I've been reading Illusions by Richard Bach (Amazon Affiliate link), which is an interesting book about a reluctant messiah. At one point in the book the author uses a metaphor of life as a movie to point out that people create their own films and determine in them how helpless or actualized they are. I think there's some degree of truth to this idea, particularly if we understand that how we choose to define our lives and the experiences we live determines how empowered or disempowered we feel. While it's true that that we don't control all of our circumstances, the beliefs and definitions that we apply to a given situation definitely effect our ability to control ourselves and handle situations. The value of internal work is that it helps us get out of the movie so that we can consciously start living. To do that we have to determine if we want to continue to believe in the reasons and definitions that hold us back, or critically examine and question them in order to truly test their validity in our lives. When we question those beliefs and definitions, it involves taking a different perspective to everything we do. By looking at our actions and choices from a different perspective, we can test whether or not how we behave is really helping us, and if the supporting beliefs for that behavior are actually providing clarity and conscious choice to our lives. If the behavior is detrimental, chances are so is the definition that supports. It's necessary then to make changes in your definition, if you want to permanently change your behavior. Merely trying to repress or stop the behavior won't actually change it. In fact, it'll ultimately make it stronger. So you need to understand the definition, or if you will, the rationale for the behavior. It may not make sense on a conscious level, but I can guarantee it made sense at some point or you wouldn't continue to do the behavior.
Once you understand the rationale, you can change it. This usually involves picking apart the definition, and putting in a new definition that specifies how you consciously want to act in a situation. When something triggers you, instead of causing reactive behavior, you'll stop and make a conscious choice.