Internal conflict and how to resolve it

Internal conflict and how to resolve it

Internal conflict affects us all, particularly during pivotal life transitions. Considering leaving a job, returning to study, relocating, having children, entering. or leaving a relationship, are all major life events where internal conflict is common.

How to identify internal conflict

It is easy to recognise when you are experiencing internal conflict. You will find yourself saying, “Part of me wants this, but another part of me wants that”. It is like you are split in two (or sometimes more) and the different parts of you are at war. It is confusing, frustrating and highly stressful. This internal conflict is often accompanied by ruminative thinking and feeling of being stuck.

Your personality parts

It is well known that much of our behaviour and emotion is driven by subconscious states. Resource Therapy we call these states “resources” or personality “parts”. It is helpful to think of your personality as a series of parts, rather than your personality being one single identity. Most personality parts develop in childhood when the brain is rapidly developing and, while most are helpful, some cause us to struggle.

Each person has their own set of unique personality parts with different functions for specific situations. For example, you may have a “professional” part which takes over at work, a “romantic” part which switches on for intimacy and a “party” part which enjoys having a good time.

Your parts are trying to help

When you are experiencing internal conflict, what you may not realise is that each of these conflicted parts are trying to help you. For example, one part may be trying to help you to avoid uncertainty and stay safe, while another part may be trying to help you to move out of your comfort zone so you can grow. Each part contains wisdom if you can get to the deeper meaning.

Working with conflicted parts

What gets in the way of understanding the parts involved in internal conflict is you may not like some of their messages or how the part gets stuck trying to get your attention. This can cause you to disregard that side of the conflict or only consider certain aspects of it. Unfortunately, when you do this, the conflicted part that is not being heard often gets louder! Remember, your parts were first developed in childhood and while some have grown up, others may have not.

The empty chair technique

The way we sometimes explore conflicted parts in therapy is to use what is commonly known as the empty chair technique. This helps to resolve internal conflict. While you can do this exercise at home yourself it is most helpful with a therapist who can provide deeper exploration of each part and help you to recognise your subconscious drivers and feelings.

1. Place two chairs side by side
2. Clearly label each chair with the differing parts of the internal conflict
3. (For this example, we’ll use a Stay and a Go chair.)
4. Choose which chair is most easy to talk from (Stay or Go)
5. When you sit in the Stay chair you can only explore the Stay option and vice versa.
6. Move between chairs accordingly to fully explore each part.
7. Notice which chair you sit in most often and what happens with your feelings when you sit in each chair.

Be curious as to how each part is trying to help you.

All parts in the internal conflict must be explored fully for you to understand the broader meaning and come to a resolution. In this exploration, ideally there is no judgement – nothing is out of bounds, no matter how unpalatable. This is important to get to the heart of things. Your parts need to be heard. Just like you, when you feel heard, you no longer must shove things down or get louder to get attention. When all parts are fully heard and validated internal conflict can be resolved.

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