A variation on the the talking to an empty chair technique, the unsent letter is a means of communicating what was never, but always desired to be, said. The two differ in terms of witness. In employing the empty strategy method, the message bears witness by the therapist’s presence, whereas the letter has no witness excepting its author. This difference can better be articulated as a message that either lives in the (intimate) public sphere (empty chair) or in the private/internal sphere (letter). I label this public sphere as an intimate one, since therapy is in a limbo of sorts – not necessarily private because of the presence of an external witness but also not necessarily public, either, because therapy teases out what is not meant for the general public. So it would be fitting to label it as the “intimate private.”
In the online sphere, the witness’ role and presence are further complicated. The empty chair technique finds itself lumped together with the unread letter. I make this statement on the premise that in order to work through the empty chair technique, there needs not only be a witness but also an empty space – owned by no one – for expression to be dumped upon. It is to say that the conversation, in some ways, is triangular, with the two base vertices focused on the apex. Verbal expression distinguishes the two in the offline sphere, whereas, this marker of voice is lost online. At best, we can determine the intention of which stream by tone of writing and stylistic/linguistic choices (i.e. “dear,” “sincerely,” etc.). In my following post, for instance, which technique is it that I am employing?
I will, after all, be writing a letter, but it is no longer private. The empty canvas on which I write could be said to be the empty space or “chair” and because of the fact that readers function like witnesses, it is therefore the “empty chair technique.” But is it classifiable so? After all, I will make linguistic choices characteristic of a letter and I am creating my message in private before I share it. There is no co-occurring existence as I create my message, as there would be in the traditional offline empty chair technique. Again, we question the online sphere, which facilitates a “stop-go” action. The dynamic space, such as chat rooms, do not have that third empty space, so is it by default that I label this as an unread letter with the added quality of witness?
There is no particular answer that I have in mind; what I have written is merely a thought. This questioning merely serves as my preface to an open letter that I wish to write.