- Internal conflict is a struggle between opposing urges or motivations within one’s personality.
- It occurs mostly in terms of moral/ethical, love, societal, intrapersonal, religious, existential, and self-image conflict.
- Internal conflict can lead to fear, guilt, anger, shame, confusion, and depression, among others.
- Factors leading to internal-conflict are;
- Unhealthy comparison.
- Inherited rules.
- Religious doctrines.
- Societal norm.
- How to resolve internal conflict:
- Identify the inner conflict.
- Balance your emotional and rational mind.
- Negotiate between your conflicting intentions.
- Resolving your internal conflict will make you a better and happier person.
Internal Conflict: My Dilemma Between National Obligation And Personal Growth.
I’m haunted by the feeling that time is running out. This is partly because of my age, position in the family, undeveloped skills, and the time I graduated from the University.
This feeling has caused me several internal conflicts. Recently, I struggled with choosing between embarking on National Youth Service (NYSC) or developing my skills and making money.
I was convinced going for the NYSC isn’t the best decision for me, given the demands of our current economy. The program would require me to give up other important aspects of my life for a year, and it seems like the NYSC certificate is more valuable than the actual experience of the program. However, I’m worried that not participating in the program could cause problems for me down the line.
Finding a resolution proved challenging as my loved ones, who had provided me with unwavering support, desired that I go for national service while my conviction urged me to take the opposite path. To reconcile our conflicting positions was no small feat.
In taking this decision, my mind and heart clashed (an internal conflict).
The mind would say; don’t go. It’s a waste of time.
As the heart would whisper, “you have to go for the sake of your folks and future”.
In the end, I decided to mobilize for the program, but relocate back to Umuahia where I was based (that way I can both serve and keep pursuing my other goals).
This sort of dilemma springs up in the life of every functional human from time to time. And, your ability to resolve them to a large extent determines the quality of your life.
“Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel.”
What Is Internal Conflict (Self-Conflict)?
“When an individual does not become conscious of their inner contradictions, the world acts out the conflict and is torn in opposite halves.”
– Carl Jung –
Internal conflict arises from opposing urges or motivations within your personality or identity.
- A police officer who would always revert to irresponsible drinking, despite knowing it would disrupt his performance at work (because he believes it soothes his depression).
- A writer who fails to write the truth, despite knowing and wanting to say it, but filters her words (to please the publication that pays her).
- An idealist who believes in women’s rights but is conflicted about supporting abortion (because of her ethical or religious beliefs).
And so on.
Almost every aspect of our lives is susceptible to internal conflict, yet we may not always recognize the sources of our self-conflict.
These struggles within ourselves can manifest in various forms. So it’s essential to know the types of internal conflict and how to address them to achieve a greater sense of clarity and peace in our lives.
What Are The Types of Internal Conflict?
“The internal war you wage with yourself may not be seen by others, but is always felt by you!”
– Lorraine Nilon –
There are many forms of internal conflict, and sometimes they overlap. However, the most distinct internal, self-conflicts or dilemmas are
- Love internal-conflict (i.e. internal turmoil about who to love)
- Moral/ethical internal-conflict (i.e. quandary about what is right and what is wrong)
- Societal internal-conflict (i.e. being at odds with the norms)
- Intrapersonal internal-conflict (i.e. uncertainty about your goals and motifs)
- Religious internal-conflict (i.e. feeling unsettled about what you believe)
- Existential internal-conflict (i.e. pondering on the meaning, or lack thereof, of life)
- Self-perception/self-image internal-conflict (i.e. struggling with the discrepancies between what you think about yourself and who you are).
And, because each of these internal conflicts is a broad topic, we have discussed each of them separately. Simply go back and click on any you find interesting to read more about it.
What Makes You Self-conflicted (or Experience Internal Conflict)?
“Global harmony is only the reflection of humankind’s internal harmony.”
― Abhijit Naskar,
According to Brenda Shoshana, “All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict with ourselves.” This also means that negative experience often results from our inability to manage the clash between our rational and emotional selves – i.e. a contradiction between our values and urges.
Needless to say, if more people can learn to properly manage their internal conflict, things will be a whole lot better;
- Fewer people will consume excessive junk food or abuse substances (like alcohol) in search of comfort or escapism because they will understand their pain and truly heal.
- There will be fewer cases of terrorism and extremism because people will reign in their existential, ethical, and religious internal conflicts rather than taking out their frustration on other people.
- The rate of dysfunctional families will reduce because people will handle their intrapersonal conflict by improving their emotional intelligence and character, rather than separating and leaving their offspring at the mercy of foster homes or cold nature.
Signs That You Might Have an Internal conflict.
Becoming aware of self-conflict is an important step toward resolving it. There are several symptoms that can indicate the presence of internal conflict. These symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Overall unhappiness
- Jealousy, spite, and aggression
Also Read: What Is Emotional Intelligence And How To Develop It (In 4 Steps)?
Some Common Situations Where You May Notice/Exhibit Signs Of Internal Conflict.
- When you desperately want sex but are scared to have sex before marriage because it is against your religion.
- When you know discipline is necessary for raising sensible children, yet you feel guilty about subjecting your kids to struggle because you don’t want your kids to see you as wicked.
- When you’re unsure whether to attend college or pursue your dream of being a musician because society encourages going to college and is weary of artists.
- When you’re reluctant to leave an emotionally/physically abusive relationship because you’re deeply in love with the abusive partner.
- When you know you have to raise money to foot your bills and settle your debts but you prefer to watch movies or football games because you hate your job.
