Have you seen this New York Times article about the lost art of the unsent angry letter?
“Whenever Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off,” Konnikova writes, “he would compose what he called a ’hot letter’. He’d pile all of his anger into a note, ‘put it aside until his emotions cooled down’…and then write: ‘never sent. Never signed.’ ”
It’s interesting to think about how social media has changed the ways we express heat-of-the-moment frustration. Here are two excerpts from the article…
Before the Internet: “The unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided ‘unallowable frankness & freedom.’ ”
Nowadays: “We toss our reflexive anger out there, but we do it publicly, without the private buffer that once would have let us separate what needed to be said from what needed only to be felt….We may also find ourselves feeling less satisfied. Because the angry email (or tweet or text or whatnot) takes so much less effort to compose than a pen-and-paper letter, it may in the end offer us a less cathartic experience, in just the same way that pressing the end call button on your cellphone will never be quite the same as slamming down an old-fashioned receiver.”
Have you ever written an angry letter, knowing you’ll never send it? Would you now? I once read a challenge (I can’t remember where) to write a love letter to a current, past or future love without sending it, which also sounds like a pretty compelling exercise. Anyway, let me know what you think!
(Thank you so much, Joy Belamarich)