“To the 18-year-old kid I stopped on SR10”
That’s the start of an open letter written by a police officer in North Ridgeville, Ohio a few months ago. The short missive, which directly addresses a young man caught doing 100 mph in a 65-mph zone, is an interesting example of expressive writing in letter form. The officer describes the speeder’s reaction when he was stopped; expresses anger at his disregard for the possible consequences of his driving; talks about past experiences with fatal crashes involving young people who were going too fast; and relates his own feelings about having issued the speeding ticket.
The letter, which has since gone viral, obviously serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of speeding. But knowing what we do about expressive writing, we can imagine the release it might have provided for the officer, who has obviously seen some pretty horrific things in his line of work and has found himself many times in the unenviable position of having to break the news to parents that their child has died in a crash. And keeping in mind certain research about message-writing as an emotion-regulation strategy, we might further speculate on how the act of composing the letter might (positively) affect the officer’s sense of fairness in the future.
I wonder how he came to write the letter? What made him think of putting his rage into words, in epistolary form?
Elaine Konopka is a writer and the founder of The Attentive Body, offering one-on-one sessions in attention-based bodywork and pain management. Her Write & Breathe workshops combine writing for wellbeing and conscious breathing. You can read more of and about her work on her website (www.elainekonopka.com) and in her free monthly newsletter (www.elainekonopka.com/sign-up-to-the-newsletter/).
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