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It sounds like you have been embarressed and hurt by this situation. Realize that it takes time to heal from traumatic experiences. Accept where you are at, accept that you will not be 100% for awhile. If you just had surgery or broke a bone, you would give yourself time to get back to your usual self. Look at your strengths and utilize them in this period of transition. Realize your weaknesses and don't push yourself, keep yourself protected. Talk to your close friends so you are not alone and have support. If you are feeling stuck or alone, seek professional help to assist you through this process.
Sounds wise, but can you recommend specific activities/techniques to getting "unstuck"? ...What specific activities can a person do to let go of those negative experiences that are holding them back? I've contemplated having a "burial" - i.e. writing a letter regarding the past three years and burning it, but that seems so very artificial.
Your idea is a good one. Writing a letter and burning it with some kind of ritual (like a burial) is very effective. Some people create a God/Higher Power box where they write down thoughts they are having and put it in the box to hand over or let go of the thought. Sometimes you just have to work on thought stoppage. When you are obsessing, imagine a stop sign, tell yourself to "stop" and have replacement or distraction thoughts to move on to. Create a list of replacement thoughts ahead of time so they are readily available. Thoughts like, the weather, a friend, a book you are reading, an event coming up . . something simple and interesting.
The God/HP box is one that you can use in an ongoing way, the burning ritual is a more one time event. Pick which one seems to make sense to you. If you do the burning ritual, I encourage you to have a friend or two join you. Publicly letting go and getting their support will both be helpful.
Luann, one last question: one of the challenges that I'm facing right now is that I'm trying to strengthen myself, but I'm still working and interacting with people who reflect my negative self-images. How does one work on strenghtening oneself when confronted with individuals who confirm/validate your negative self-image?
Lots of counter self-talk. When you encounter these people, a "tape" starts playing in your head, recognize these negative statements Make a list of statements to neutralize these negative ones. Once again use the stop sign imagery. Then use your neutral statements. I say neutral because it is often too hard to replace negative thoughts with positive ones right away. Say things like, "I made a mistake, I am now doing the best I can", "I am an OK person", "I am working to be better" . . . that kind of thing. It depends on your "tape", pick statements to counter. Good luck to you!