Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.

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C.

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Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« on: April 06, 2015, 08:36:44 PM »
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Professional Help

2.   Some therapists encourage their clients to use the "empty chair" technique to talk back to their parents/abusers.  After years of keeping your feelings and thoughts to yourself, this can be extremely empowering.  However, this technique can also stir up old feelings of being disobedient and fears of being abused again. If the latter is your experience, explore what your resistance is to addressing your parents/abusers in this safe, controlled way.

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Kizzie

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2015, 01:48:38 AM »
I didn't do this with my T but I imagined myself having a conversation with my NPDM about something she just has been doing recently which is to triangulate with family who are within a 500 km radius of the city where my H will be working.  To say outright that we do not want to be in touch with any of these family members would bring about petulance, anger, the silent treatment -- a host of ways she uses to induce guilt and shame.

I caught myself having this imaginary conversation with her and slipping into JADE  (justifying, explaining, defending, explaining) as I felt that shrinking of self and the fear in the pit of my stomach as I saw anger began to surface on her face and quite literally I cringed.  I became younger me and this time I felt my feelings (other times it's like I'm at a distance from them).  It felt ugly and I still feel a bit nauseated.

She had the power to make me feel that frightened and unsafe as a child that to this day I feel sick to my stomach and damn it I was not going to give that power to her now.  In the end, I simply told her in my email back that we did not want her to link us up with anyone, that we would get in touch if we wanted to and left it at that.

Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2015, 07:15:12 AM »
Something I do is talk to my dh about what I'd like to tell my mother. When it comes to my history with my FOO, he really gets it, and he's also compassionate and unflappable, so he's fine with that. It's a lot easier to be my grown-up 'strong' self while I'm talking to him. So maybe that method is a bit of a cop-out, but... well, baby steps, right?

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C.

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2015, 08:46:53 PM »
Your experiences and perspectives on this topic are interesting.  I could be reading it wrong, but the way I see it this is about learning to assert ourselves appropriately.  NPD parents/people will not be receptive to how healthy people would respond to their criticism/inappropriate behavior.  So in one since to me, this activity seems a bit futile.  Like don't wast energy on NPD people.  It's their path so to speak so simply leave them to themselves and take your own, healthier path.  But life will present us w/other similar situations, so learning to regulate the emotional response could be important.  Personally, I'm in more of an avoidant pattern at the moment.  Work provides enough unhealthy people for me to have to learn assertiveness skills.  So I guess I'm just being quite discerning as to how much toxicity I can handle at the moment.  This would definitely be a baby steps activity.  I wonder, what is the purpose of this activity?  To see that the perpetrator (parent) isn't so big and bad?  Find your voice?  Learn to be around one's parent(s)? (not interested)  It seems rather futile and triggering to me...

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Annegirl

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2015, 09:29:24 PM »
I tend to agree. Now that you mention it. I think its not about trying to enlighten or change them. Its more about what you said, learning to be assertive.
I still don't think I could tell them what I think, or answer them assertively. I just have to try and please when Im in their presence, not rock the boat. As a teenager i would swear at them etc. Even tried to physically self defend myself back to my mother (who would straightaway ring her friends and tell them I attacked her) But thats not being assertive either.

If I did now I would miss out all major details so I won't make them feel bad in their old age.

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VeryFoggy

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2015, 12:42:19 AM »
I have done plenty of this work, but not using the chair technique.  I love to write, (sorry I know I can get long winded) and so I wrote many angry and unsent letters.  The purpose of the exercise for me was to stop avoiding the anger that has been stuffed down inside of me for so very long. Instead I had to face it head on, and go INTO the anger, go through the anger.

And it is an awesome experience, and it takes a long time.  Months sometimes to get it all out.  But once it is done?  It is done!  Really! I have not been angry with my abusers for several months now.  And, I feel, nothing.  No guilt, no fear, no obligation and no more anger.  But it took a long time and much dedicated and persistent effort, facing and releasing the anger over and over again.

It was a very scary thing to do, as I did not know if the anger would ever end.  But I got much encouragement on OOTF to keep it up, but keep it under control, and not actually DO anything, just use my mind, and think and write and release all of that pent up anger.  And it is finally gone.  It started out kind of small, then built to a furious crescendo, where I was actually contemplating going on the offensive, like calling Social Services on my father for abusing my mother, and then eventually the fires started going out, and now they burn no more, and I feel so much more at peace.

Will I ever feel anger again towards him?  Possibly, if something new in the present is done, or if I find some other memories that need an exorcism. But for now it is done and it is very peaceful. 

