This is far more information and analysis than anyone wants, but it's been on my mind a long time. So maybe it's time...
This post is in response to a forum discussion going on at Tango Connections about the criticism at the milonga, and tango codigos.
If you go to the Tango-L listserv (mailing list/forum) archives, you'll find that from the very near the beginning (of the archive list anyway) tango dancers have been arguing about the codigos, about milonga manners and floor craft etc. The archive only goes back to 1994, but the first specific post I found was November 1995 - http://pythia.uoregon.edu/~llynch/Tango-L/1995/msg00050.html. That's just one place - there are sites archived elsewhere with the same debates and they go back years.
The Social Human
So why do we constantly, heatedly, unrelentingly argue about the milonga codes? Because we are engaging in a shared, emotional experience. Defining terms and setting rules makes it feel safe to do that. Why else would we talk about sharing tango bliss, finding flow on the pista, and the sense of belonging within a community?
I'm not advocating relinquishing responsibility of one's reactions to another's emotions - only that we understand that the influence of others' emotions on us is pervasive and necessary for human beings and societies to be healthy. If spending time with a particular person leaves me feeling frustrated or unnerved or annoyed, I have to decide how to respond to that. I don't chalk it up to, "it's his fault, he makes me feel bad." But I also don't try to tell myself that it's all up to me not to feel that emotion anymore.
Our culture (in North America) advocates precisely the opposite position. So much of what we see, hear, and read reinforces that we are enclosed, independent individuals. The individual's needs often trump the community's needs for that reason. The problem is that human beings are social. To be healthy, happy people, we need each other. The influence of others gives us a reality check to our own responses.
Back to Tango
For example, when I have a really tough dance with someone, and other followers adore him - I now have more information than, "he makes me feel bad, he must be a bad dancer." Maybe it's my embrace. Maybe it's that our bodies just don't fit each other well. It gives me a bigger picture - which is one reason not to make comments of that sort at a milonga.
Criticism at milongas is an emotionally-charged issue because when someone criticizes us, it can feel like a threat, even if it's a small threat, to the social bond we've formed with our tango community. If I'm a bad dancer, do I have to leave? Will people stop dancing with me? Of course the "offending dancer" then gets defensive and tries to justify their place within the group. There's a huge difference between setting an expectation or standard of behavior and making a personal criticism - especially in a public way.
So many people come to the milonga to share in a sense of connection and belonging - with each other, with the music, with the community. We must agree on at least a basic standard of behavior to achieve that. When someone disregards an expectation or standard of behavior, we feel a need to address it and re-establish our shared experience. We try to get everyone back "on the same page."
Because this guy can say it better than I can:
“Sharing an emotion with others may also alter the experience itself (1). For example, in the chapter, Clark and Finkel argue that the expression of emotions can either repel people from one another or promote a strong bond, all depending the nature of the initial relationship. In addition, several contributors to this volume emphasize the ways in which sharing an emotion within a collective provides the feelings with a certain social reality. Indeed shared emotion with the group may indicate a shared understanding of the world.”
The Social Life of Emotions – Edited by Larissa Z Tiedens (Stanford) and Colin Wayne Leach (University of Calfironia, Santa Cruz. (Cambridge Press) ( 1.) Manstead & Fisher, 2001; Parkinson, 1995.)
In short (I guess it's too late for short), human beings are social and interdependent - and so are our emotions. So, to Trini's example on Tango Connections - if "John's making me mad" - the problem is with the interaction between us and not an isolated piece within only one of us.