The other day, I leafed through a magazine and read about a new book on etiquette that is currently being promoted. As a rule, I shy away from books on etiquette because they represent the antithesis of everything psychotherapy tries to do. Etiquette is all about what you ‘should’ do, and therapy teaches you that what you should do is aspire to be authentic. I always tell my clients that there is a difference between good therapy and bad therapy, and I explain that good therapy helps the client to figure out who they are without the prescription of who society or anyone else wants them to be.
Nevertheless, the article caused me to think about what few etiquette beliefs I do hold. One of these beliefs relates to letter writing, and I think we don’t do enough of it. It’s too bad that we all come home after a long day to a mailbox that greets us with junk mail and bills. Don’t we deserve better? In order to answer that question, we have to ask ourselves how many personal cards and letter we have sent out to others in the mail in the last year. Perhaps if we sent more good mail, we’d receive more.
My oldest friend is a wonderful letter writer. For years, we lived in separate states and wrote to each other. Sadly, we have given that up in exchange, apparently, for the thrills of our…more hectic lives? Many of you likely keep up with friends far away through e-mail, and there is nothing wrong with that. How nice would it be, though, to come home and receive a long letter from one of your closest friends in the mail? Even if you might not want to take the time out of your busy schedule, at least you’d feel pleased and reminded that your friend took the time to write a letter to you.
Letters take a long time to write, and there are more rituals involved than in sending the obligatory e-mail. You have to find a stamp and put it in a mailbox. You have to wait a few days for the person to receive it, and the list goes on. Perhaps a return to a letter writing culture is unrealistic in this technological age. However, I do believe that the rare occasions when you write or receive a letter are worth the effort in the end. If you’re not ready to sit down with pen and paper now, maybe you’ll change your mind the next time you receive some good mail in your mailbox.