This short exercise strikes an unexpected note, and brings up a lot of energy. By exaggerating feelings of disconnection, even indifference—almost inevitable in our mass culture—we can achieve greater honesty and sense of wholeness.
As we relate to what is happening to our world, concern and compassion are not all we feel. There is fed-upness, too, even some strains of callous indifference. To be whole, to be present and real, we need to acknowledge those strains as well. Doing this helps us identify with what we imagine the larger public feels and preserves us from judgment and self-righteousness.
“My despair,” said Tom in a workshop at Columbia University, “is that I don’t feel despair. My heart feels like a rock. I’m afraid I don’t care the way the rest of you do.” The rest of us were soon grateful for his confession, because it triggered the invention of this process. It ignited much hilarity, and became known for a while as “I am a Rock.”
It is good to do before—not after—an intensive process from this stage of the work.
The exercise is similar in form to Open Sentences: people sit in pairs and take turns speaking and listening to each other. The partners switch after each cue.
Before giving the first cue or “open sentence,” Joanna usually invites the participants to free themselves from excessive sincerity. That’s because it is a little shocking, and one wonders, “Is it acceptable to actually express this here?” So, as she models, the personal expressions can start almost humorously, with exaggeration and gallows humor; they get more honest soon enough.
The first “open sentence” allows us to express how fed up we can feel under the continual onslaught of bad news and the overwhelming array of urgent issues, from terrorism to top soil. A phrase to start off with is: “I’m sick and tired of hearing about…” Or “Don’t talk to me about…” Then let it go from there. The scene soon gets loud and often hilarious, and it’s good to let the venting go on for at least five minutes.
The second and last Open Sentence is: “I don’t want to hear (or think) about all this, because it makes me feel…” Here the mood shifts, as people find themselves expressing the very things they had doubted they felt, or had feared to feel. Allow several minutes for each response.