I found myself confronting this issue recently.
Somebody said something to me that pushed some buttons. In the blink of an eye I immediately added meaning to it and launched into a negative story about myself that I have been carrying around for years. I knew what was happening on a logical level and told myself that I could choose not to buy into it and let it go - that my feelings about it (the knot in my stomach, the panic, the guilt, the shame) were not necessarily "true", that they were just feelings. However the emotional pull of my story was too great and I just couldn't shut it down. I have been carrying this story about myself around for so long that it is deeply ingrained and is almost a default position. It was like treading down a well worn and familiar path.
I spent a lot of time worrying about what was said and what it must have meant and was having an internal wrestle between my logical and emotional sides - one wanting to depersonalise it and let it go and the other hanging onto the negative story and its associated emotions with a vice-like grip.
What I was able to do by being aware of what was going on was to manage myself to not to act on it, give it some time and sleep on it. Once some time had passed I was able to look at what had happened in a new light. I recognised that this person's comment was not about me at all and I was able to tell myself a different story about what had happened - what a relief it was to let all that negative emotion go! This also enabled me to respond to the situation more constructively and positively.
The fabulous Brene Brown has done a lot of work on shame and resilience. I read an article of hers today that prompted this post. Her article details a wonderful reflection process to check your assumptions, uncover your story, identify alternatives and perhaps let old stories go that just aren't helpful any more! There's a lot of freedom in that and more constructive possibilities can emerge!
To read Brene's article please click on the link below: