June 30, 2003
Inner Conflict - Part 1
You need to get that work done, but some part of you gets distracted. You make yourself exercise, but your body doesn't co-operate. You work hard at your love relationship, but another part of you wants to leave. You like the security of the well-paying job, but you hate going to work. You regularly carry on inner arguments with yourself and say, "I should," "I shouldn't," "I ought to," "I'm going to," "I don't know," and--"I'm such an idiot."
Welcome to the world of inner conflict.
Inner conflict uses up a great deal of energy. There is a drive to do something and a brake on it at the same time. It's like having a herd of wild horses jumping around in a little pen. That energy has to move - or it will explode or make us tense and sick.
Thinking of a better idea rarely solves inner conflict. A new resolution usually just sets up another contest between the conflicted parts of ourselves. Every time we try and fail, our inner critic beats us up and we just feel worse.
Inner conflicts are always characterized by arguments or struggles between different parts of ourselves. Since we are supposed to be individuals, how can this be?
Experience has led me to believe that all animals, including humans, start life in an integrated manner. All parts of our being are in constant communication with one another, through chemical and electrical message systems. We consist of trillions of cells that are constantly in conversation. If our cells do not work together harmoniously, the result is what we call illness.
This type of harmony can be seen in wild animals and young people who are allowed to be what they are. As an example, I am constantly amazed by my granddaughter's sense of self-evident inner unity. Little Tayler has no doubts, and no inner conflicts. She feels what she feels and wants what she wants and never doubts the validity of that - because it is what it is. What is happening is happening and that's that. She may get angry that she can't get what she wants, but she doesn't doubt herself. She just gets angry, and when the expression of anger is over, she goes on to something else.
Tayler was born with that inner harmony and her mother and father have allowed her to remain that way. They don't hit her, shame her, scare her, or make her feel bad or wrong for being who she is and wanting what she wants. They don't try to make her different or "better," which would only imply that she isn't good enough the way she is.
Teri and Trevor don't believe that little kids are bad or inadequate, or that they have to be taught to be good, capable, and kind. Without being reminded or taught, Tayler spontaneously shares things and hugs her friends. She also teaches herself, through her own curiosity, how all the gadgets and things in her world work. At 14 months she even tried using some pliers to fix the wheels on her Dad's truck! You don't have to teach the tomato seedlings in your garden how to become full-sized tomato plants. You don't have to pull at the leaves to make them grow. If you allow them the right conditions, they grow up fine on their own.
If, however, children have their natural growth process inhibited by parental manipulation and coercion, they suffer great pain and confusion. In a barrage of do's and don'ts, humiliations and punishments, they are constantly harrassed by giant adults who try to mold them to be something they are not.
If a plant is not in the sun, it will stretch itself out of shape to reach those rays. So it is with children. They need love and acceptance, and if the onslaught of "shoulds" continues, children will begin to alter themselves to get some semblance of love.
When children are under this type of pressure, their personalities often split into different parts that can act in the ways that the adults will accept. For Mom they may be the "good girl," for Dad, they may be the "tomboy," for the teacher they try to be the "smart one," for their peers they may become the "party girl." Alternate personalities that arise are as varied as there are children and the pressures they are placed under.
Some of the "subpersonalities" we develop take the form of vocal and behavioural patterns of the adults who coerce us. So, as adults, we scold the willful child in ourselves with words and postures that look and sound like Mom and Dad. How often have you rolled your eyes and said to yourself "What were you thinking?!" If we look at all the inner dialogue associated with our inner conflicts, we usually find that the "voices" are similar to the voices of others in our past. In order to be "good," and to squeeze the wild child in us into shape, we swallowed or introjected the thoughts and behaviours of our parents and caregivers.
We couldn't be what we were, so we split into parts to please everyone else. These parts are now at war and we don't know who the hell we really are. We don't know what feeling is right, what thought makes sense, what action is best, or which people to love. We make lists of pros and cons that don't really work. We ask everyone else for advice and get more confused. We do what we are "supposed to," and things fail. What a mess.
It could have been so simple. If we had been allowed to be what we were, our bodies would have remained in health and harmony. We could have always had our feelings and known that they were always correct for us. We could have been at ease, and at one, with ourselves.
Instead, we have this inner struggle, a battle that leaks out and creates bigger wars. And these world conflicts will not stop if we are at war with ourselves. It's time to look inside and have a conflict resolution and peace conference within.
Make sure you give yourself a bunch of invitations!