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Resolving Inner Conflict

You've been going back and forth over a decision and feel anxious and tense about the lack of resolution.  You have gone over the costs and benefits dozens of times, but you don't get any closer to making a decision.  It's frustrating and takes all kinds of energy.  It doesn't have to be this way.  You can approach inner conflict in a whole new way that consistently leads to resolution.

You can begin to learn this new approach by looking at three things that get in your way and the skills to dissolve these obstacles.  The three common obstacles are:  

  1. You imagine that one part of you must be the "right" one and the other must be the "wrong" one.  If only you knew which was which, you would have resolution.

  2. You have bias or prejudice against certain parts of yourself and so don't really listen deeply to those parts.

  3. Some part of you imagines that you can't handle the amount of emotion that would come up if you delved more deeply or simply allowed yourself to feel what's happening.

Let's take these one at a time.  

Right / Wrong Perspective on the Inside

You likely have been exposed to the concept of win-win, but really knowing how to get there inside yourself isn't so easy.  Let's face it, a lot of the world operates from a right / wrong perspective, so it's no wonder you find yourself doing that on the inside.  To move out of the right / wrong perspective, remind yourself that each arguing part of you is attempting to bring your attention to a particular set of universal needs.  When you take the time to listen to each part of you and name the needs it's promoting, you will have a new perspective on the situation.  From this place of honoring all your needs equally, you can ask the empowering question:  "What can I do so that all of these needs are met?"

Inner Bias

The second obstacle, bias against certain parts of yourself, is really bias against particular needs.  Usually this traces back to childhood and years of conditioning.  In order to adapt to your life growing up you might have had to send particular needs into exile and focused only on the needs that were allowed in your situation.  As you reclaim exiled needs, you might experience anxiety or a sense of threat and the impulse to retreat or defend.  Assuming you live in a safe supportive environment now, these reactions are left over from another time.  If you meet them with loving reassurance and mindfulness about where they are coming from, they will eventually dissolve.  You will find that when you honor all your needs equally, inner peace and harmony is more accessible.

Ability to Handle Your Emotions

Unexamined habits of heart and mind keep you trapped in the past.  Long ago you probably couldn't handle a certain amount of emotion because you didn't have the support of someone who could offer empathy, teach you how to regulate emotion, and go into wise relationship with it.  Unconsciously, you formed the habit of turning away from emotion and tightening around it.  When this habits plays out in your current life, you don't get the opportunity to see what's really true.  You may now have all sorts of resource and skill to meet emotion, but still don't allow it.  This unconscious habit will have you skimming the surface of an inner conflict preventing you from moving through it to resolution.  Here are some hints on opening the door to allowing more emotion:

  • Set an intention by saying something like:  I am strong enough to feel my feelings.  I can trust myself to remain  mindful in the midst of big emotions.  It's okay to feel what's there.

  • Put your attention on a particular feeling and seek to know it more fully.  You might ask yourself the following:  What kind of feeling is this (e.g., hurt, fear, sadness, excitement, despair, etc.)?  In what part of my body do I feel this feeling?  Is it on the surface of my body or does it reside more deeply?  Is there a shape to this feeling?  Is there an image or memory that is coming up with this feeling?

  • As you feel your feelings, shuttle back and forth from the feeling to the needs that go with it.  This is a very important piece.  Habit energy will take you from the feeling to a mental story about what it means.  If you don't interrupt this habit by moving your attention to needs, you will get lost in a swirl of reactivity and reinforce the old story that you can't handle emotion.

  • Once you have landed fully in feelings and needs, you will experience a natural shift towards actions and requests to meet those needs.  Follow this energy.

Taking wise action to come to resolution around inner conflict requires your loving and focused attention.  This means setting time aside for reflection and/or receiving empathy from a trusted friend.   Wisdom and love is there for you, with patience and skillfulness you can open the door to them.

Set aside at least a half hour now in your calendar, to reflect on an inner conflict with the three skills listed above.

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