. I was attractive. Men and women watched me dancing with admiration and delight. I am not making this up. What mattered was how well I could tune into my partner, how sensitive and intuitive I was, how grounded I was in my bodiness. And all of that therapy? Only increased my capacity for connection. I can still remember the young, blonde, thirty-something Marine. Watching me dance. Smiling in appreciation. I felt elegant, sensual, and captivating. In my 50’s and now my 60’s.

Not a bad way to age. I recommend it.

Psychotherapy and the Argentine tango.

The secret to a successful old soulfulness.


To my bloggEEs: I wrote a version of this for ThriveGlobal. I’m wanting to infiltrate other venues with the rainforest mind information. If you click on the link, you’ll see my other articles for them.

What are your thoughts about therapy? Aging? Have you tried dancing the tango? What else might help as you move into your older soul years? Let us know your experiences, questions, and feelings. We love hearing from you. Oh, and, here’s what the Argentine tango looks like. Me in 2004 dancing. (to non-tango music). You’ll see what I’m talkin’ about!

Here’s a link on how to find a psychotherapist. Here’s one on what your therapist needs to know about your rainforest mind. My book can help you until you find a therapist, then you can give her/him a copy. And, by the way, I only counsel in Oregon but I consult worldwide on how to love life and your rainforest mind. Contact me! 

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

18 responses to “Psychotherapy and the Argentine Tango–A Secret to Successful Aging”

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  3. Ro Avatar

    Great advice, Paula. Healing the mind and body. Your dancing video is beautiful – thank you for sharing. I always tear up when I see beautiful/joyous dancing.

    Though I can’t dance at the moment myself, I have (at 37 years old) returned to therapy to “tie up a few loose ends” – or so I thought. In order to do so I had to go through the public insurance system (I am a CSA/child prostitution/torture survivor) – and organise to be the first person allowed to receive therapy online, because I have a neuro condition that means I can’t get to outside appointments.

    I’m just finishing up the extended assessment to receive a diagnosis and fully funded therapy on a year-by-year basis. So I’m re-diagnosed with PTSD. A lone diagnosis that has such an overarching impact on my life. It’s a bit scary to see my general life experience put together in a report… but it reinforces my decision to finally seek assistance. It is thought by the assessor and therapist that my father was probably a psychopath and my mother likely has narcissistic personality disorder.

    My new therapist is great. She has crone energy, as well as heaps of empathy and smarts. I feel lucky to benefit from her expertise.

    Your posts that mention the importance of therapy percolated in my mind and were one of the reasons why I finally took the leap, Paula. Thank you.

    For me, it has been really hard putting my resources into survival and scratching my way out of the deep hole my family of origin dumped me into. I haven’t achieved anything ‘above the surface’ of life. Mostly I’d like others in a similar situation to know that your gifts still exist. They are the shining sun – sometimes obscured by cloud, but always shining, pristine, nevertheless. The cloud can shift.

    I’m engaged in an online writing course now, and have begun painting. Perhaps the painting is my form of dance 🙂

    Best wishes Paula. Best wishes all.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, sweet Ro, I’m so glad that you’ve found a good therapist. I applaud your courage. And, of course, painting is your art form. And writing! Good to have you here.

  4. Carole Avatar

    And for me it is paragliding and book therapy. It works ! Than you for your posts Paula.

  5. EwaB Avatar

    I dont know anything about Tango but therapy, I have had a total of 5 different therapist so far and a coach.
    At the moment I have to therapist at once, on for specificly for EMDR and one for long term. And it is if I am trying to unpeal a onion. each time I think I am about ready the next layer of trauma shows up. trying very hard not to get disspirited.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Don’t give up, EwaB. With trauma, there are many layers. It takes quite a long time to unravel or uncover them and heal. But it’s worth it!!

    2. Ro Avatar

      Hello EwaB — much empathy.

      I wonder how you’d feel if you thought of the layers of progress as petals of a beautiful flower unfurling?

      Best wishes – I really respect the challenging recovery work you are undertaking.

  6. Took Avatar

    I love hearing about your experience with and love for tango.

    It intrigues me because I have been dancing my entire life, and I know or have tried many forms of dance (at a quick count, 10 styles of couples dance, 2 folk dances, and 7 styles of performance dance), and tango is the ONLY dance that I am not comfortable with (cannot, will not)… and especially Argentine tango, since it uses more closed position than American style. Tango is way too intimate for me; I feel like I’m cheating on my husband! I quit teaching ballroom partially because of the awkwardness I feel with tango. I’ve never met anyone else who felt this way about it, so I’m clearly in the minority. I think it has to do with all the slinky slides, closed hold, and the extra points of contact (5-6 vs the usual 2-3). Maybe my discomfort with tango is compounded because I’m a very physical person – I experience my world and emotions in an intensely physical way, so the intimacy I feel in tango is very intense. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing the tango with anyone but my hubby, and he doesn’t tango.

    That being said, it’s a beautiful dance with an interesting history. I love watching it, and I love that you love it! Reading about the extra layers of meaning, importance and functional impact that you and others attribute to Argentine tango is interesting to me not only from a psycho-social perspective but also because it’s part of the dance world that I haven’t much explored.

    I wonder, do you feel that the benefits you receive from Argentine tango come from Argentine tango specifically, or from dancing or even couple dancing and social dancing in general? While most other couple dances aren’t as intimate as tango, they still require connection and sync for a good execution.

