Inner conflict shows up in so many ways, shapes and forms. Some say that the more mental beliefs, ideals, expectations, and desires we have, the more likely we are to suffer from internal conflict.
Sometimes, it is a mental conflict, such as a cognitive dissonance — inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes.
Other times, it feels worse: caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, this is what I “should” do, but this is what I want to do. Or perhaps, you even want both things, they just seem to be diametrically opposed to each other. Confused about the options and choices you are faced with, you wonder how to resolve the conundrum.
At other times, you finally achieve something you wanted and worked so hard for — such as “success” — only to discover that it doesn’t feel how you thought it would!
On a deeper level, you may struggle with your identity (or the labels you’ve placed on your identity). These might be labels such as “good wife“, “good mother”, “successful executive” or “intrepid entrepreneur”. And then you beat yourself up, feeling you’ve lost the balance between your career or achievements and your family. It’s also possible you are financially secure, torn between “I don’t need to do this”, while at the same time part of you saying “yes, but I want to”. When you want to explore self-identity and independence, feeling sad, bored or unfulfilled in the roles that you have been playing, you might feel guilty for not being happy and satisfied with the life you have.
Types of internal conflict
Many of our inner conflicts are first world problems:
- Existential conflict and mid-life crisis – when you feel confusion and discomfort even though others may be looking at your life thinking everything is perfect! You have the life you said you wanted. You have the life others want. And yet, somehow, it feels empty! Is this really as good as it gets?
- “I want to leave my job and start my own business” – and the resulting insecurities of what will others in the corporate world think of my choice;
- Authenticity and being true to yourself – many of our inner conflicts are really about feeling that we have to choose between living up to other people’s expectations and being true to ourselves. We get busy living in “should”, rather than “could” and “will”. I want to change my schedule, but others expect me to show up. What will happen to my relationships if I say no? Will they think I’m selfish?
- Maybe I should start to transition my business to my children, and step down into semi-retirement, but I’m not sure if they are ready for the responsibility and whether this will cause instability in the business. What will I do if I retire and no longer run my business?
- I want to be a stay at home mom because we can afford it, but will I get bored if I stay home. What about my career and all the hard work I’ve done so far to get where I have? or
- I should go to _____________, but I really want one day of momcation, without any responsibilities and a little self-care! I just want to get away from all the responsibilities for a couple of days! But I’m a good mum.
We all have moments of internal conflict.
Whatever the case, this inner conflict can leave us feeling angst, anger, frustration, insecurity, powerlessness, distress or confusion.
And so, we end up at —
I don’t know how to choose!
A new path to resolve inner conflict
Many coaches and professionals today recognise the need to balance the head and the heart – the wanting (feeling) and the knowing (intellect). In fact, we are seeing a wider acknowledgement of the need for compassion in business leadership and the role that empathy comes to play in corporations.
If we look at inner conflict from an NLP (neuro-linguist programming) perspective, we are only going to look at the mental conflict and feelings from the perspective of how you process those feelings. Our head brain processes feelings. But it doesn’t feel them. It gives them names and descriptions (oh, that feeling is sad; this feeling is joyous).
This is the conflict that occurs between your left and right brain (head brain). This occurs because the left and right hemispheres have different attributes and functions – and these are typically described as logical versus creative/artistic. Some even talk about these as being “logical” versus “bad”. I certainly would not agree with this – because many of the aspects of the right brain functions are what makes us creative and allow us to think “outside the box”.
And so, NLP will speak about someone being “in two minds” – weighing up the ideas and concepts of the left and right hemispheres of the head brain.
Nonetheless, mBraining takes this further in resolving the inner conflict. mBraining accepts that you may be “in two minds” or even have more than two conflicting options and opinions. What you know and think may not align with what you want, and may not satisfy your needs! And your knowing, wanting and needs may be in conflict with “but this is who I am”.
mBraining acknowledges that there are three principal neural networks (brains), which act as primary intelligence centres – head, heart & gut brains. (I’ll let you in on a little secret – there are more than 3 intelligence centres, but I’ll just talk about the main three here!).
So, from the mBraining perspective, you have your head, heart, and gut. These have the following primary functions (taken from the mBraining book).
HEART BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS
- EMOTING – emotional processing (e.g. anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness, etc.)
- VALUES – processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.)
- RELATIONAL AFFECT – your felt connection with others (e.g. feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike, etc.)
GUT BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS
- CORE IDENTITY – a deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is ‘self’ versus ‘not-self’
- SELF-PRESERVATION – protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers, and aversions
- MOBILIZATION – motility, impulse for action, gutsy courage and the will to act
HEAD BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS
- COGNITIVE PERCEPTION – cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.
- THINKING – reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition, etc.
- MAKING MEANING – semantic processing, languaging, narrative, metaphor, etc.
So, when we look at your head brain (let’s call it your “mind” if that’s less confusing) – when we bring it into balance (left and right hemispheres), we find that together it can create some magic. When the left and the right hemispheres work together, you can experience:
- being present – “just be”
- being conscious of your thoughts & feelings
- the consciousness of what you know
- holding a balanced perspective
- integrating seemingly opposing views
- staying in a flow state of creativity or working
- maximising your creativity
- using curiosity to inquire further, without getting caught up in outcomes
- learning to transform and grow, rather than memorising or rote learning.
But mBraining takes this inner conflict resolution so much further. We don’t just stay in the head and our thoughts and perceptions about our feelings. We actually drop into allowing ourselves to feel and acknowledge our deepest needs.
