The Empty Chair - An Invitation to Trust Yourself


The New York Times magazine article and photo of rape victims has powerful lessons for us all.

The innocuous empty chair in the New York Times magazine cover photo last week is as important as the story. The photo, by Amanda Demme, and accompanying article, by Noreen Malone, of the 35 women who’ve came forward to report their allegations of rape by Bill Cosby, is a powerful lesson for us all. (http://www.nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/bill-cosbys-accusers-speak-out.html )

The intent of the empty chair is to represent those who have thus far not spoken up. In texting circles, #themptychair, has become a symbol of the prevalence of date rape and the attempts to minimize its impact. The invitation of the empty chair is clear – speak up women, join the solidarity of others who are telling their story.

The message I want to add to the empty chair is the importance of trusting yourself. How do we ensure that our instincts and higher self are the ultimate guide? This is a lesson not just for women, but for all of us approaching situations where new people are involved.

As shocking as it is to grasp the radically altered portrayal of Bill Cosby, a comedian we’ve been groomed to trust, this is hardly a new issue. In fact, it happens all the time. We’re all scripted to believe in symbols of status, stability and power. People in powerful positions seem untouchable. It’s easy to be swayed by fame and to lose touch with own inner knowing. What can keep us clear and strong in the face of this power differential?

How do we ensure that we take our seat, and be counted? Whether we are dating or embarking on a new venture where we must make decisions about engaging with a new person, how do we keep ourselves centered in our own truth?

What are some simple guidelines that can help ensure that our instincts are the ultimate guide? Here are my thoughts:

  • Never be so impressed that you don’t check in with your own instincts first: We often want something so intently that if the outward trappings look good we are ready to embrace it as the full package. I’ve done it; you’ve done it. We fantasize about a person, a job, or a situation being the best. We want the best so why not let this be it? To tell yourself to take your time to fully know what you’re getting into sounds like a parent talking. But, we know this is the truth. Get to know the person first, get as much information as possible. Then, more importantly, spend some quiet time leaning into your own truth. Get beyond the surface experience. What do your instincts tell you?
  • You deserve equality – don’t be beholden: If you are in a situation where there is a large power differential, take your time and be careful. The power differential can be age, finances, clout or reputation. A power differential isn’t a negative if there is equality in treatment and no assumption of strings attached. It’s those strings attached that can make you beholden to the person for things that may not be consistent with your standards. If you’re able to keep yourself centered in your own positive self-worth and there is no assumption of compromises it’s a non-issue. Take your time to make sure you are not in a situation where the difference in status is putting you at a disadvantage.
  • Judge a person by their behavior, not their words or their looks or their trappings: It seems obvious to keep this in mind. It goes along with the adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. But boy do we all fall for the smart talker, the snappy dresser, the great looking car, house, or office. To tell ourselves to slow down and see if the behavior matches the first impression is often hard to do. But yes, we need time to tell if the behavior matches all those fabulous first impressions. You are looking for consistency. Does the person follow through with what they tell you?  Does the delivery match the expectation that has been created? Make special note if it doesn’t and keep tabs of how often that happens. You can give a person a few breaks, but do not accept a pattern of behavior that is different from what is being said.
  • Ask around, check ‘em out, what’s their reputation? If you are lucky enough to be involved with someone who is known in your area, it’s easy to ask around and find out what others think. Then the only issue is to trust what you hear and not think you know better than everyone else. With on line connections being so prevalent, this is harder. You need to pay close attention to the quality of interactions you have and how they engage with other people around them. There are many nuances to check out. How does this person treat you and others – how do others respond? Is it easy and relaxed or tense and awkward? Do they have friends and colleagues you'd like too? Can you check them out on line? What do you learn? Does it match up with your experience? Again, you are looking for congruency. Does your inner truth match the outward presentation?
  • Trust your body’s experience: What is your body’s comfort level with the person? Do you find yourself relaxing, breathing deeply,  feeling happy and experiencing pleasure? Or are you tense, awkward, nervous, and uncertain? You know to expect some nervousness at first, but if it doesn’t go away in fairly short time, be leery. Your body may be telling you something important. If you find yourself drinking more than usual or using drugs to get comfortable, watch out. You may be unknowingly masking your body’s signals that this is not a good situation for you. Make a concerted effort to stay alert so you will know your internal truth. If you experience too much fear or anxiety, that you know is not being generated by a previous experience, pay close attention and take action. Your body knows the truth.

What has your experience been with this topic? I’d like to hear about it. If any of this resonates with you and you’d like to explore it more, my coaching is focused on creating inner and outer congruency. Contact me with a message here or at page, Spectrum Transformation Services, LLC on Linkedin or Facebook.

This article was originally published at Inspired by New York Times magazine article referenced. Reprinted with permission from the author.