And it makes the saying I read the other day so TRUE! It is credited to the Buddha:  Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else.  You are the one who gets burned.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2015, 02:58:56 AM by VeryFoggy »

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Annegirl

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2015, 01:20:21 AM »
Wow veryfoggy, you may have no idea how much what you wrote here has helped me today.
I have never seen anger in this light.
I am going to do the writing thing, without being afraid of getting angry. I know i have a lot I used to feel constantly angry and every now and then it erupts and I do stuff i wish i hadn't. I am always afraid of my anger because I used to want to kill my mother when i was a teenager so I never wanted to go there.

Thank you for your wisdom, insight and honesty it has helped me immensely.  :hug:


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VeryFoggy

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2015, 02:00:59 AM »
Thank you Annegirl.  I am glad you found that helpful.  So, at the risk of being a real pain in the butt to this group, I am going to post a piece of an angry letter I wrote last August that was very helpful to me.  I let it all hang out, and it was about current day events, but it was fueled by the anger I had felt all of my life.  And it helped so much!  It was not the end of my anger. It was the beginning, but it helped.  For me?  This worked.  I felt so much better just letting it out.  It was trapped inside of me and it was killing me.  This is only 1/6 of my letter. :)

Dear Dad,

I am still so angry with you for saying terrible things about me to my daughter at Christmas and again in January.  I am furious with you for telling her I am not a good example to follow.  I am filled with rage with you for telling her that you think I have ruined my life just because I am not in a marriage. I want to lash out and hurt you back for hurting me that way. You have said horrible awful things and it hurts me deeply, wounds me to my core that you think so poorly of me.  It cuts me and I am bleeding from an open wound a gaping hole in my heart that you have such a low opinion about me and my life.  I am enraged that all of my struggles, everything I have done and accomplished in my life are dismissed by you in a couple of sentences. I am angry that you refuse to try to be a nice person and that you refuse to try to find the good in me and instead always seem to look for the worst.  I am angry that if that is how you spend your time then that is what you will find.  I am furious with you for not looking at my life and not understanding how hard I have worked and how I have struggled to survive and even worked to forgive others.  It hurts me that you have no comprehension of what it was like to lose my children to a monster and pay child support to him for 18 years. And to forgive him anyway.  How hard it was to learn the lesson and understand that living in hate would destroy me and I had to forgive him.  It hurts that you do not understand how hard that was to do.   It hurts that you do not see how hard I worked in my profession and how successful I was and how many people I helped and gave encouragement to and mentored and counseled.  That I shared my knowledge with others and helped so many people have better lives, helped them prepare for and get better jobs. It hurts me that you do not understand that my daughter is who she is because I was a GREAT mother not because I was a crummy mother.  She took the wrong road as an exotic dancer, but then she looked back at me and she saw value in living the way I live.  Value in having respect for oneself and not taking my clothes off to make a living.  She saw I was dignified and respected and was compensated for my knowledge, and not for my appearance or for being sexy. And so she started seeing value in living a different life than she was and she changed.  Not because I forced her to or shamed her into it or belittled her and ridiculed her, but because I stood still and said to her, here is another way to live.  Please take a look at me and see if you can find some good in the way I live.  And she did and she changed. It hurts that you do not see how hard I worked to stay close to my children.  How I took every single second that the court would allow and spent time with them and taught them and loved them. It hurts for you to dismiss all of my struggles and efforts to be good, to live a good life, to be a good example to my kids and to my coworkers with just a couple of sentences.  Two sentences that show you think very poorly of me.  That you think I wasted my life and ruined my life. And it hurts that you wanted my daughter to look at me that way, that you wanted her to see me as a failure.  When I feel like I have worked so hard and it was uphill both ways, and that I have achieved a tremendous life.  None of my children are in jail, nobody has a record. Thanks to me and my insane efforts to get them out of scrapes.  My son is finally getting better every day and things are really going well.  The best part is my children love me and respect me and look up to me and trust me.  That is what I built.  I am not a terrible example and I have NOTHING to be ashamed of and not being married is a very common condition these days. It makes me feel very angry that you are so intolerant and judgmental and narrow minded, and disrespectful and dismissive of things you know nothing about and have never experienced.  That you have no comprehension that is only from the grace of God and from my mother protecting you, shielding you from the hardships of life and the world that you have not had to live the same life or worse than I have. That you donít understand that as badly as you treated my mother and her children that you could have ended up with a much worse life than I have had.  If she had not just sucked it up and if she had not just accepted your unfair, unjust, unreasonable, angry, ugly treatment that you could be in the gutter right now. She could have, she should have left your sorry a** many years ago. But she didnít.   You did not deserve the treatment you received from my mother.  