Although it has been quite a while since Clint Eastwoods empty chai speech, its still a shot of many a joke. Sin. Eastwood made talking to an empty chair seems like an uneven thing to do when it is actually a highly effective psychotherapeutic technique, originating in Joseph Morenos Psychodrama and popular by Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy.
The Tom Chai technique helps people move from just talking about their conflicts to actually experience them at the moment. And what a difference. Something like the difference between talking about sex and having it.
Imagine creating an empty chair and saying everything you would ever say to a family member living or dead without having to worry about hurting their feelings, breaking your words or regret what you are saying. Good edition. But this method is not meant to be simply cathartic. It is designed to help people solve their unfinished business.
Here is an example of working with two empty chairs, each facing each other. You are sitting in one. The empty chair opposite you is your nemesis. Lets say its your mom. After all, its always a matter or a mom.
Imagine your mother is sitting opposite you. Really see her. The expression on her face, the look of her eyes, how she holds her body. Youre still upset about how she treated you like a child. You regret what she said to you. She did not treat you fairly. Tell her about it.
After releasing it all go to the other empty chair. Wa your mom. Imagine that she hears what you just told her. What is her answer? Do you get straight over the coal? Or does she finally understand you? Do you get the long awaited excuse? Or are you aware that she will never ever ge it? If the latter is true, your next step is to work to let go of all the wrath that still weighs heavily on you. Using your psychologist, you can move back and forth between the chairs to get a deeper appreciation of the emotional struggles that plague you and learn to let them go.
Empty chairwork is also a good tool for those who are in war with themselves. Just like every story has a protagonist and an antagonist, we have all the parts of our personality that we embrace and those we adore. Perhaps you hate your angry outbreaks.
Now sit in one of the empty chairs. Start by describing yourself as a smart, knowledgeable person you are. Then go to the other empty chair. Describe yourself, no, actually trad that part of you angry. Put it really on. No censorship required.
Create a dialogue between the two parts of you. Listen to how clever you are listen to how angry you are. Instead of removing your anger, you appreciate that there is a reason. Respect it. Embrace it. It has helped you survive. As you continue the dialogue, you will learn to appreciate aspects of your personality that you currently disturb. Yes, theres a reason for you to be angry youve been treated shabbily. But your anger can also make you. When you integrate the striking parts of your personality, your smart self will prevent your anger from doing something really stupid. And your angry self will make sure that your smart I do not become Mr Spock and explain evil with an intellectual assessment.
The empty chair technique can also be used to understand the meaning of your dreams. Rather than trying to interpret your dream, determine it - as if it was a drama you created. Which it is. Youre the director, the choreographer, the scout designer and all the characters in your dream - not just you.
Here is an example. You have just woken up from a nightmare. You came home to find a man behind the door that threatens you with a knife. You want to run away, but you can not you are paralyzed You can not scream you can not cry You do nothing. Youre just standing there, stunned. What does the dream mean?
Sit in the empty chair. Describe how to be so afraid you can not run or call for help. Move to the chair opposite you. Now b the scary guy. Yes, its harder to be the character you do not identify with, but still do it. Flaunt your power. Enjoy the power to scare. With your psychologists guidance, you move back and forth between the two chairs until you get an estimate of how to scare yourself. This is your dream after all. Continue to do the empty chair work until you find a way to meet your fears, find your voice and bend your muscles.
Yes, empty chair work is powerful. Thanks to the chair, many grateful customers have dramatically integrated and liberated warring parts of their lives. When I testify for such dramatic breakthroughs, I have to admit that it not only impresses me, it really makes my day.