What are internal conflicts, and what effect do they have on people?

Ilya Berdyshev

What are internal conflicts, and what effect do they have on people?

Conflicts with other people are called external conflicts. But human beings are such that, even if they are at people with everyone and everything around them, they are often not at peace with themselves – they conjure things up in their heads. These situations are called internal conflicts, in other words those internal contradictions that stop people from wanting to work, chat with people or even to eat or sleep. It is these internal conflicts that we are doomed to face from the day of our birth right up until the end of our days.

So what can we do? Life is always throwing at us all manner of often contradictory temptations and lures. And, as we know from the Old Testament, Man is a weak and feeble being who easily gives in when provoked. Every adult has his or her very own set of contradictions. For these contradictions, there is also an algorithm for quickly and successfully solving the internal conflicts that arise. Most of us learn throughout our lives to solve these conflicts to our own advantage. But in the cases where these techniques do not work, or something in the person breaks down, these internal conflicts become a serious obstacle on the path of that person. Scientists and psychologists try to explain these “malfunctions”, and to suggest quick ways of “fixing” them. This is very important, because the energy generated by unsolved internal conflicts can become a serious hindrance to people’s health and can lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships, and even lead to criminal acts.

The famous German psychologist Kurt Lewin, in his time, divided all internal conflicts into three groups: First group: “I want two things but can only have one”. For example, someone has enough money for either a fridge or a washing machine, but can only choose one. Here, we need to choose one of two pleasant (necessary/important…) items/people. Second group: Choosing between two bad (unhealthy, dangerous) options, as in “the lesser of two evils”. For example, if some corrupt police officers offer to have someone’s sentence reduced for his involvement in a petty theft, but in exchange to reveal a series of similar crimes that had not yet been revealed. The final, third group involves a conflict between a “good” and a “bad” option, or between a plus and a minus. Again we might revisit the subject mentioned already – if a corrupt police officer says: “Hand over your friend and we’ll close the case.”

We might ask: What bad effect can these internal conflicts have on the person suffering from them? By themselves, none at all. But can the psychological consequences of unsolved internal conflicts have a negative effect? Oh yes, very much so. These consequences include, notably, resentment, a sense of injustice and envy. These manifest themselves in profound and persistent worry. They poison a person’s soul and step-by-step destroy his personality. If this process if not recognised in time, and the antidote is not administered, then eventually the psychological destruction of that person will come about.

What is resentment from a psychological point of view? It is the result of grievances that have “got stuck”, of which a person has been voluntarily collecting large quantities throughout their her life, and which they continue to collect. Grievances are situations where there is no way of avenging oneself against the person who caused the grievance. A sense of injustice is an unhealthy concern which a person experiences as a feeling that “they’ve got me again”, and which is uniquely effective at destroying a person’s ambitions. Envy is likewise an unhealthy feeling, whereby a person feels permanently inferior to others.

How, then, can we defend ourselves against this poisonous three-headed dragon – resentment, a sense of injustice and envy – and overcome it? Firstly, it is important to recognise that you are under the power of that dragon. Secondly, it is important to decide for yourself whether you want to reconcile yourself to living with these three enemies, or whether you want to deal with them. If you have thought this through and have decided to face up to the dragon – that is already an important step towards victory.

Next, it is necessary to make a series of assumptions. Firstly: That it depends only on the person him/herself whether to heap up grievances, or quickly to part with them. After all, grievances will automatically pile up on the aggrieved. Secondly: the world was never fair, and never will be. A person can train him/herself to have a sense of justice, guided in this by his or her conscience. The third and last: Spiritual poverty is not the same as financial poverty, of which the Gypsy people should be well aware. Sincere sentiments and pride were always more important than gold, and liberty was always worth more than the most noble form of captivity. To envy someone else’s riches means to rid oneself of happiness and peace.

If the three “dragons” nonetheless keep biting, and heavy thoughts remain with you, and your relationships with others keep getting worse and worse, then it is time to talk to those close to you, whom you trust. Those people always understand us and help with some kind words. Finally, you can also contact a psychologist, who can also help us to solve our internal conflicts.


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