The following exercise (adapted from ‘Feelings First’ by Dr John Gray) can help you detect layers of feelings that are present with respect to some ‘hot’ issue for you in your relationship. Though Gray calls it ‘The Love Letter’ it may seem anything but! It’s a process of peeling away the nastier layer of feelings that often prevent us experiencing our caring, compassionate self ‘buried’ underneath, the more tender, forgiving self that we probably prefer to be.
The process can be used in minutes as a ‘quick fix’ or you can take some hours or days to work with it.
Think of an issue about which you have some strong upsetting feelings, i.e. you’re holding a grudge. Write a letter to the person involved, headed ‘Everything I Needed To Say And Didn’t’. You probably won’t end up delivering the letter, so let yourself go! Don’t edit your feelings or try to be nice or reasonable, and don’t defend or explain your viewpoint. Just take the opportunity to vent whatever resentment or anger or wounded pride or hurt there may be in you.
Start the letter with sentences like:
Then move on to sentences that begin:
Having expressed your anger and then your hurt and sadness, move on to your feelings (there are bound to be some) of fear and insecurity:
Next, deal with your feelings of guilt and responsibility:
Finally, make space for expressions of understanding and love:
This order or arrangement is important, and so is an even weight between the sections of the letter. Review what you’ve written, making sure it truly expresses your feelings, and in a balanced way. If it’s fuller towards the start of the letter, you may be stuck in anger; if it’s fat in the middle, you may be overidentified with guilt; if it’s bottom heavy, you may be avoiding the angry, ‘nastier’ stuff in you that needs some sort of honouring and respecting. The principle is, all the parts of ourself need some exposure or airing some time or other.
Take the time to reflect on this experience and see what may or may not have shifted. Can you think more clearly, understand more deeply and more constructively seek solutions to resolve your anger and conflict?