Who’s Leading this Dance: The Ego or the Soul?

November 22, 2023

Who’s Leading this Dance: The Ego or the Soul?

May 29, 2023

I learned ballroom dancing in 6th grade at Call’s Dance Studio in middle-class Long Beach, California. It was quite a production as it was as much about learning masculine and feminine roles and etiquette as it was learning the mechanics of ballroom dancing.

What I remember is that a partner dance has a “lead and follow” dynamic. The leader is responsible for guiding the couple and initiating transitions to different dance steps using subtle (or, in my clumsy case, not so subtle) physical and visual signals so the partners have a beautiful choreography.

I believe that in the first half of our life, the externally-facing ego is leading this dance, with the internally-facing soul obliging the ego’s dance steps, even when they’re chaotic and seemingly impossible. The soul is backwards and in heels. 

But it’s in the second half of our life (starting around our 40s or 50s) when the tables are turned. The ego begins to be led by the soul. This can feel awkward at first, as evidenced by the gender flip ballroom dance that breaks gender roles in this TEDx talk. And, yet, how freeing it feels to know that the “you” you’re familiar with (your ego) is no longer in charge and is following the lead of a master dancer, the soul. It’s not simple to break your habit of letting the ego lead, but making this flip is one of the most valuable ways you can embrace the second half of life. It’s not “Dancing With the Stars” but “Dancing With Your Soul.” 

While psychologist Carl Jung didn’t write about gender-flipping ballroom dancing, he did offer a quote that hints at the mindset we need to adopt to welcome this ego-to-soul transition in midlife:

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”

-Chip

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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