One of my favorite classes was Acting I when I was in college. In addition to working on basic acting techniques, the class did a lot of interesting exercises that helped students get in touch with body awareness, moving in space, and building trust with the other folks on stage.
If you don’t have theater experience, it might not be immediately apparent why the ability to build trust in other people is crucial to acting. However, it doesn’t take much time up on a stage to realize that you and your ego are pretty much at the mercy of the other actors. Not if, but when you forget a line, you need to know that the other actors have your back, and will help you out, rather than just stand there watching you flounder with an amused smirk on their faces. Similarly, there is nothing more frustrating than having a performance you worked your butt off preparing thrown completely off by someone else who didn’t prepare properly or for whatever reason, has decided (without giving you a heads up) to go off-script and just ad lib for a while.
So anyway, I was thinking about when we did the Trust Fall exercise in Acting I, and how it relates to how people relate to the world in general. In a class of about 20 people about half did the Trust Fall exactly as instructed. About half simply refused to do it, or tried and had to give up because they just couldn’t make themselves fall backwards into the arms of a half-dozen or so near-strangers. And then there was me.
I was the only person who did the exercise, but only after the teacher agreed I could do it facing forward.
Pretty much all you need to know about a person’s stance on trusting others can be determined by their response to the Trust Fall. You’ve got the Trusting Souls, who aside from a few nervous giggles, have no problem falling backwards because deep down, they expect someone to catch them. They’re the optimists and natural risk-takers in life. Standing off to the side, you’ve got the Are-You-Kidding? group. Not only are they not fool enough to risk falling and hitting the ground when someone gets cute and pulls his or her arms back, they’re probably standing there, arms folded, and a little angry at the Trusting Souls for making them worry while they watch the whole thing. 😉
And then you’ve got me. The oddball. Pretty much all you need to know about my stance on trusting others is in there, too. It basically boils down to this. I assume you want to catch me. I assume you intend to catch me. I also know that despite their best intentions, people often let you down and don’t come through for you like you hope they will.
So I fall… forward. I’m willing to put myself in the hands of others, but I’m honest about the fact that I don’t entirely trust them. I’d rather faceplant into the linoleum than refuse to trust at all (and miss the fun if I get caught!), but there’s something that really disturbs me about the idea of not seeing it coming. I suppose I thought that the extra half-second of response time I’d get would let me at least try to break the fall on my own.
I’ve been wrestling a lot lately with the idea of interdependence. I think as a general rule, people and more specifically, Americans, don’t “get” the idea of interdependence. I’m probably going to write a follow-up post the subject soon. But suffice it to say, I don’t think you can consider yourself spiritually or emotionally mature until you get a handle on interdependence. Trust, fear, freedom, dependence, independence and interdependence are all pretty tightly connected ideas, and ones I’d like to explore in a little more depth soon. But just to give you the quick ‘n dirty version of my thoughts, in this particular anecdote, the Trusting Souls represent dependence, the Are-You-Kidding folks represent independence, and being on stage represents interdependence.
So what do you think? What are the merits of dependence? Of independence? What are the pitfalls of both? How do you define “interdependence”? And perhaps most tellingly, would YOU do the Trust Fall?