Inner conflicts are one of those tricky things that people don’t seem to talk about enough. Many of us aren’t even aware that we have them because any part of ourselves we deem unworthy or “bad” we suppress and disown; sometimes, we downright forget things as a coping mechanism.
Maybe these parts of ourselves pop up at 3 am when we’re trying to sleep or jump out and scare us in our dreams; maybe they only seem to manifest at that crucial moment where we choke during an exam or work presentation; maybe they appear once in a blue moon to derail some good progress we’ve made. However, internal conflicts show up in our lives; many of us ignore them (or numb them with bad habits).
By developing a stronger sense of authenticity in our lives and cultivating a healthier relationship with our flawed selves, we can begin the process of integrating the parts of ourselves we’ve locked away. Only through integration and acceptance can we heal and avoid being haunted by past wounds in the future.
Those bad habits mentioned above are a symptom, and if we don’t tackle the root problem, they’re going to continue to manifest themselves. We’ll quit smoking but start drinking nine coffees a day. We’ll quit coffee and then start eating eleven candy bars per day. We’ll quit the sugary junk food and start shopping as a coping mechanism… you get the idea.
The following will break down just a few of the things you can do to kickstart your journey of integration. Of course, this is a lifelong process. As you accept and reconnect with the most glaring issue you face, you’ll heal, but also, you’ll likely reveal something else that needs work.
Understand That You Are a Fragmented Being
We have this idea of ourselves as a single entity, but by all psychological and spiritual accounts, this isn’t the case. Developing a better connection with yourself means understanding the different aspects of your being at play. Every cell in our body is constantly being renewed, dividing, and dividing again. This means that when we look at a baby photo of ourselves, not one piece of our bodies is the same. We’re a completely different person—literally—and the only thing connecting us to that past version of self is our memories.
More than this, our personalities are always shifting. There is the character we are when we’re alone or hanging out with the dog. The person we are around children. The person we are around our parents. The person we are at work. Each of our friends gets a slightly different side of us. Each of us is a complex collection of many different selves. Accepting this is the first step towards soothing inner conflicts.
Disharmony and Internal Conflict
Inner conflict comes from these different versions of self competing for control. The inner child that wasn’t allowed to feel safe or comfortable wants to self-soothe with a chocolate bar. The determined, go-getter part of us wants to stay fit and healthy for a myriad of reasons. Or the ever-so-common: one part of us needs to rest, and another part of us needs to accomplish, and so we’re always going back and forth.
We can feel torn constantly if we’ve got a lot of these fragments. Integrating these different parts doesn’t mean forcefully bending them all to the will of one other. It means finding a harmony that works for all of them.
Many people find it helpful to imagine themselves as an ecosystem: think of each cell, each organ, each drop of blood as its own entity that needs to work harmoniously with all the other parts for your wellbeing.
The same applies to your psychological and emotional self. Is there a way for the determined, go-getter part to care for that inner child? And help them feel safe? The goal isn’t to shut up that inner child; her needs are just as important as the go-getter’s, but maybe there’s an alternative way to provide her with feelings of safety and comfort.
It’s taken your entire life to create this disharmonious system. It’s going to take a little bit of time to find some balance within. There are also countless methods for integrations: inner child work, parts work, journaling, shadow work, and Jungian psychotherapy are just a few names for this type of process. As you explore aspects of your being and look for ways to find harmony with them, you’ll develop a preference for certain methods or approaches.
The above tips should help you better identify and understand moments of inner conflict. Once you identify the different parts of yourself in disharmony with each other and what they’re actually seeking (in our example, the overpowering chocolate bar craving was simply a child trying to self-soothe), you can find more harmonious solutions to these needs.