Your Internal Conflict
“I shouldn’t…but I want to…I really can’t…or could I”? Oh yes, the internal chatter…
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.
This internal conflict is real. The proper term is 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.
Beliefs are decisions. We are adamant about our beliefs. However, when we go against this, it causes us to have internal struggling.
Why is this important to know? So that we can have awareness and course-correct when needed. It means not ignoring what you know is right for you.
Let’s look at an example of what this looks like in real life:
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. 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 kid you would help with their birthday party coming up, plus you need to start working on a presentation for work.
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.” Whatever your excuses are, you know it’s going against your beliefs. You are fully aware of what this means but you can’t help it this time.
To make matters worse, you avoid all discomfort of guilt. You ignore it, push it down even further. This pattern continues for you.
The incongruency of thoughts with your behaviors is cognitive dissonance.
You’re not alone with this behavior. It truly is the essence of being human and taking a more comfortable way. Call it what you want, but we are all enabled with an inner voice, a spirit, a guide system. When you go against that inner voice, you create unsettling within.
Most often, cognitive dissonance affects our personal opinion of ourselves. It clashes with our innate ability to do the right thing, thinks the right thing, and do the right thing. This, in turn, produces your negative self-esteem.
Another example could be not putting the grocery cart back in the designated space or talking badly about your neighbor. This causes you to think poorly of yourself, thus creating the circular thought loop to start. Yes, it can be innocent and seemingly unimportant.
How about the smoker that continues to puff away, even after learning of a friend’s death caused by smoking? They know smoking is bad for them, but they continue anyway. It’s the constant struggle of “I know I shouldn’t but…”.
Your belief system is powerful, as it should be. It is our North compass. It guides us, keep us safe. It’s a precious gift.
When you find yourself battling with the internal struggle of dissonance, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, how would you feel tomorrow? Think through the battle. It works when you can take the time to think it all the way through until the next day.
Your internal conflict doesn’t have to continue. By bringing your attention and awareness to it, you gain control over it. It is not an end goal, but continued practice.
We are human, not perfect souls. With practice, it gets easier. Wherever you find yourself, rest in knowing you have the power within to win the battle of your internal conflict.
If you want to explore this further, consider scheduling a free Discovery Call. This work is more effective when you have someone supporting you. Click here to set up a convenient time for you.