One great illusion I’ve had in my life (and you may have it, too) regards love letters. Usually I think of them as communications from me to someone else. I have a specific person in mind, and I write words of love to that person to cheer, arouse, validate, and elevate.
But after a lifetime of writing love letters, as well as looking outside the box, I noticed an interesting if disturbing phenomenon. The love letters that I wrote to different people often sounded quite similar to each other. It would be as if Price Charming wrote Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty the same love-you prose.
This might lead a cynical person to grouse that I wrote what amounted to assembly-line bulk mail, that I lived the life of a literary womanizer, that I just repeated my old self with each new recipient. While I never consciously wrote bulk mail, it was a depressing thought to consider that I might be doing it unconsciously.
I loved writing love letters. Originally I wrote and sent them by snail mail. I mostly wrote them (as I wrote everything) on a computer, often using desktop publishing tools and techniques to dress them up. Later I evolved with advancing technology, and moved into emails and texts, a Cyrano de Bergerac for more modern times.
Writing love letters was a particularly energizing creative pursuit. It’s the most fun, joyful kind of writing I have known. The muse that a loved one provides is a priceless vitamin for my writing mind. It frees the brain to romp in the luxury of pure play, which for me artistically is the most conducive mental state for being inspired.
One rainy day I found myself pouring through love letters I had written which I still had in my computer archives. Since writing love letters brought me such delight, it was disturbing to notice that I was writing much the same thing to a series of women, slightly varying the theme to account for each woman’s real-life differences.
Maybe I was just a love prose hack. Was this just schtick? Was it just ordinary seduction dressed up as something that made me feel chic and cool? Was I just playing a Don Juan game?
THEN I HAD ANOTHER THOUGHT
As I pondered this mental development, I went back to something I had learned in college psychology. I realized that even though I was writing different women over a lifetime, each one unique and individual, I was also engaged in mirroring.
Mirroring is the psychological phenomenon of seeing yourself through other people. When you are attracted to someone, it’s because that person reflects qualities you like and admire. Often they are qualities you like about yourself. (Similarly, when you are repulsed by someone, it’s because that person reflects qualities you dislike including things you dislike about yourself.)
Thus came my ah-ha moment. It suddenly occurred to me how much writing love letters to other people was actually writing love letters to myself! Letters to different women sounded similar because each time I wrote one, I was reflecting my own soul as seen through the mirror-image reflections of me they each provided.
When I wrote to a woman about her delicious laugh and aptitude for humor, for instance, I was unconsciously acknowledging my own appreciation for lightening up. When I wrote about her sensitivity and generosity and compassion, it was also a way that I could acknowledge my own.
Many of us were taught not to brag, sing our praises, not even to humbly acknowledge our good traits. That supposedly showed conceit. So those of us with this training unconsciously project ourselves into other people, and through our compliments to them, which love letters essentially are, we give some praise to ourselves!
Sneaky, huh? Our higher selves know how to handle things!
This put a whole different spin on writing love letters. Even when I was writing someone else, I was writing a love letter to myself. This realization opened up some interesting creative possibilities.
I could boldly write a love letter to myself. Is that narcissistic? Never say never, but probably not. It would be a creative mental exercise that might surprise me with renewed awareness of the parts of me I liked. A shout-out of appreciation to myself for who I am. I might become concerned if I get a reply back, but then maybe I would make a great date for me.
If that’s too weird, maybe not as weird would be to write love letters to an imaginary lover. Strange as it may sound, making up a lover from scratch to adore may be surprisingly juicy. Among other insights, it’s one good way to see what you always wanted to experience in a soul mate—and to write it down. Check it out later to see how much it reflects the inner you.
There’s also a metaphysical twist to this that some people find deep satisfaction in doing. They enjoy relationships with lovers who exist in other dimensions. Their love interest could be astral beings, ghosts, extraterrestrials, time-travelers, etc. It’s up to the beholder to determine whether this is imaginary or trans-dimensional.
In my afterlife research groups, I encounter people who keep current-time relationships with mates, family, and friends who have passed on. They write to these loved ones as a means to focus their attention and express their feelings, and they revel in signs they feel they receive in response. Some would call this imaginary white others would call it channeling.
People who write fiction may already encounter the phenomenon that made-up characters often manifest some of the author’s personality traits.
Once I created a woman who travels around the country hugging strangers. During a near-death experience, she’d met up with celestial beings who overwhelmed her with love during her temporary “death.” When she returned to physical life, she wanted to spread that loving spirit to humanity. Besides being a cheerleader for love, she was funny, psychic, smart, and a highly original thinker. She is a joy to write because she is so delightfully unbound by social conformity.
As I invented her, I realized that she was the me I wish I had the courage to be. She would make a wonderful lover as well. Creating her was similar to writing a love letter to an imaginary person, and it became a delicious learning experience. As I decide how she controls her life and responds to her world, I receive tips on how to manage my own life. Sometimes my made-up characters act as my therapists.
A related personal growth game I enjoy is writing a letter to myself as if I were someone else writing that letter to me. That person can be fictitious, but it can also be someone you know. I like to write it as if someone was telling me exactly what I would like to hear—a best-case scenario—from a friend or lover.
This is a game, so go ahead and taunt reality. Play. For example, if I am feeling especially lonely, I might write a letter from a lover telling me everything I would love to hear to set me free of my pain.
On one hand, this is pure and simple wish fulfillment. Savoring my feelings while I write is often a rush! On a deeper level, however, it can also be a fabulous tool for exploring my inner world. I find this especially valuable for people who may be afraid to ask for things, afraid there’s no point to wish for what they’ll never get. Yes, this game is fantasy, but it can also be instructive in learning about yourself.
You may have to try it to see.
UPDATE: Independent of me, Laura Handke tried a variation of this. While poking through some old computer files recently, she discovered a letter she wrote to her (future) soul mate a couple of years before she even met him! They are now going into their sixth year of a committed relationship. Read her account here.
We are so often taught that other people can control us. We can fall hopelessly in love with someone; we can be mercilessly victimized by others. If you feel stuck in either of these situations, it can help to look at the whole mirroring process. How are these people reflecting parts of you? If I feel off balance, reflecting on this principle helps me to regain my emotional equilibrium.
Want more? To read a previous post I wrote on this topic, visit here.