I use the term inner conflict interchangeably with its more precise term, intrapersonal conflict.
Years ago, a Canadian executive walked into his first session with me, sat down and said, “Mike, sometimes I feel like I’m two people. I’m one person at work and a different person at home. One I call my ‘business face,’ and the other my ‘personal face.’ I’d like to be able to bring my personal face into business but I just can’t.”
That was the easiest diagnosis of intrapersonal conflict I ever made. As we say, “It was handed to me on a silver platter.” We got right down to work on what I call a Split Circuitry IntegrationSM, a method I’d developed and been using for some time for resolving intrapersonal conflict. He had quite a story and there was a deep imprint experience he’d had at 12 years old which, in a later session, we did a reimprint with.
Recognizing intrapersonal conflict is usually not that easy, and sometimes quite difficult. Often a client is not as self-aware as my Canadian executive and does not know they are experiencing inner conflict. To use the common cold as an analogy, every parent teaches their child what having a “cold” is all about, with its sniffles and sneezes and stuffy noses. So everyone knows from this “common knowledge” what a cold is, when they have it, and what to do about it—get some rest. There is no such body of common knowledge about what intrapersonal conflict is, what its symptoms are, and what to do about it.
That is a big challenge for a practitioner because they must be able to recognize it, then offer their client some “common knowledge” about it so the client can make sense of their own inner experience—see it as inner conflict, and then offer what to do about it. Incidentally, that is one of my major aims for this web site, to create a body of common knowledge about intrapersonal conflict.
So here are some signs for practitioners to watch and listen for that would indicate the presence of inner conflict. I originally wrote these signs as a self-help exercise, using the second person pronoun “you” throughout:
- You internally criticize and berate yourself through inner conversations, maybe abusively. Some other versions of this are: you don’t like yourself, you don’t like who you are, you feel unworthy, you feel you are deserving of punishment, you feel flawed or defective. You do certain behaviors you don’t like yourself for, or have certain traits you don’t like yourself for.
- You are impatient with yourself, sometimes angry with yourself. You may or may not show that same impatience with others.
- You get angry and later regret it.
- You have some outburst of expression, whether it’s enthusiasm, excitement, or something else, and later feel embarrassed or ashamed that you have “exposed” yourself.
- You have trouble making certain decisions because you have “mixed” feelings.
- You think you must keep yourself in check, because you don’t trust yourself. Or you may believe you have a “dark side” you must control.
- You make great effort to control emotions, keep them in check, and do your best not to experience them.
- You make effort to speak logically, articulately, accurately, considering your words, and not allowing what you think are inappropriate colloquialisms into your speech.
- You’re a perfectionist and often do not measure up to your own standards. You may or may not apply those same standards to others. An example of this is being a workaholic and not liking it.
- You are never satisfied with yourself, often frustrated with yourself, even when you achieve successes.
- You are afraid of failure; and/or you may be afraid you are a failure or “fraud,” even though others may view you as a successful person.
- You are uncomfortable with and don’t like to get too familiar/close with people.
- You are uncomfortable showing and/or discussing your feelings, or the feelings of others.
- You believe you are like two people, two personalities, and one of them is a problem, or even sinister, and needs to be controlled.
- You often use the 2nd person pronoun, “you,” in place of the 1st person pronoun, “I.” For example, instead of saying, “I don’t do that,” you say, “That’s something you just don’t do.” Or, instead of saying, “I enjoy doing a good job,” you say, “You always want to feel like you have done a good job.” (Frequent use of 2nd person pronouns in this way is often a method for avoiding the experience of emotions in the moment.)
- It is difficult for you to fully enjoy things or life. You may not laugh much—belly laughs rare, if at all.
Now, everyone may occasionally experience mild versions of any of these. But if your client’s life is dominated by any of these patterns—with their experience of life ranging from uncomfortable to very painful—they will thoroughly benefit from an “integration.”