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Duality - Internal Conflicts

Internal conflicts are part of our life. They are usually described as the struggle between reason and emotion.

You've probably had this kind of experience, wanting one thing and doing another, or instead not wanting something and doing it. What is this force that in critical moments of our lives overcomes our will? I believe that this force has as much positive as negative sides, always depending on how we interpret this duality that confuses us and causes a whirlwind of disturbing emotions and thoughts. Emotions and reason, when antagonized, generate confusion. In this labile state, we are unsure of the decisions to be made, which can lead to unstable thoughts and feelings, and turn against us.


Sometimes, the triggers from which internal conflicts arise come from our desires, our ambitions, our dreams and goals. We create an ideal image about the things that we think make us feel good, and can be influenced by our friends, society, an old frustration, a trauma, whatever it is enough to generate a conflict. But what is the real root of these conflicts? It emerges, most of the time due to the incompatibility between what we think and how we act. For example: "I plan to lose weight, but I love eating, and I hate making sacrifices." This is a classic example of how internal conflicts form. Although there may be many types of conflicts, some more uncomfortable and devastating than others, they are always related to two internal forces, not necessarily opposites, but incompatible.

We can also create internal conflicts of a moral and personal evaluative order. When, for example, we fail, when we are paralyzed by fear, when we don't invest in ourselves. When we feel bad for ourselves, when we turn against ourselves, we certainly experience the worst of conflicts. We experience the most bitter internal conflict that is incompatible with our human nature, which is to belittle ourselves in a self-punitive way. We know we should do something to improve our lives, but the actions to get there frighten us, trigger our anxiety, take us out of our comfort zone. And, when we think about the process that would lead us to the desired result, we are faced with the harsh reality that we will only be successful if we propose to face some inconveniences. What do we do? How to resolve this type of conflict between getting closer to something we really want, and moving away from the actions that bother us, that are difficult for us? How to solve this nobody's zone? How to get out of limbo?


A strategy that can be effective in the face of the feeling of disappointment of not moving forward with our desires and/or overcoming other uncomfortable feelings is to try to identify what we did wrong or what we fear that led us to the present situation. The idea is, “If I caused it, I can fix it,” which promotes a sense of power rather than helplessness. Of course, it makes perfect sense to look for any point of support that allows us to rise above our difficulty, but the problem that sometimes emerges with this strategy is that it causes us to repeatedly survey the terrain of our deficiencies. This process can create a “blame the victim” mentality or lead to harsh self-criticism, which further damages the painful situation.

We may feel like we have better control over the problem, but it can also lead to the shame of having the problem. Of course, looking at our difficulties and weaknesses and taking responsibility is a process that deserves our attention. However, this process of gathering information and evaluating ourselves will be fruitful and assertive if we have a positive attitude in this analysis.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not suggesting that we should never waste time investigating how we can do better in the future, quite the opposite. It is when this process of evaluation, when this process of feeding internal conflict becomes the main coping mechanism, that it does more harm than good. It is when our self-critical self-talk and unreasonable reproaches replace the process of acknowledging our hurt feelings that we walk down a destructive and self-sabotaging path, harming ourselves. Then yes, this path is not beneficial.

Another inconvenient way to deal with internal conflicts is to try to dispute control over uncomfortable feelings, trying to relieve them with statements like: “That's not a big problem either”, or “I'm being ridiculous, this doesn't solve anything for me either. .” As much as we try to convince ourselves that we shouldn't have a certain answer, it doesn't remove the underlying emotional experience, which is often painful. What this approach does is create a big difference (internal conflict) between what you're saying to yourself and what you're actually feeling. The dissonance between the two creates so much tension that we often end up acting in self-destructive ways. In this reasoning process, we think that we are lessening our hurt or lessening our anxiety, but actually we are creating yet another dysfunctionality.

It is important not to avoid the feelings that cause us discomfort and annoyance, we should not try to banish them with strategies of “pretend they don't exist” or ignore the discomfort they cause us. If we feel uncomfortable, if they limit our behaviors and affect our happiness, they inevitably need our attention, our ability to interpret and to understand what these feelings are telling us about the way we are living our lives. Relating everything I described above to emotional sobriety, I believe that the beneficial objective is to propose to feel all our feelings, not to be held hostage by them or to avoid them.

Keep in mind: Emotional sobriety revolves around seeking emotional balance and developing emotional strength so that we can stay in conscious contact with our current experiences, honor them and make healthy choices. It's about having compassion for this imperfect human condition, accepting that life is an endless process that requires accepting, caring for and overcoming the occasional difficulties of growing up.


1. Take some time to look at what you have been successful at in your life, and do it right now.

Use a positive filter, look for the things that you felt good about or that make you feel good, that increase your self-esteem, that promote your confidence, that magnify you, that give you energy, memorize it, refresh these events. Give yourself some credit. Remind yourself of what is working in your life, without putting a “but” at the end of each sentence.

Now focus your attention on the feelings that emerge from the memories of these events, they are certainly pleasant feelings that transport you momentarily to a “good” past. Yes, you've also experienced good things. Yes, you have been successful in many things, memorize this, bring these events back to your thoughts. Give yourself some credit. Remind yourself of what is working in your life, without putting a “but” at the end of each sentence.

The areas, topics, situations, interests, where you have been successful indicate to you your values, what you give meaning to, and also what you feel whenever you are proud of yourself. I must tell you that there are positive feelings that have essentially two distinct sources. A natural source, that is, what we might call hedonic happiness, the well-being achieved without effort on our part, such as the pleasure taken from a breeze or the heat of the sun. The other source, which also gives rise to positive and pleasant feelings, are those that depend on our involvement, our effort, our abilities, our willpower and motivation. It is in this type of positive feelings that result from our actions, that we aggrandize ourselves, that we appreciate and value ourselves. And, these actions and these feelings will certainly be in line with our values. In this state there are no internal conflicts.

Keep in mind: It is the values, the knowledge of the origin of our feelings and also the capacity for self-regulation that allows us to support emotional sobriety. Knowing and recognising what is most significant to us and the associated emotions, as well as being able to establish a degree of priority in the situations, issues or tasks at hand, is certainly an inhibitor of internal conflicts.

2. Rearrange your feelings about yourself. If your default setting is “I'm not good enough”, or you tend to rationalize what you're feeling, I encourage you to try to unpack these experiences. It is important to propose to challenge these thoughts. For example, if you don't get the job you want or someone doesn't want to be your friend , you can create the idea that you're not good enough, or that you didn't mind not having that friend. These ideas can offer a false sense of protection against unpleasant feelings, or false immunity from being disappointed in the future. In an attempt to not have to deal with the negative and uncomfortable feelings that cause you to say things like, "This will never work, so I won't even try." The problem arises at the very moment that you give up paying attention to the degree of discomfort that some of the things cause you. Underneath all the protective cover and escapes from the malaise, it is more likely that you will develop a series of feelings, such as hurt, disappointment, shame, resentment and shame, among others.

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