It is likely that you have found yourself in situations where you have had to resolve conflict in your life. Conflicts can take many forms – for example between people, businesses or countries. Many of the principles discussed in this article can be extended to and used at any of these levels.
In this article we focus on conflicts at the personal level. At this level, there are two types of conflict: outer conflict and inner conflict. For example, inner conflict around our priorities in life (e.g. family or career) can lead to outer conflict (e.g. arguments). It is important to understand that outer conflict can reflect inner conflict and vice versa and they can both feed off each other.
Many people try to resolve conflicts in their life by looking at the outer circumstances. If outer conflicts are handled well, it can provide relief. However, if a compromise involves repressing the true desires of the people involved, this relief is only likely to be temporary. In these circumstances we must resolve our associated inner conflict before the situation can be fully resolved.
Finding peace with inner conflict
To help resolve our conflicts, it’s important to understand that conflict itself is not the actual problem. In fact, conflict is a natural part of life and there are plenty of potential benefits including:
- Helping to find our identity or what we stand for
- Generating new ideas or approaches
- Creating healthy competition, so that quality improves for everyone
- Makes us decide/make choices and voice what we want
- It can make us more open to change and flexibility
- It can teach us to listen and acknowledge others
- It can get us clear on our boundaries
- It can also encourage a more balanced approach through recognition and resolution of conflicts
If we think of conflict only as a negative thing, we will reject it, fight it and by doing so, stop its long-term resolution.
How inner conflict develops
When we have inner conflict and we don’t become fully aware of its cause, we can feel stuck and disempowered. This problem comes from our judgemental perspective of the conflict, which keeps us stuck and unable to move on. Awareness and acceptance of conflict is an important step towards allowing us to dissolve it (see more below).
Inner conflicts rely on our judgemental nature and reflect two sides of the same coin. So, for example, if we think we should be happy all the time we will reject or disown the part of us that surfaces when we are unhappy. If we think of ourselves as a “good” person, we will deny or reject the “bad” part of us – we will choose one side over another. The disowned part becomes repressed and we use energy and willpower to keep it there. However, in my experience, eventually, any repressed part of ourselves will get expressed somewhere in our life to keep us in balance.
Process for clearing inner conflicts
I outline below an effective process for clearing inner conflicts. Each step increases the level of trust and this process allows us to create empowerment through integration and unity between the appropriate parts of us. First read the steps and then follow the example below which highlights how it might operate in practice.
Step 1: Awareness that there is a conflict that can’t be dealt with by just suppressing the part we are judging as negative (suppression can only work in the short term). This step requires conscious awareness that the issue will not resolve itself in the long run, so something needs to be done.
Step 2: Acknowledgement of both part’s right to exist (validation). This takes place by acknowledging and sharing the common purpose of both sides and a recognition that the other side can help solve the weaknesses of the other.
Step 3: Negotiation, whilst gaining an understanding of the resources each side has access to that will help resolve the other side’s perceived weaknesses.
Step 4: Acceptance of resources from the other side to help balance the other side’s perceived shortcomings/weaknesses.
Step 5: Fully integrating both sides for long term stability and optimum empowerment.
Example: Extrovert v Introvert
Here is an example that helps to illustrate the five steps described above. This example is based upon the narrative “Should I tell a friend I am disappointed in what they did or should I keep quiet and let it go?”. We can analyse the conflict by identifying a conflict between an introverted part of us and an extroverted part as follows:
Extrovert voice: “You should speak up, you never stand up for yourself”
Introvert voice: “But they are a good friend and it won’t help the situation”
Step 1: Awareness
I am stuck in this conflict and it won’t go away until I resolve it internally.
Step 2: Acknowledgment
- Extrovert purpose: To get you to make a stand and stand up for yourself so that you can take more control so that you can find peace of mind
- Introvert purpose: To keep things friendly so that you can get support from them in the future so that you can have peace of mind.
- This means that the common purpose for both sides in this example is peace of mind. In practice you keep looking for the higher purpose on both sides until you hit the common purpose.
- Possible weakness of too much extrovert: impatience, lack of compassion, disruptive
- Possible weakness of too much introvert: passive, submissive, gullibility
Step 3: Negotiation
The key reason this person doesn’t have the peace of mind they are after is that the extrovert and introvert think that peace of mind can only be done their way.
Now the weaknesses and common purpose have been highlighted, there is enough reason to work together. When integrated, both sides have what is necessary to overcome their own apparent weaknesses.
Step 4: Acceptance
Once both sides realise that they are more likely to reach their highest purpose by working together, they can accept the necessary resources from each other. For example:
- the extrovert part can receive patience, compassion and calmness from the introverted part
- the introverted part can receive energy, assertiveness and healthy skepticism from the extroverted part
Step 5: Integration
Finally, integration can happen when we consciously realise that self-acceptance means accepting all parts of ourselves – even those we initially think are abhorrent, or downright unhelpful.
Conflicts can keep many of us stuck in unresourceful negative states and stop us living a fulfilling life. At La Crisalida we run life makeover workshops at the retreat to help you get clear on what you want and how to go about resolving challenging life situations.
We also have a number of online retreat experiences, including life coaching which allows you to resolve conflict in the comfort of your own home. To find out more about our online retreats click here.