What do you do when you have two parts of yourself that are in conflict with each other? This happened to me the other day. I had a disagreement with a friend about an upcoming trip. There was part of me that recognized it wasn’t a big deal, and wanted to go with the flow. But there was another part of me that wanted to stick to my guns and stand up for what I wanted. There were two parts of myself, and they were pointing different directions.
Having an internal conflict is a pretty common occurrence in my life, but it’s something that makes me feel uncomfortable. My initial pull is to do something to resolve the conflict, and I usually try to do it quickly.
Sometimes this strategy works, but sometimes it doesn’t. It might make me feel less anxious in the moment, but often the resolution isn’t fully satisfying, because it doesn’t reflect my full self, and the complexity of my conflicting wants.
One thing I have been trying to do lately is to hold conflict when I experience two parts of myself that are in conflict with one another. Can I sit with both sides, reflect, and be thoughtful about what each side might have to teach me about what I really want?
Holding conflict is difficult because it requires me to sit with the anxiety that comes with an unresolved situation. Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling, and holding conflict means that I have to sit with the anxiety for a while rather than trying to escape it, which is my natural tendency.
Holding conflict also means I have to acknowledge and respect the parts of myself that I don’t particularly like, or are afraid of. When I experience an impulse or thought that I don’t like, for example, my tendency is to push the thought down outside of my awareness. But holding conflict means I take a thoughtful look at all parts of myself, curious about what those parts might have to teach me. This doesn’t mean I act on all my thoughts or impulses, of course, but I sit with them and honor them rather than trying to push them away.
The hope is that by holding my conflict, and sitting with it for a time, I will eventually find a way forward that honors as much of myself as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean the internal conflict will go away. Sometimes we face situations in life where we have conflicting wants, and a move in one direction necessarily means a move away from a different direction. Conflict, loss, and giving up certain things are inevitable parts of life. But by increasing our capacity to hold conflict, we give ourselves the best chance to make a decision that best reflects our whole self.