    There is certainly a different feel and experience going from one dance to the other, but I have found that I am at my most lost, cynical and depressed if I don’t have any dance in my life. I have to go back to dance class to save myself – and for me, almost any type will do, but different types serve different mental purposes. I lean towards performance dance styles if I feel like I want to maintain mental space and clarity and/or focus on health or art (most of the time), and lean towards ballroom, swing, etc if I want a more relaxed atmosphere, some type of social interaction, a special specific experience, practice, or just a reminder of that nifty feeling I get from being half of a really good lead-follow.

    Dance is my must-have and my go-to, but I have also spent good portions of my life absorbed in hiking, kayaking, climbing, yoga, and martial arts, and each has had a different impact on my well-being. I have found that many physical practices have a very deep and direct impact on my inner world and my experience moving through life, but with me it’s more ‘different practices for different purposes’ type of thing, rather than sticking to one and getting all that I need from that one. I’ll sometimes pick up one physical activity for a specific time of my life, and abandon it when I’ve mentally moved on and no longer have the need. If I’m not sure what I need, I’ll drift in and out of several physical activities in a short period of time until I settle on the right thing.

    Weirdly, tango has never done it for me.

    But please: Keep talking about the beautiful, sexy, and mysterious tango! It’s fascinating. (And maybe I’ll need it some day.)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I appreciate that there are so many different dance styles and so many wonderful physical activities. There is surely no one size fits all. I have done other social dances and do enjoy them all (I never got the hang of west coast swing.). I particularly like salsa music/dancing. I think I’ve focused on the tango because, in my community and maybe others, it seemed to bring out more of the rainforest-minded folks. Maybe because of the complexity and creativity involved? Particularly for leaders? I never learned how to lead because it was so difficult. (women lead in Eugene, OR…not in Argentina) But, I felt like the people who chose to struggle to learn the dance were partly attracted to it because it was an intellectual and creative challenge. (which is why I recommend it on my blog)

      But, of course, this is just from my small sample here in Eugene. I haven’t danced in too many other places. In truth, I actually prefer salsa music to much of the tango music. I like to dance the tango to all sorts of other tunes, which is unacceptable among the purists! About the intimacy, I’ve seen that it can be hard on couples if they dance with other partners. There is an “open embrace” form that helps when I don’t want to be quite so close. I think part of the thrill of this dance has been the moments when having a partner who is an excellent leader, where I feel a sense of unity, a moving as one body, a moment of deep connection. I haven’t felt that with the other social dances. But that might just be that I don’t have much experience. I’m guessing that people have many ways to feel the unity with others. Probably many sensitive RFM folks feel that unity in nature??

      So those are some of my quick thoughts, Took. I hope they’re helpful. Thank you for asking and for sharing your experience.

      1. Took Avatar

        Thank you for your thoughts! That is helpful. The uniqueness of tango has fascinated me for many years. I am surprised and pleased to have others to discuss this with – it seems we experience the uniqueness in different ways but both recognize that there is something that makes the art stand out.

        I have long observed that there tends to be less cross-pollination with tango (especially Argentine tango), which is a little bit unusual in the dance world (at least in my neck of the woods). Ballroom dancers often know many kinds of ballroom, and studio dancers often know many kinds of performance dances, but a person who does Argentine tango is more likely to *only* tango. I see a little bit of this with salsa, as well; sometimes people only salsa. I see a lot of this with swing, but the difference here is that there are many styles of swing dance, and swing dancers in my area tend to cross over and do one or more other swing styles, often mixing several styles into a single three minute dance. The fact that much of the Argentine crowd keeps to themselves and focuses on their tango serves to intrigue me even more and convince me that there is something specific and different about tango.

        You do make a good point that some of this may be regional culture, but I do see this where I live, far from Oregon.

        Out of the styles that I know and have reasonable comfort and proficiency in, I can get the best partner connection with east coast swing and swing in general, but it’s hard to find a partner that I can get that with. The swing connection, to me, is radically different than the others, and it sometimes takes a long time for dancers to either acquire it or for partners to build the trust they need to accomplish it. It isn’t intimate in the way that tango is, but seems to necessitate something like a continual trust fall into and away from a partner. It’s intimacy of a different flavor.

        I had been curious as to whether the intimacy that keeps me away from tango is what draws others in, but it seems there may be more to it than that. I appreciate your perspective.

  7. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, A beautiful description of how therapy can help. Thanks for sharing your own experience, and how it shaped your personal growth. It is also wonderful how dancing affected your sense of self. Getting in touch with one’s body is an amazing process. I don’t think I could ever become a dancer… but I admire your ability to find your stride with this great outlet.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ha! Yes. I found my stride… Thank you, Gail.

  8. darleensaunders Avatar

    You are not the first person to tell me Argentine Tango changed their life. I have a dear friend who traveled to Argentina to learn tango and later brought back students to learn as well. He was not a dancer by profession either. Far from it. So I’m listening. There is a trend going on here. I just might take some lessons myself!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yep. You just may have to give it a try! 🙂

  9. Themon the Bard Avatar
    Themon the Bard

    A lovely pair of suggestions, and a sweet blog post. 🙂

  10. Deborah Nam-Krane Avatar
    Deborah Nam-Krane

    Ah, I relate. I was the stereotypical last-kid-picked-for-kickball-in-gym-class and thought recess was torture. I thought of myself as unatheltic, though I surprised myself a couple of times with a good aim and lots of endurance when walking. Then I started practicing and later teaching yoga when I was in my thirties, and I felt like a brand new side of myself was coming to life. I enjoy choreography and I enjoy thinking through movement; I *inhabit* my body more fully than when I was younger, and I feel like more of a complete person.

    Thanks for the reminder that most of our flaws are logical responses, not intrinsic condemnations.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Deborah. Yes, there are many ways to connect more deeply with our bodies. Good, as always, to hear from you.