The magic of an empty chair


The magic of an empty chair had quite an impact on my own journey.

It never ceases to amaze me what transpires by using some simple yet very empowering tools.

The empty chair is one of them and you might know it from a coaching experience in your personal or even professional life.

The origins (1930s) of the empty chair exercise are based on the so called Gestalt therapy (Psychoanalysts Fritz and Laura Perls).

The word Gestalt is German and means "figure". 

Gestalt has also made it into the coaching environment. I was already familiar with it from my training in expressive arts therapy when I encountered it again in my team coaching training.

The facilitator, who had written a book on it, demonstrated how it can be used in the corporate world to solve some challenges within teams and management questions.

If you would like to try it out you need an empty chair and a person (Gestalt) who you want to talk to. 

You can simply imagine that the chosen person is sitting on that empty chair. That is the original approach. 

Another option might be to write the person's name on a piece of paper and put it on the chair. 

You can use this exercise if there is a problem in your life with another person that you would like to have discussed or solved. 

This can be a current issue or something old.

The first step is to share with that imagined person what you want to say. Observe what happens with you when you are comminucating your thoughts. 

Also observe if you are struggling to express your thoughts, which can also be a reflection of the relationship with the other person. 

Although it is just an empty chair our subconscious mind runs 95% of our behaviour and thoughts. This can influence the whole experience.

The second step is to get into the position of the other person and sit on that empty chair and have the other person reply if you are looking to understand that person's position.

It is curious how you suddenly might be able to see things from the other person's perspective.

It can therefore be important to even say it out loud that you are now stepping into that person's energy and again that you are stepping out of the person's energy again and returning into your own.

I have had some pretty insightful experiences with that exercise. 

One of the most profound one must have been the moment when I realised that I was still seeking permission from my father to do what I want to do in my life. 

The programming of who I was expected to be was sitting so deep that I never allowed myself to fully embrace what I loved doing.

I had not even been aware that this blockage had been hiding there for so many years.

You can apply this exercise in a professional setting as well. For example, if there is dissonance between management decisions and what the team or individual can deliver. 

However, be prepared that you might have the feeling that the other person is not able to truly hear what you are communicating, because even in real life that capacity is missing. 

The empty chair exercise might highlight that issue and then you have to decide what steps to take in real life.  

Please also consider that some of your personal topics might need the support of a therapist or coach.  

Feel free to connect if you have any question around this exercise. 

Coming up next: The magic of stillness. So, stay tuned...

Have a magical week!

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