“How can I shed negative, debilitating memories of a job loss many years ago? These memories and thoughts affect me today.” ~ Craig, Johannesburg, South Africa
Thank you for reaching out for insights into ways to release the hold the past has on you so that you can move forward. That tells me that you know it is possible. Good sign!
One thing I would ask is that you consider the context of the job loss. Was it as a result of actions or inactions on your part or something over which you felt you had no control? If you had it to do all over again, might you have made different choices? If so, since that time, have you made changes in the ways you face job tasks? When people feel as if they have some sense of control over their professional lives, then job change and loss isn’t, as you stated, ‘debilitating’, but can still be unsettling.
Was the job a good fit, someplace you enjoyed going to each day and felt accomplished doing? When people lose jobs, they often feel a sense of loss of identity as well. If you felt as if your job and your role were wrapped together, it might feel like an even bigger loss. If it tied in with being able to support yourself and/or your family; all the more challenging.
Embracing change isn’t always easy. What messages are you giving yourself about this job loss? Are you beating yourself up over it? I recall a poster near a time clock somewhere I worked a few years ago that read, “The beatings will continue until morale improves around here.” You get the drift, I’m sure. Kicking ourselves when we are down never makes us better people, nor does it elevate us so that we can find a better situation. Are there others in your life who are contributing to your self doubt or are they supportive?
Have you found a job now that feels satisfying? Are memories of your former job keeping you from being your best at this one? I know I am asking more questions than providing answers, but I invite you to look within and see what comes up.
A practical exercise I suggest my clients do is imagine The Supremes (not sure your age, but in case you are under 30, I will tell you that they were a 1960’s Girl Group featuring Diana Ross), standing in their gold lame’ gowns and white elbow length gloves singing “Stop in the Name of Love”. It may make you laugh and be a reminder that in order to move through this, self love is crucial. Imagine a snake shedding its skin, as you shed the memories. Or imagine a balloon into which you blow your self critical thoughts and watch them drift away. These symbolic exercises can become a practice until they are no longer needed, but are a good start.