Two Letters: A Journaling Exercise

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We are continuing our work with unsent letters this week.  This week’s exercise is broken down into 2 parts.  IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU COMPLETE PART I IN ITS ENTIRETY BEFORE PROCEEDING TO PART II.  DON’T EVEN READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR PART II UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED PART I.


We will begin by writing two very different letters:

Letter 1:  Our first letter will be to someone in our life who is frustrating us….someone who is maybe driving us a little crazy with their behavior.  In this letter we want to let this person know exactly what it is that they are doing that is annoying us and what we think this person ought to do differently.  Don’t hold back!  Really give them the honest truth about how you feel.  This is for your eyes only so there is no need to spare anyone’s feelings.

Letter 2:  The second letter will be to someone we deeply admire, someone we believe is doing great work in the world.  In this letter we want to let this person know how amazing we think they are.  We want to gush about their stellar qualities and what we so admire about them.  And then we want to take a moment to tell them what we hope they will do next with their considerable energies and talents.

Once you have decided who you want to write to, take out your journal and a pen and write your two letters, spending about 15 minutes on each one.  (SPOILER ALERT:  The impact of this exercise will be greater if you STOP READING NOW AND WRITE YOUR LETTERS BEFORE PROCEEDING TO PART II.)


Once you have completed your letters, go back and cross out the names of whoever you wrote your letters to and write your name instead.  This is an exercise in recognizing other people as our mirrors:  What frustrates us about other people is often something we are doing ourselves.   As my old therapist used to say, if you can spot it, you’ve got it!  It may be manifesting differently or to a different degree in your own life, but you will most likely see some (or a lot) of yourself in Letter 1 if you read closely.  Take a moment to read through it compassionately and reflect on how you are indeed embodying some if not all of the traits of this person who is frustrating you in some way, shape or form.  This is not meant to be an exercise in judging ourselves or others.  It is meant to help us notice how we can be blind to our own behaviors and how we can use our irritation and frustration with others to reflect on our own life.  We can’t control the actions of others, but we can see in ourselves what we haven’t been seeing and adjust our actions and behavior accordingly.

The same goes for Letter 2:  You would not hold deep admiration for someone if you did not already possess the very qualities you admire.  They may be latent or buried, but they are there.  Let this person be a glimpse of what’s inside you waiting to be revealed.  Pay close attention to what you told this person you were looking forward to them doing next.  Are you giving yourself some kind of instructions here about what you need to do next?

As you compare the two letters side-by-side, notice that you’ve revealed some aspects of yourself that may need some work AND a beautiful vision of what you already are under the surface.  Write a synthesis of the two letters.  What are you being told that it’s time to let go of?  What is it time to step into? What next steps have revealed themselves through this process?



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