Psychological Self-Help

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1510
insight into your resistance to thinking flexibly and seeing the
opposites. Did you experience anxiety, disgust or boredom while
searching for any of the opposites? These reactions might be clues to
fears that keep you from seeing things differently or from re-claiming
the parts of yourself you have disowned. Self-awareness is very
important. 
Perls, Hefferline and Goodman cite several case illustrations,
including a young man who was eagerly awaiting his wedding date. His
fiancee was studying abroad. He missed her terribly and spoke
glowingly of his bride-to-be and of marriage. His therapist asked him
to go look for the opposites. He resisted but finally acknowledged she
had some faults that might spell trouble in the future. Also, he had
some financial worries, many demands on his time, and an interest in
dating for a few more years. For the first time, he got in touch with
some important feelings that had been drowned out by his positive
feelings. He still decided to get married but realized these other
feelings needed to be dealt with too. 
STEP THREE:  The empty chair technique: a simple means of exploring
your feelings.
When you go see a Gestalt therapist, the office will usually have an
extra chair--an empty chair. This chair serves an important function.
The therapist may ask you to imagine holding a conversation with
someone or something imagined to be in the empty chair. Thus, the
"empty chair technique" stimulates your thinking, highlighting your
emotions and attitudes. For example, the therapist may say, "Imagine
your father in this chair (about 3 feet away), see him vividly, and,
now, talk to him about how you felt when he was unfaithful to your
mother." There are innumerable other people, objects (your car or
wedding ring), parts of your personality (critical parent, natural child,
introversion, obsession with work), any of your emotions, symptoms
(headaches, fatigue), any aspect of a dream, a stereotype (blacks,
macho males, independent women), and so on that you can imagine in
the empty chair. The key is a long, detailed, emotional interaction--a
conversation. You should shift back and forth between chairs as you
also speak for the person-trait-object in the other chair. This
"conversation" clarifies your feelings and reactions to the other person
and may increase your understanding of the other person. 
If you imagine anything in the other chair that gives you difficulty,
e.g. a person upsetting you, a hated assignment, a goal that is hard to
reach, a disliked boss or authority, a temptation to do something
wrong, keep in mind that this person or desire is really a part of you
right now--it is your fantasy, your thoughts. You may disown it, even
dislike it, and think of it as foreign to you, like a "mean old man," "the
messed up system," "Bill, the self-centered jerk," "a desire to run
away," "the boring, stupid book I have to read," etc., but obviously the
things said and felt by you in both chairs are parts of you here and
now. Your images, memories, emotions, judgments, expectations
about the other person or thing are yours! You have created this
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