I can give a real-life example of this process: first some background: I am a 66 year old woman, married for 35 years to my best friend who is also a practitioner. We live near to two Theravadin monasteries and make our spiritual community with them, especially the female one (because it is my heart's preference).
The problem, or 'incident':
Four years ago, I made a painful error of insulting my stepdaughter in front of her husband and three small children (ages 5,7,9).
The reason: I had felt insulted because they had just arrived at our door for thanksgiving dinner, and I was standing in the entrance, to greet and be greeted; the Dad was hanging up each child's coat.
My stepdaughter, instead of greeting me in any way, began to pull out of her bag two electronic games toys to give her two older children. As she brought them out, the boy immediately turned his on and began to play. He wanted to engage his mother in the play, and she, instead of saying: "later....let's say hello to grandma now"....got immersed in the game with him; then her older daughter came and wanted to play with her mother too. The three of them were totally engrossed in playing games for several long minutes, then moved past me into the body of the house, to continue playing.
I was so insulted at what seemed to be almost an aggressive act on their part (an act of ignoring me), that I blurted out: "Chris (Dad's name)....do you sometimes feel like you have 4 children instead of 3?"
He chuckled and mumbled an agreement.
Well my stepdaughter, being a very sensitive person who never speaks out, not to defend herself nor express an opinion, grew silent. Throughout the day, she retreated from me as far as physically (and mentally) possible, occupied herself solely with the children.
Three weeks later, my husband phoned his daughter to ask when we might visit their house for Christmas. She in no uncertain terms told him that I was not welcome in her home, not for "awhile" anyway.
Thus began form me a 2-year exile from them, as the "awhile" kept stretching out. My dear husband so wanted to spend time with his daughter and grandchildren, but felt he could not go there without me, perpetuating this anger/retaliation syndrome.
I took my pain/anger/shame to my teacher, who told me about heri-otapa, describing it as "becoming aware of a wrongdoing on my part, and the promise and effort to not ever do this again".
Somehow, I misunderstood the teaching and became entangled in a ball of self-hatred. Another student who came in February to take her turn cooking at this hermitage, as I was leaving my one-week stay, noticed my pain and mentioned it aloud, saying I seemed to be caught in an attitude of "self-loathing". I agreed, but was unable to escape it.
My mind tortured over this for a long, long time. It is now almost 4 years since that incident, and things have healed considerably. I am no longer 'in exile'. But I must admit that I gave a lot of thought to historical figures like Napoleon in his exile on an island, and also to a religious custom among Mennonites? Quakers?.... who punish an offending member of a community by "shunning".
I felt initially that this was going to kill me.
...and it almost did. A year and a half later, my own dear mother died from a stroke she had sustained 6 years earlier. Stepdaughter did come with her husband and children to the funeral, and even gave me a rather bit of a hug (although I felt no warmth in it).
A year and a half after that, I suffered a heart attack (minor, didn't damage the heart) followed by excellent surgery, from which I am now recovering nicely.
I really need to understand and practice this 'heri otapa'.
Today, I needed, here, to make a confession of it. When I was a Catholic child, I found the confessional box to bring great relief and wished today that Buddhism would have something similar.
Perhaps this forum is my confessional box at this moment.
Thank you for listening, and may everyone practice hard, and be blessed in dhamma wisdom and understanding.