I’ve tried writing letters to people in the past in order to help me process and organise my thoughts.
Some I’ve sent, others I haven’t. But each time I’ve found it useful.
At the end of last year I was introduced to the exercise of writing a Forgiveness Letter by Peter Barr, a Master Certified Coach of over 20 years and recipient of a 2022 Gold Award – Executive Coach at Global Coach Awards. (As you’ll see in the structure and instructions below, these are not letters to be published or sent.)
I wrote one the following day.
The process was intense, challenging, sad and loving. Afterwards I was left with sense of peace and calm.
Along similar lines to what I wrote in The Mirror Is The Hardest Place To Look, my experience has been that forgiving myself can be hard too.
So today I chose to write one to myself to kick off the working year.
This experience was the same, with the resulting sense of peace and calm.
I wanted to document and share the structure and process here.
It’s incredibly simple:
I am angry at you for…
I am sad that you…
I forgive you for…
I love you for…
- Find a private space and set aside some time. [I allowed an hour in my office each time. It probably took me 45 mins but other people spend hours on these. It’s entirely up to you.]
- Grab a box of tissues in case of tears. [I didn’t have them on hand for my first letter and ended up having to grab a roll of toilet paper instead.]
- Write as much as you feel like. There’s no need to force more, just let it flow. When you’re done, you’re done. There’s no minimum/maximum length. It’s solely for you, no one else. [Rather than handwriting, I also found it easiest to type into a document with those three prompts and bounce back and forth as thoughts occurred.]
I called Pete afterwards about this part: What should I do once I’ve written the letter?
After a quick chat, I decided I’d print out the document, permanently delete the digital file and then burn the print out.
I really enjoy rituals so I did the above and burned the letter in a metal cooking bowl outside my house.
For my second letter, I added some music: Ludovico Einaudi’s Nuvole Bianche (like in my cold bath ritual).
I’ve thought about if or how this might become a practice.
For now, I’ve decided I’ll use it more as a tactical tool when I feel it’s appropriate rather than a regular practice.
Thanks again Pete for introducing me to it.
If you’re willing to give it a go, I hope you find it useful too.