19 Mar Finding Freedom to Love and Forgive: Feeling Letters
My life is a crash course in Self Improvement right now, and it’s hard and it’s painful and it’s good and it’s exciting. I don’t want to minimize the depth of the heartache or make it sound easy- a part of me has been ripped away and sometimes simply breathing feels difficult- but the mental clarity, the ability to see and understand and learn better ways, is allowing me to finally be me. And oddly enough (or not), accepting and forgiving myself paves the way for accepting and forgiving those I love.
I feel like Oprah. “You get freedom! And you get freedom! Everybody gets freedom!”
And that’s exciting.Accepting and forgiving myself paves the way for accepting and forgiving those I love. Click To Tweet
I’m one of those who “over” feels everything. Big emotional empathetic ball of feelings. It can suck sometimes, but it’s me. That means I also “over” love, but I don’t think you can actually over love so that’s one of the things I’m excited about. I have all this more-than-I-can-measure love that I didn’t know how to express and use properly, that was tainted by my own self hatred and fear, and it’s getting cleaned up and purified and I’m learning how to love and relate (why don’t they teach this in school?) and looking forward to repaired relationships and bringing love and joy rather than pain. “Everybody gets freedom!!!”
Why am I sharing this? Because self discovery is work. Self improvement is hard. Facing yourself and your ugliness isn’t something you feel like doing on your next available Saturday. Most people are like me and don’t see it until life implodes and it’s too painful to ignore. But whether you’re at crash course time or you’re smart enough to deal with your stuff before that happens, you need to know there’s good there to find. Even in the middle of the pain and chaos, the growth will feel good. The potential for the future will be greater than the regret over the past. The freedom to love yourself will help you love those around you in a more accepting, generous way. The shame and sorrow you may feel when taking that close look at yourself can be used as fuel to do the work, deal with the crap, heal the hurts, and become the best you. Don’t give up. Stay encouraged.
I’ve shared my stories of Facing Failure, Facing Fear, and How to Face the Fear: My Process. In the last one I referenced dealing with past trauma through tweaking Love Letters (or Feeling Letters), from John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. His main purpose for these letters is to provide a template for working through and communicating difficult feelings to your spouse. He believes the best way to release negative emotions is to express and understand them, and move through them into more positive emotions. The Feeling Letters template starts with anger, sadness, fear, and regret before moving onto love, allowing you to feel and express the negative so you are then able to feel and express the love. The letter ends by writing the response you’d like to have from that person (He calls it a Response Letter but it’s a PS. in the template). At that point you can decide if you’d like to share the letter, have a conversation based on what you’ve worked through, or let it go.Best way to release negative emotions- express, understand, & move to positive emotions. Click To Tweet
In the book, Gray briefly refers to using the Letters with childhood caregivers or others from your past. I decided to give it a try with past trauma I’d never fully dealt with. I didn’t follow the advice to stick to one specific incidence or topic (which would make sense if it was a spouse issue I planned to discuss), but used the template to prompt free writing from that emotion. I didn’t plan to share with the person, so I was free to be open and unorganized.
Anger: I’m angry that/ I don’t like it/ I feel frustrated/ I feel annoyed/ I want
Sadness: I feel disappointed/ I feel sad that/ I feel hurt/ I wanted/ I want
Fear: I worry/ I am afraid/ I feel scared/ I do not want/ I need/ I want
Regret: I feel embarrassed/ I am sorry/ I feel ashamed/ I didn’t want/ I want
Love: I love/ I want/ I understand/ I forgive/ I appreciate/ I thank you for/ I know
PS. The response I would like to hear from you is…
I was surprised to discover the love and understanding that was there once I worked through the negative feelings. Following that up by writing what I wish this person would say to me was more powerful than I expected. The entire exercise was more powerful than I expected. And more healing.
I’ve now used this method for people in the past and the present, as a way for me to work through feelings rather than as a discussion prompt. I may have to write more than one letter per person, I’m not going to pretend I have everything nailed down never to haunt me again, but now I have tools should my ghosts start whispering, and this simple template is an effective one.
Have you tried this or something similar? What tools have you found effective in dealing with your past and improving yourself and your future?