You did not deserve the forgiveness that was given to you. You did not earn your childrenís love and respect and trust.  Because you were a monster.  A horrible hate filled angry man who solved things with his fists, his belt and his anger. And I hate you for that.  I hate that you were given a pass by my mother.  That you rode on her back to a respectability that you never worked for and never earned. I hate that you do not understand that you should bow down and kiss the ground she walks on.  That you do not understand that without her you are nothing.  You are scum. You are just an angry sad poor excuse for a man, who fights dirty and wonders why no one likes him. I will forever see my mother as a woman with a backbone made out of steel who was kind and loving and forgiving.  I will forever see you as a weak, selfish, angry hate filled person who has nothing good to say about anyone or anything. So I am very angry with you for trying to destroy me and tear me down. To say things that are not true to my daughter.  Because you are just an angry hate filled person who does not know how to love and be supportive.  Who does not know how to build trust and earn respect. You are ignorant and worse you refuse to learn or even try. That disgusts me.  I am disgusted with you and fed up with your horrible way of living and sick of watching the horrible way you treat my mother.  Who should have been treated like a queen, but instead is merely your slave.  It makes me sick to hear your angry spoutings about how God ordained it to be this way and you deserve to be treated that way simply because you were born with a * and balls. That is NOT true.  Nobody is born deserving to be treated better than another.  And respect is earned, trust is built, love is learned.  You have earned nothing.  You have built nothing.  You have learned nothing. You have wasted your life. You have ruined 5 others. Itís a wonder you can sleep at night. How you can live with yourself after the life you have lived and the misery you have spread across 5 lives is a mystery to me. And I hate you.  I hate that no matter how hard I try to get along with you, you cannot let it be, you always have to ruin it, and try to bring everybody down.  That you are sick and hate filled and always looking for an opportunity to belittle and tear down and destroy. I am angry that when I said I will no longer put up with your unfair treatment, then you tried to turn our conflict into a struggle for loyalty in our family.  That you immediately went after my brothers and my sister and tried to get them to side with you against me.  I am angry that you began telling even more lies about me and telling everyone that I was an alcoholic and that I was making up things about you, even though you said these things in a room full of people who all heard what you said, and then put them in writing in a letter to my daughter. And you still denied doing it and refused to apologize.  I am angry that you probably did the same to my mother. Told her your lies.  I am angry that you have made my mother your prisoner and that I cannot talk to her on the phone and she cannot will not tell me the truth.  I am angry she stayed with you and did not divorce you long ago. I am angry she never stood up to you and said no, you will not treat me or my children this way.  We are going to get some help or we are going to get a divorce.  But we arenít going to live this way. I have scorn for you and your sad little world. Your sad little hate filled angry world. I am angry that you make fun of and belittle me for enjoying my retirement.  That you are constantly pushing me and telling me how I am doing it wrong.  That you do not have any comprehension that in the last 15 years of my work life I put in the hours equivalent to 30 years of work.  I am angry that you do not feel like I deserve to be happy and to enjoy my retirement in whatever way I please. I am angry that you are constantly telling me how I could use my home for bible studies. When I donít even go to your church. I am angry that you look at what I have accomplished and just dismiss it.  That my accomplishments mean nothing to you. That makes me very angry. I am angry you do not understand that my passion is creating spreadsheets and tracking numbers and analyzing data and I still do it just for fun. But even though my ability is far beyond anything you could ever achieve you just make fun of me and tell me I am wasting my time. You even make fun of my gardens that I work so hard on, they are nothing to you. Not worth recognizing as a real effort. It makes me angry that you have no appreciation for my beautiful home that I designed from the ground up down to the smallest detail and that it has no value to you. How you constantly are talking about how I need to get rid of things including my home that I have worked so hard on.  I am angry that you do not understand that my home is a reflection of me, who I am.  I am in every light fixture and every drawer pull.   I am angry that you do not understand that my son and my grandson, and on occasion my daughter and granddaughter have all needed this home as a place to rest, recover and feel sheltered.  I am angry you do not understand how happy I was that I had such a beautiful place for them to go to. I am angry that every time you come into my home you wreck and destroy something.  You scratch the floors or drip glue on them or overflow the sink in the upstairs bathroom and flood the downstairs.  You break the chairs and you complain about the food, and pee all over the floors. And leave it for me to clean up.  You are ungrateful and unappreciative of anything that is ever done by anybody to try to please you. You are as my sister says a rude f***.  I am angry that you do not see that my home is important to me and that you do not try to take care of it because it is important to me even if it is not important to you. I feel disrespected and like I have no value to you. I am angry that I feel like I am worthless to you and you have nothing but bad things to say about me despite all evidence to the contrary that is in front of your face if you will but open your eyes and see.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2015, 02:59:48 AM by VeryFoggy »

