Journal Technique: The Unsent Letter

by Ruth Folit

The Unsent Letter is a journal writing technique that is just what its moniker implies–composing a letter without sending it.  The letter could be addressed to a person about whom you have strong feelings-anger, admiration, gratitude, fear, and resentment.  Although you could communicate directly to that person, letting your full depth of emotion might jeopardize some relationship. With no concern of what impact your words may have on an addressee, you may express yourself fully and perhaps gain clarity about ideas and issues.

Although you may address an Unsent Letter to a person with whom you have a current relationship, you may address one, for example, to someone who has died, to an ex-spouse you divorced years ago, to a childhood nemesis, or to an enigmatic character in a dream. A teacher friend of mine used Unsent Letter to vent about a particularly irksome student.  Using the Unsent Letter is a great tool to release unexpressed words, to resolve unfinished business, and to let go of unresolved emotion.

Personal productivity consultant David Allen believes in clearing the mind to free it for productive and creative thinking. As Allen says, “Your mind should be used to think about things, not to keep thinking of them.” So additionally, the Unsent Letter may be an excellent technique to purge yourself of outdated, fruitless, and unproductive thoughts and feelings so that you open interior space to move forward in your life.