Eastwooding – Empty Chair Is A Psychotherapeutic Technique – Analyze That!

Eastwooding –  is actually the psychotherapeutic technique and intervention known as the empty chair technique.  There has been much chatter about Eastwood’s use of the empty chair during his speech (AKA Mitt’s opening act). The chatter throughout social media is that there is a new term: “Eastwooding”. I will share with you that there are psychotherapists who value using creative therapeutic interventions in an effort to facilitate self discovery and psychotherapeutic insight for their clients’ experience. I am one of those psychotherapists. Guess what? The “empty chair technique” is a real psychotherapeutic intervention that when used wisely helps clients to move from talking about something to developing abstract thinking. It is a tool that helps gain greater understanding of one’s self, one’s feelings, and one’s situation. It can build a person’s skill to express and communicate, and to move forward. This psychotherapeutic technique has been around for decades.

The Empty Chair Technique

An example of when a psychotherapist may choose to utilize the empty chair technique is when working with clients who have been through a trauma and the person they need to hear their voice is unavailable emotionally or physically. Examples include; could be because they are dead, in jail, or unsafe to confront.

The empty chair technique is quite advantageous as a therapeutic intervention to help clients who are stuck and unable to move forward. In a safe therapeutic environment with a therapist who the client trusts, and with the right therapeutic timing, the empty chair technique can be used to facilitate an opportunity for the client to share their thoughts and feelings and understanding those very thoughts and feelings in a different way. The therapist can further explore with the client the communicative experience with the empty chair to help the client to help themselves to move forward to the next chapter of their life rather than remaining stuck.

Through the years, this psychotherapeutic intervention has evolved in that the client can then sit in the “empty chair” continuing the conversation, this time reversing roles. Variations of the empty chair technique has developed over decades in order to fit the needs of the clinical situation and as therapy itself has evolved. Bosses that you are angry at, dead relatives, an x-spouse, are all examples that clients have shared their feelings to, and expanded their understanding of their own thoughts as well as the other person’s position, with the use of the empty chair technique. Do note that like any psychotherapeutic technique and intervention the therapist must choose wisely which techniques they use. This particular intervention is not one that all therapists know about or utilize.

Clint Eastwood 

Skilled actors and directors enter the reality of the character they are trying to portray. To have an empty chair on stage in an effort to enter the reality of the public, our America – and what so many may wish to state to President Obama, but feel their voice is not being heard, Eastwood shared the voice of the many to that empty chair. This concept was brilliant. Well, brilliant from a psychoanalytical perspective but quite likely would create a wider range of response from the masses. Opinions ranged from people thinking it seemed odd, others finding it humorous, and yet still others who saw it as disrespectful and offensive. Then there were those that “got it” and liked it.

Who else but a skilled actor, director, and politician would be so bold as to bring such a prop on stage to allow the public the opportunity to see the reality of what many are feeling. Sure, it was not in sync with the rest of the speeches in its style or approach, agreed, but was the message concept not in and of itself in sync?

Fascinating and brilliant in this context in that there are many who feel their voice is not being heard by Obama and thus they must be brave and strong and make a choice to move forward without Obama, if indeed they do not feel their needs are being met and the country’s needs are not being met. Is it possible that is indeed the not so subliminal message Eastwood relayed? Just like in a therapeutic setting, the chair is used as a tool to help people to move forward and away from holding onto their emotions with regards to whomever is playing a role in keeping them stuck. Is this the inference here and Eastwood’s plan?

Some actors and directors do not become politicians. Eastwood is both an actor and a director, it is in his skin through and through. He is also a politician. Was he speaking as a politician? Perhaps he combined all three of his passions as we are who we are, all of the many parts of us. If he accessed all sides of himself then we saw on stage the art of performance (actor), staging the environment (director), and the politician. There are many reacting and “grading” him. What are we grading him on; his acting? his directing? his skill as a politician? Or all three? Perhaps Eastwood was simply playing himself including all sides of self while representing the voice of many.

To learn more about the ’empty chair’, as a psychotherapeutic technique, check out my interview with The Boston Globe: Should We All Be #Eastwooding To Heal Mental Anguish?

If you wish to read my psychotherapeutic analysis of some of the other speeches during the RNC, specifically with a focus on connecting with the public, read my blog entitled: Psychotherapist Analyzes Republican National Convention – How To Connect With 4 Steps.


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