nature11BATTLING WITH YOURSELF

What To Do When You Experience Inner-Conflict
by Steve B. Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.

Today the Battle of the Bulge is being fought at the cookie counter: “In this corner, the heavyweight champion of the world, Cookie Monster!” (The crowd cheers, “Yeah!!”) “In the other corner, the challenger, Mean String Bean!” (“Booooo!!”) In a later bout, The Suffocator takes on The Terminator in a battle over the romance with Ralph. And for those who want even more action, the anniversary match of the Valentine’s Day massacre is being fought between Forever-More and No-More!

Inner-conflicts are as old as recorded history and as recent as you’re last trip to the mall. There are many battlegrounds where lines are drawn in the sand and we get into a tug-of-war with ourselves: to go to that social-gathering where I don’t know anyone or stay bored at home; to stand up and speak out with the boss or bite my tongue in hopes of a promotion; to start dating again or just add another “friend” on Facebook; to start the business of my dreams or keep my steady job; to visit my dysfunctional family for Independence Day or break the family rules by getting away to the islands? Shakespeare’s character Hamlet debated whether to ‘bear those ills we have or fly to others that we know not of.’ It’s obvious that the Bard battled with himself, as did St. Augustine, Thomas Jefferson and as do countless bright and well-educated people today. If inner-conflict were considered a disease it would be epidemic! The only thing more common is the universal dilemma of how to deal with it. Fortunately, contemporary psychotherapy is now making major contributions toward changing this.

Jackie’s approach was to think of her inner-conflict as either listening to a little angle on one shoulder or a little devil on the other until her therapist helped her discover that it’s not about “good” or “bad.” What now helps her to think outside her conceptual box is the realization that no matter how seemingly self-destructive the behavior, there is always a positive intention underneath. The part of her that keep’s her home watching TV on Saturday nights isn’t punishing her. Instead, it’s trying to protect her from being emotionally hurt by another painful relationship. The part that pushes herself to join singles-groups and socialize more isn’t trying to scare or pressure her. The positive intention is to help her escape from her fortress/prison so she can meet her basic needs for attention and affection. To resolve such conflicts, all internal parts must be acknowledged and honored for their positive intentions. This is a very different approach from the self-judging that takes place during most inner-skirmishes.

Once Jackie has identified the various self-part’s doing battle (STEP 1) and the positive intentions of each (STEP 2), she can realize that these different facets of herself are really on the same team. They just have different ways of trying to help her. She can then engage another part of herself to mediate the conflict (STEP 3). Most of us have some aspect of ourselves that is good at solving problems or being creative. That is the missing link in our resolution equation. Once Jackie accesses this resourceful part, she can then brain-storm several possible solutions that will meet the positive intentions of her two warring factions (STEP 4). In this case, Jackie’s creative and problem solving self came up with three possibilities: 1) “Join some all women’s groups that give positive attention and wait to risk getting involved with a man until I feel more ready; 2) Join some mixed groups but refrain from dating for six months while I participate in the group activities. This will give me time to get to know some men in a group setting and see how they relate prior to going out with them; 3) Start dating now but use the information from the seminar I took on Signs & Signals to Better Relationships to determine within a few dates whether they are the type of person that I would want to know better.”

These three options seem to satisfy the positive intentions of both of Jackie’s conflicting parts. The next step is for her to imagine herself trying-out each option to get a sense about which one fits best (STEP 5). One by one, Jackie imagines each scenario, seeing what each looks like, hearing what they might sound like and feeling how she experiences each at a gut-level. During this inner-exploration she discovers that option 1 doesn’t feel quite right. She decides she wants to be in a group with both men and women. She experiences option 3 with a little tenseness in her stomach. She concludes that this option doesn’t feel as safe as she wants. Jackie tries option 2 and it feels best. She decides this is the most comfortable way for her to build a sense of trust.

Next she learns to check this option even more closely to determine if any adjustments need to be made (STEP 6). She decides that she wants to move forward with this strategy. Now she’s ready to imagine stepping into the future to practice her new option. She will repeat this section until she has rehearsed enough to feel at peace inside (STEP 7). This step also helps her integrate the new learning more deeply. She’s now ready to thank all her internal self-parts for working together to discover a resolution to her conflict (STEP 8). The final step is to take action (STEP 9). Her improved plan offers her better prospects for success.

Jackie’s therapist is helping her use this 9 step process and other effective tools to make friends with her inner-conflicts. She is learning how to take the inner struggle out of her life and replace it with a deep-felt sense of peace. Think of a few of your own battles and feel free to try this approach for yourself.

Share This:
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin