Keeping in Touch: Dear Sorrow

love notes
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Samara O’Shea is the Author of Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits. Visit her at her Web site ( or follow her on Twitter.

“My songs are just little letters to me.” ~ Ani Difranco

One journal technique I’m getting into these days, is writing letters to my emotions. Sound strange? It is. It’s strange to say and strange to do—at first. Once you’re comfortable with the idea and the practice, the benefits are nothing short of incredible. All of our emotions serve a purpose. They are constantly sending us messages, and they will keep sending messages until we acknowledge and act on what they say.

Start by writing to an emotion that’s been biting at your heels lately. Guilt, for example, perhaps you’re feeling guilty for a known reason, or maybe it’s an unknown reason. If it’s known, tell guilt you know why she’s there and you’re ready to move on. “Dear Guilt, I know I made a mistake by not telling Joey about the change in Saturday’s plan. It upset Joey and a handful of other people. I am well aware of the frustration it caused. I’ve apologized, and will try not to make a similar mistake moving forward. You have made your point, and I’d like you to take your leave now. Sincerely, Susie”
If the reason is unknown, write to Guilt and ask why she keeps hovering—casting a cloud over everything in the house. Maybe she has no good reason for being there, in which case you can tell her to go away.
In my experience two things happen when I write to my emotions. The first happens as I’m writing (my letters tend to be much longer than the one above): the emotion tells me why she (or he) is there. At some point, it really is the emotion rather than me writing. The second, usually happens a while after I’ve finished the letter: the emotion gets back in line. It leaves me alone until it has just cause to knock on my door. Of course you can write the good emotions, too. Tell Joy not to be such a stranger, or thank her for coming around so much lately. One conclusion I’ve come to in the past few yeas is that happiness is not one emotion. Rather, it’s the mindful management of all emotions. This is one good way to start supervising yourself.