- When you’re stuck between “you only live once” and thinking about the future.
Why Are You Self-conflicted?
Whatever internal conflict you might be suffering from, might be triggered by several factors, such as;
- Unhealthy Comparisons; the feeling of missing out or underachieving. For instance, if a young man sees his friends always posting about their accomplishments and good times on social media, he might feel unhappy and conflicted about himself.
- Inherited rules; from your caregivers – i.e your parents/guardian – can cause tension within you. For example, my parents had drilled me to often compromise for peace’s sake but my ego most times nudged me to do the opposite.
- Religious doctrines; that you’ve been initiated into can contradict your instincts or common sense. For example, a doctrine that forbids you from eating a certain kind of food even if you’ve been advised to eat it, due to your health condition.
- The societal norms; you’ve adopted over the years can push against your present inclination. For example, greeting elders to show respect and honor even when they are unworthy of reverence.
Simply put; if you are a self-conflicted person it’s either because of your attachment to a certain desire, belief system, or expectations.
This Is not to say rules, opinions, and ambitions are unnecessary to us.
Like hell; we need them to function effectively – to make decisions when we are uncertain, overwhelmed, or don’t want to think too much. But it becomes problematic when we entirely rely on them in this complex, dynamic, and fast-moving world – I.e. It becomes a problem when they don’t allow us to make proper decisions.
Also Read: Why You Shouldn’t Listen to People’s Opinions and Advice:
Why Is Self-conflict (Internal conflict) Important?
“I’m silent when there is a war inside me. There’s a need to keep the people outside intact.”
― Darnell Lamont Walker
However, there is a bright side to internal conflict. It shouldn’t be entirely shunned. Self-conflict forces you to examine yourself, by challenging your worldview and motives.
When you question them, you are likely to develop a creative response – a better view of situations having understood the justification, upsides, and downsides behind the ideas and opinions that caused the conflict.
This creative approach enhances your decision and character (or personality).
According to Nietzsche, such a person is a “Superman” or an “Ubermensch” – because they do not merely/blindly follow the laws (of men or God) but do what is most “good” having considered all others.
Recommended Content: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?
So if you can be humble to challenge your most cherished beliefs and be honest about your choices, you make better decisions and improve your life.
The question is, “how do you get started?”
How To Resolve Self-conflict (Internal Conflict)
Here are 3 steps to resolving your self-conflict (internal conflict).
Identify the inner conflict:
When you don’t fully understand a problem, you may not be able to solve it. To resolve your inner conflict, you must recognize it. Yet, there is often a tendency to ignore it, making it a difficult process. Maybe because you’re fearful about handling your intentions or impatient to suffer the dreary process.
To identify your inner conflicts;
- Write down or exercise introspection to specify the opposing thoughts (feelings).
- Then, dig in deeper and try to understand the source of the conflict. Sometimes this might mean asking questions, and questioning the answers you arrive at – by asking “why?”, “why?”, and “why?”.
Balance your emotional and rational mind:
Fear isn’t a terrible emotion. It plays a crucial role in our survival. Yet, unrationalized and untamed fear is risky.
You shouldn’t confuse irrational fear with the fear of making a tough but good decision. Good judgment is an antidote to internal conflict.
To make good judgments;
- Acknowledge your proclivity to bias (or false beliefs).
- Accept your limitations in making good decisions. Accept you could make mistakes
- Learn from experience/mistakes and don’t neglect facts.
- Balance your rationality with humility and empathy. In other words, hold on to your beliefs loosely, even if they may have proven to work in the past. And don’t hesitate to make amends as situations change.
Negotiate between your conflicting intentions:
Essentially, negotiation is the process of reaching a long-term agreement (decision). Since you conflict with yourself, you must learn how to calm your mind to negotiate for the best outcome.
To do this;
- Your thoughts should be at the center of your attention. Though you cannot choose your thoughts, you can direct them in a constructive direction.
- Ask logical, open-ended questions to rationalize both intentions. It will help you see the big picture more clearly.
- You should always strive for the best outcome in any negotiation. Each intention must be weighed against its pros and cons. To put it another way, determine whether you can live with the consequences of your decisions.
“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When the inner conflict ends, peace begins”– N.K
To truly enrich and fulfill our lives, we must have the courage to acknowledge and experience these inner conflicts and then act in alignment with what we truly believe. The more you resolve your inner conflict, the more sense of clarity, comfort, growth, energy, and happiness you enjoy.
Also Read: How To Be A Better Person [And Be Happy]:
Frequently Asked Questions About Internal Conflict
How does self-conflict affect you?
Unresolved internal conflicts can hamper your performance at home, school, or work. It can lead to tension between you and others and unhappiness with yourself.
Is internal conflict bad?
When internal conflict is left unresolved, it can result in health challenges such as depression and mental illness, which can affect your whole life and even lead you to illicit acts. In other cases, it can lead to unhelpful or downright harmful behaviors.
How do you avoid internal conflict?
Quit ignoring or silencing it. Find the way out, pay attention, seek the truth, or at least, what is most helpful to enable you to make an informed decision. You will be happier knowing you figured it out.
Can internal conflict be characterized by fear?
A self-conflicted person may experience a myriad of emotions such as anxiety, doubt, confusion, and even fear. But, fear must not always be present.
Who will you be without self-conflict?
You will be a person without strong character, motivation, and priority. Worse, you will be someone without a mind of their own – swayed here and there by the standards others set for you.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer