Have you experienced an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, both giving you conflicting directions?
Of course, you have. It’s the very essence of being human.
The internal conflict is real.
When we experience two conflicting thoughts that are incongruent with one another, this is referred to as cognitive dissonance. The definition, according to Merriam Webster:
- psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.
According to Word Hippo, their definition states:
- (psychology) A conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistencies between one’s beliefs and one’s actions or other beliefs.
Here’s a fact regarding beliefs…
Beliefs are decisions.
And our decisions drive our thoughts, feelings, and our actions.
Beliefs come from our unconscious mind that makes up close to 95% of our thoughts. It’s how our human minds work. But what happens when we bump up against a thought such as “I should, or I shouldn’t do _____”? When this happens, it causes us to have an internal struggle.
Let’s look at an example:
You are heading home from a long day at work. It was a stressful day, the kind of day that can easily conjure up one excuse after the other as to why you should have a drink when you get home. It’s your reward for crying out loud!
The boss angered you, the guy in traffic wouldn’t let you over, plus you hit every red light on the way home. Damn, and now you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning…again.
You want a few drinks, but you know you shouldn’t. You promised your 12 yr old you’d help with their birthday party coming up, plus you need to work on a presentation.
You know you shouldn’t drink. It will cause you to not be at your best.
You repeat this over and over again that you shouldn’t do it. Your belief system is screaming — you have important things to do, and pouring a drink will only get in the way.
You do it anyway. You know better, but you don’t care. It’s the devil on your shoulder saying, “you deserve it, you worked hard today, it’s fine – it’s only a few drinks.” Your emotions are taking over, you know it’s going against your beliefs. You are fully aware of what this means, but you can’t help it at the moment.
To make matters worse, you avoid the discomfort of guilt and this habitual process continues.
The incongruency of thoughts with your behaviors is cognitive dissonance.
You’re not alone with this behavior. We are all enabled with an inner voice, a spirit, a guide system. When you go against that inner voice, you create unsettling within.
Cognitive dissonance affects our personal opinion of ourselves. It clashes with our innate ability to do the right thing, and our perceived thinking of the right thing. This produces a power struggle.
When you find yourself battling with the internal struggle of dissonance, STOP. Acknowledge the thinking. Breathe. Embrace this moment by allowing internal grace. Redirect your thinking to a new decision followed by an action. These steps are known as the SABER Method. It’s my personal favorite tool to help me when I find myself in a power struggle of internal conflict.
Once we can shine a light and identify what “it is”, we can begin to change our belief by making a new decision. As previously mentioned, our beliefs are decisions.
We are human, not perfect. With deliberate intention and awareness, we can change our familiar thought patterns while changing the narrative we’ve been telling ourselves.
Wherever you find yourself, rest in knowing you have the power within to overcome your internal conflict.