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Annegirl

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2015, 04:32:50 AM »
Wow!! don't you wish you could send that to him?? He needs to hear all that. I can hear how unfairly and badly he has treated you, how ungrateful he is. But if he's anything like my mother he'd turn the whole thing against you, how dare you talk to him like that etc.
So you felt relieved after all these letters? it took the anger out? I think i need to write letters too, i do write songs and they have calmed me down a lot but i think letters can explain personally more stuff in detail.
You have overcome so much very foggy. I admire you and can see you have overcome an amazing hard life.
Thank you for sharing this it helps me to see how honest and how detailed i can go it would be releasing.

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bee

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2015, 06:44:22 AM »
Very Foggy thank you so much for what you shared about your anger. I have progressed to the stage where I know I have anger. I let some out, but keep a tight hold on it because it terrifies me. My visual of it is this. Imagine one of those deep underground caves, one of the huge ones, filled with water. The water is my anger, it is still on the surface, but I have no idea how deep it goes, nor how far it stretches back into the darkness. It is overwhelming to contemplate. Knowing that you were able to write out your anger gives me hope.

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VeryFoggy

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2015, 01:08:58 PM »
Whew!  Glad you guys think it has some value. I was scared to post that because it is so long, and that's only a part of it.  The rest is equally long parts about what I am sad about, what I am afraid of, what I understand, what I want and wish for and what I am grateful for. This letter took several weeks to write.

So you go down into the feelings of anger, sadness and fear, then you bring yourself back up with the understanding, the wanting and wishing and the gratitude. This is a John Gray technique I learned last year and I find invaluable in many situations.

The great thing about writing a letter like that is you are completely free to experience your emotions fully and completely.  Since no one but you will see it, you do not have to worry about offending anyone, or being politically correct, or hurting someone's feelings, or even being mistaken about some things.  It is just your feelings. It is not what you are going to do about a situation, or anything.  It is simply how you feel.  And to feel is to be human.  Sure we have to control our feelings, but we also have to admit they exist, and that we have them, and we have to give them an outlet or they will consume us.

Bee - I love your description about the fear of the depth, and being scared there is no bottom to the pool.  In my case, there was a bottom, so I hope you can do whatever you have to, to release them.  Because there was no outlet at the bottom of my pool.  And if I did not let them boil and rage and evaporate, then they were going to turn stagnant, and fester and infect me.



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Annegirl

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2015, 09:33:24 PM »
This is really helpful VF, Thank you. I am definitely going to do this and maybe look up John Grey.
 :hug:

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C.

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2015, 09:49:02 PM »
Thank you for taking the risk to share this letter VF.  Yes, it is enlightening and the detail and examples you use were an important part for all of us to read and think about.  I really like what you said about using writing to find your emotions.  I've intuitively done so, but it's usually when I "feel" inspired.  But I'm learning that the act of remembering and writing as you do so and writing w/an emotional intent can be powerful as you said.

I think that's what happened for me on another of this weeks topics about what I'd say, bc I kept finding myself glossing over the anger, but in my second example I allowed myself to let it free, to flow out authentically.  So your explanation helps me to understand the process and like others have mentioned use it in the future to continue my healing.

Finally, I must say that I see you as such a wonderful mother.  I can hear the love and the acceptance with which you parent in the way you describe your kids, grand kids, and being with them.  You've truly honored that gift of the children you brought in to the world.  You provide a loving refuge for them for life, as children, teens, adults...My hat is off to you  :applause: :hug:

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Kizzie

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2015, 08:41:30 PM »
Thanks Very Foggy, not only for sharing but for showing us through your experience that we can go down into all the pain and surface again in a healthier place.  :hug:

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VeryFoggy

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Re: Activity 2, Professional help: "Empty chair" technique.
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2015, 10:14:35 PM »
Thanks everyone, so much and I am so pleased you found it helpful.  I've been reading ahead and it looks like I won't have too much to say next week!  It talks about writing this type of letter.  That cracked me up!

It does take time and patience but eventually the fires go out.  I just had to just keep working on it, and writing more, and more until the fires finally went out.

Am I ready to try to resume a relationship with my NPD dad?  NO!  But, I no longer have the pain in my heart about the situation.  And that feels very good.

Also I am finding it easier to resolve new situations (like the one with my sister who seems to be some sort of a PD as well) much more quickly.  Acceptance is coming much more quickly and the pain is fading much faster.