Allow me to share with you five easy steps to resolve inner conflict using mBraining.
5 steps to resolving inner conflicts using mBraining
Step 1 – Start with compassion
With mBraining, we are going to start at the heart – with compassion. Take a few moments to connect with love for yourself and love for others. If you need to, do a short meditation or balanced breathing exercise that focuses on compassion and self-care. Work on reaching a state where you can feel a connection to yourself, your feelings and emotions, as well as connecting with the people in your life that are important to you. Then, from this place and state of compassion and love, ask yourself, what do I want and desire?
You might also add to this question, what about this situation or desire is important to me?
If you are the kind of person that prefers journalling to simply sitting in thought, spend some time journaling about this. But make sure that you are not writing down “thoughts”, but rather coming from your heart and feelings. Notice the difference between asking yourself “what do I think I want?” and the question “what do I want?”.
Throughout the exercise, imagine that your breath passes through your heart, and connect with your heart and feelings each time you inhale.
Step 2 – Brain-storming
Imagine that all that love and compassion that you are feeling is placed inside a balloon and floats from your heart up into your head. Allow that balloon to now explode – flooding your head with compassion and love. Considering your wants and your desires, and taking into account what is important to you, begin the process of brainstorming solutions.
At this stage, you want to brainstorm without criticism and judgement.
You might want to get a large paper for this (I often brainstorm with paper that is 3ft x 3ft – about 1 m2). Allow yourself to get creative and imaginative. I often incorporate mind mapping into this process – just allowing myself to write down ideas and lines between connections of ideas. It gets messy! The purpose of this exercise is simply to open your mind up to the curiosity and possibilities that exist.
What if I could solve this problem?
What if I could simply live my life fulfilling my want and desire while being compassionate to myself and others?
Once you have jotted down all these ideas, then take a moment to step back and analyse them: Which ideas are the most compassionate to yourself and others? Are you demonstrating love to the people that are important in your life through these ideas? Which of these ideas allows you to truly take care of yourself?
Another aspect to consider when you are evaluating all your ideas is – are your values and what you hold important recognised in these ideas? Which of these ideas upholds your values?
Finally, are these ideas congruent with your priorities?
Allow yourself to come back to a place of feeling – not just thinking – and feel how different ideas connect with you. Which ideas bring you joy? Which ideas spark passion and happiness within you? Just notice how you feel when you consider the different options.
Step 3 – Considering your needs
Once you have identified the ideas and possibilities that reflect your love for yourself and others, it’s time to also bring those ideas down into your gut space. That part of you that is responsible for your safety, security & self-preservation!
Take each idea, individually, and ask yourself “does this option bring me safety and security?” Notice how this feels in your belly – especially that area where you feel nervous or anxious (if you are talking on stage or going to do a presentation). Which of these options gives me butterflies in my stomach – the kind that tells me that this is exciting and slightly beyond my comfort zone? Do any of these make me feel like I’m about to hop on a rollercoaster?
Depending on how much time you have available, you might take a couple of hours just to digest all these ideas. If you need a couple of days, then give yourself time to simply ruminate on these ideas, and mull them over. How do they feel in your heart? What do you sense in your gut when you consider different ideas? There is a reason why we talk about “sleeping on it” – take your time (but not too much time) – to allow yourself to consider your needs, especially safety, security & self-preservation.
Before you finish this part of the exercise, ask yourself one last question: “Is this who I am?”
When I truly love myself and others – is this who I am?
Make sure that the option that you are choosing, not only meets your needs but also feels good within you as who you are as a person. Once again – notice that the question is not “is this who I think I am?” — but simply “is this who I am?”.
Step 4 – Honoring your value and worth
It’s quite possible that at this stage you only have a couple of options that you are still considering – but hopefully, you have more than one option available. Take time to sit with these ideas – back in your heart space – and just hold the ideas lightly with love and compassion. Make sure that you are holding not only love and compassion for others but also for yourself!
Which of these ideas do you value the most? Which one speaks to honouring and valuing you?
Go through each of the options, and consider how you relate and connect with other people when you choose one option or another? How does this choice affect your relationships? What might change? How do you feel about that potential change?
Step 5 – Visualization and planning
Finally, sit down with that option that you have finally chosen and visualize and imagine yourself doing this.
- What plans do you need to make over the coming days, weeks or months?
- How much time will you need?
- What conversations will you need to have – with partners, children, coworkers or family members?
- Who will you become if you choose this option?
Then, come back into your heart space and the very first answers that you wrote down in step 1 – “what do I want and desire?”. Does this option feel like it satisfies these wants and desires? When you visualise and plan it all out – do you see yourself content, happy and satisfied?
mBraining brings alignment and clarity
The beauty of the mBraining process is that it brings all those conflicting ideas, knowledge, wants and needs together into a single picture! Rather than trying to choose between them, you work to create a single solution that takes into account all aspects of you being you – with compassion and love!
This doesn’t mean that there are not difficult conversations or decisions – but you have these from a place of clarity. When you have to choose “the lesser of two evils”, you choose the one that aligns best with your values, needs, and desires. And quite often, you are able to come up with another option that was not on the table when you started the process.
People may say – I don’t know how to choose – should I follow my heart or listen to my gut? I don’t know what I think… With mBraining – that “I have to choose one or the other” just goes away. You don’t have to choose between your brains! Ideally, you should be using ALL of them, all of the time.
If you are interested in getting on a call to discuss how coaching might help you work through this type of decision process in your life, then please reach out for an introductory call.My appointment