When I say “all of me,” I am thinking of opposing concepts such as our worldly strivings versus our soul, the intellect and the emotions, linear versus spiral or diffuse thinking, sensing as opposed to intuiting, the abstract and the concrete, the intellect and the imagination.
Sometimes these opposites are thought of as “male” and “female.” But it is a mistake to anthropomorphize these terms and think of men and women being all that distinct. Modern psychotherapy operates on the assumption that we are all a mixture of male (yang) and female (yin) traits.
I believe that each of us begins life with a pretty full bag of these mixed features. Sure, genetics, including gender, blesses us with more or less of these qualities at birth. However, as a dancer, when I look at babies and toddlers, boys and girls all dance similarly and move pretty freely. They explore and they demand; they cry, they smile, and they poop, uninhibitedly and comparably. Then something happens. Family and societal expectations and experiences cause children to begin picking certain attributes over others. They become “Adulterated,” as my friend Millie calls it. Children learn that adults, as well as other children, will reward certain behaviors and frown on others. They also learn a sense of shame and vulnerability that pushes them to choose certain traits. This is not necessarily bad except in extreme cases. But it does mean that we lock away certain characteristics in favor of others. And we become much more self-conscious and self-critical dancers of life.
Generally, the first half of life is devoted to honing the chosen characteristics. The second half allows us more freedom to explore what we’ve locked away. You see people becoming artists, writing books, starting companies, or even learning dance at mid-life. For me, dancing is liberation from inhibitions. My two-year-old Jimmy is having a great time. Yet I’m also doing something else that I was too self-critical for earlier in life–writing: witness these Musings.