“What is healing, but a shift in perspective?” Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast
Welcome to the second week of Transform Your Health: Write to Heal. Congratulations on finishing some very challenging assignments in Expressive Writing last week. Your work from last week should provide you with a good foundation for moving into this week’s assignment: Transactional Writing.
You may be asking what is Transactional Writing? Transactional writing is more formal than expressive writing although the content may be as personal as expressive writing. Outside the context of writing to heal, Transactional writing often occurs in various professions or business and offers an exchange of some value, meets the expectations of another, or completes an obligation. For the sake of writing-to-heal, a guiding principle is that your Transactional Writing takes care of the business of your emotional life, whether new business or unfinished business, in order to express compassion, empathy, gratitude, or forgiveness.
The purpose of Transactional Writing is to complete an exchange of thoughts, beliefs, and feelings with someone else, including another aspect or yourself or yourself at another stage of your life. Although for your transactional assignment, you may also consider some aspect of yourself as an audience. For instance, you may write a letter of compassion, empathy, gratitude or forgiveness to your former self, to your future self or to another aspect of yourself. Many participants do this, but most write to someone else, a friend, a family member, or a significant other. Sometimes participants write to an authority figure, sometimes to a stranger who played an important role in an experience.
Unsent or Sent
Do not worry about sending the letters you write as part of this Transactional Writing. This is not a requirement, and it probably has little effect on health outcomes whether you send your letters or not. In fact it is probably better to not send an unexpected letter, especially a letter of granting forgiveness. You may even plan to burn a letter as part of a cleansing ritual. More on that later.
Unlike Expressive Writing, Transactional Writing observes some of the common conventions of letters, like a greeting and a closing. In the act of writing any letter, the writer intentionally becomes conscious of another person, and this awareness to a large degree, influences word choice, word order, even the punctuation and sentence structure. So, to a greater extent than expressive writing, Transactional Writing observes language and style conventions like grammar, spelling and punctuation as much as the writer is able.
Keep in mind, a guiding principle of Transactional Writing is to become conscious of another’s perspective. A defining characteristic of Transactional Writing is to communicate a message. Don’t let a concern for conventions become your immediate or primary focus. Instead, concentrate on communicating your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, and judgments to another. You are encouraged to write as many drafts of your letter as you wish, so don’t worry about writing a perfect first draft.
Let’s get started.
You only need to write one letter for this assignment, but if you wish, you may write more. Read the five options below and choose the one that may serve your purposes best. Just write for twenty minutes to get started. If there is more to say after twenty minutes, write as long as it takes or as you have time to write. You can always come back to a letter and continue. Sometimes writers like to come back and revise their letter. However, sometimes it is also important to allow yourself the freedom of writing several kinds of letters
Choice # 1 - The Compassionate Letter
Imagine if someone you love, your closest friend, your child, your partner, or your significant other had suffered the same trauma or traumas you wrote about in your Expressive Writing Assignment.
In a compassionate and respectful way, write a letter with what advice would you have for them from your experience? You might also:
• Write about what you wish you had known but learned and what you imagine that they might be able to learn from the event?
• Or write about what ways you are now growing and that they may grow.
• Or write about any way that there was a benefit to the crisis?
• Or write about what your loved one might have learned about himself or herself from going through this difficulty?
• Or you may write about all the above.
As you continue to respond to your loved one, write encouraging words of hope, comfort and advice.
Choice #2 - The Empathetic Letter
Symbolically take your leave of the past and move forward by composing a letter to yourself or to someone else involved in the distressing event that you described in your previous Expressive Writing Assignment. Try to understand why this person did, said, or acted the way they did. You aren’t saying what happened is right, just or fair, but are instead trying to understand and empathize. Start from the assumption that the person isn’t a bad person, but just did something that hurt you or that you don’t understand. What could they have been thinking? What could have happened to them in the past to make them do what they did? What could they have felt as they did it, and what did they feel afterward? How do they feel now?
After you finish writing, go back and change or add anything you want. Rewrite as necessary until your letter is as good as you can make it.
Remember: This writing is confidential. You may share if you choose, but there is no expectation for sharing content of this assignment.
Choice #3 – The Gratitude Letter
Write a letter to someone in your life that you would like to thank for something they gave you, or something they taught you, or something they have inspired in you. Get right to the point and don’t apologize for not writing before now. Describe your relationship with the person you are thanking and the context for this occasion. Describe the gift that you received, the skill you learned or the inspiration you received from knowing them. In your letter tell them what their gift meant to you when you received it. Tell them how you felt about it then and now. Explain how you have been able to use this gift or the skill or the inspiration you received from them. Explain how your life has been enriched by what you have received from them and for their presence in your life.
Choice #4 – Granting Forgiveness Letter
Write a letter to someone in your life that you need to forgive for something they did or said or did not do or did not say. (Or write a forgiveness letter to yourself if there is something you did that you wish to forgive yourself for doing or saying. If you are writing to forgive yourself, write as if you were another person. Write in the second person, “you.”) Before writing think about the specific situation where you were treated badly by another person. Recall how you felt before, during, and after the event. Imagine how the other person felt and why they felt that way. Work toward not demonizing the other person remembering instead that they are humans with fears, insecurities, and stories of their own. When you begin writing, write words that describe your deepest emotions and thoughts concerning this event in your life. Mention briefly what led up to the event. Focus more on the other person or people who are responsible for what happened. What do you think was going on in their life at the time? How do you think they feel about it afterward? What will it take for your to forgive them? Explore what being able to forgive them means to you and to them. As always, write continuously in an uncensored way.
Choice # 5 – Asking Forgiveness Letter
Before writing, think about something that you have done in the past that caused someone else emotional pain. Think carefully about what led up to the event, what was going on in your mind at the time, and how you felt afterward. Imagine how the other person felt and what he or she may have felt and what they may have thought. Briefly describe what happened, but focus on the other person’s thoughts and feelings. If you can, express your sorrow and write out an apology. Don’t use your writing to justify your actions, but include if you can what it might take to make amends with this person, their family and friends. As always, write continuously and write in an uncensored way.
A Paper Sacrifice
When your letter is as perfect as you can make it, it is a perfect sacrifice for moving ahead symbolically. Taking care for safety, create a ritual for burning your perfect paper sacrifice – symbolically releasing all that it represents. Watch your letter burn. Watch the paper become ashes. Watch the smoke rise from the paper. Know that the materials of the ink and the paper have returned to the basic elements. No matter has been created or destroyed, but its shape has changed, and that can make all the difference.
When you have finished this assignment, please post your response.
Take good care of yourself this week.