One of the key things I look out for in my work with clients is inner conflict.
It is fascinating how much warfare goes on inside a person.
It is also disturbing because this sort of tension, left unchecked, inevitably creates emotional turmoil and dis-ease.
One part of us pulls in one direction whilst another part pulls strongly in the other. The result is unbearable tension; tension which can manifest as confusion, anxiety and depression.
Emotional experiences throughout life, and especially during the early imprint years can result in the creation of different parts of us at an unconscious level. These parts split off from the self and generate their own values, beliefs and behaviours. It is almost like different personalities exist within the same person. These personalities have the potential to work against each other resulting in inner conflict.
As Sigmund Freud said:
"One side of the personality stands for certain wishes, while another part struggles against them and fends them off. There is no neurosis without such a conflict."
Here is an example from my life. In my late twenties I become aware of a harsh, perfectionistic, disciplinarian part of me that was always at loggerheads with the more free-spirited, laidback, go-with-the-flow part of me. This authoritarian part would be constantly in battle with the more easy-going part. She was powerful, overbearing and scary. She would never let me rest. She caused chronic unrest and I experienced years of debilitating anxiety.
That is until I realised what was going on and did something about it.
So how about you? Can you recognise different opposing parts of yourself?
Perhaps there is a fit, lean, disciplined ‘you’ who does battle with a more laid-back, pizza-loving, slightly podgy ‘you’?
Perhaps there is a studious, focussed, hardworking ‘you’ who is constantly at war with the fun-seeking, outgoing, party-loving ‘you’?
Or, perhaps there is a strong, empowered, assertive ‘you’ who is at loggerheads with a quiet, compliant, keep-the-peace-at-all-costs version of ‘you’?
If you do recognise any inner conflict then here is what you can do about it.
1. Bring your awareness to the situation
The starting point to integrating conflicting parts of yourself is simple awareness.
Awareness automatically moves you a higher, more empowered place within yourself where you become an observer of the situation as opposed to an unconscious participant. By stepping out of the drama and moving to a higher place of awareness you immediately regain conscious control.
2. Identify the two opposing parts
Reflect on the different parts creating this drama and identify at least two opposing parts. One part will likely want some sort of change and the other part will want to keep the status quo.
3. Draw an image of each part
Open your palms and draw a mental picture of each part; one on each palm. Give these images as much detail as you can.
I came up with a Victorian schoolmistress holding a cane to represent the strict, disciplinarian part of me, and a serene-looking yogi, sitting in lotus position, to represent the laid-back part of me.
4. Converse with each part
Fix your attention on one of the parts. Ask that part what its intention is for doing what it does in your life. Keep asking the question in response to each answer you get until you arrive at a positive value like love…freedom…joy…peace etc.
My schoolmistress told me that she was protecting me from failure. I asked why? She said she wanted success in life. She wanted the approval of others. She wanted to be loved. She wanted to feel good about herself. She wanted to feel safe and secure.
Then fixate your attention on the other part and ask the same question.
My yogi told me she wanted peace and ease in life. She wanted to go with the flow. She wanted love and security but through acceptance and surrender, not through striving and stressing.
5. Find the common ground
The conflict will only be resolved if both parts get what they want so find the shared goal. What do both of these parts have in common? What do they both hope to achieve? You’ll find that each part ultimately wants the best for you. They will just be going about it in different ways.
Both my schoolmistress and the yogi were trying to lead me to a place of security, peace and love.
6. Identify mutually useful resources
Reflect on which resources each part has that would be useful to the other part in achieving its highest intention.
My schoolmistress could bring routine, motivation and drive to the yogi. And, the yogi could bring peace, ease and gentleness to the schoolmistress.
7. Share the resources
Imagine both parts now sharing these resources. Turn the palms towards each other and see the two images begin to merge as the palms move slowly together.
8. Create a new character
As the hands come together, create a third image that symbolises the integration of the two former parts.
My schoolmistress and yogi merged into a calm, confident, organised, self-motivated, professional woman who worked hard but allowed herself regular downtime.
9. Integrate this new image into your body
Bring this new integrated image of yourself into your body by placing both hands on your heart and breathing this image in slowly and intentionally. This is who you are now.
10. Practice operating from this new integrated place.
Finally, when you feel ready, think about a situation that you would have struggled with before. Spend time reflecting on how the new integrated ‘you’ would deal with this situation. Allow yourself time to absorb this whole new way of being.
This is a powerful exercise that has the potential to bring you inner peace and harmony. We all know that whatever goes on in our inner world is reflected in our outer world. If you work at resolving inner conflict you will soon begin to notice peace and harmony showing up in your relationships, your environment and your life.
I am sure you are aware that I am a qualified holistic life coach. If you would like some support in working through a specific issue that is getting in the way of your peace and happiness then check out the coaching service I provide by clicking here: Holistic Life Coaching
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about the characters you come up with to represent the different parts of ‘you’. Leave your comments below.