How To Acknowledge Internal Conflicts

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This Article is presented by: Susan Quilliam
(born 1950 in Liverpool) is a British relationship expert who specialises in love and sexuality. She works as an advice columnist, writer, broadcaster, consultant, trainer and coach.

Meaning – An internal conflict is what happens when you have two coexisting, but conflicting, wants or desires

It’s all very confusing. We’ve not lived through such a pandemic before. We have no real understanding of it. There are mixed messages from the media and from politicians. Plus we ourselves are constantly changing in response to what’s happening – and so are those we love. We are all in a state of internal conflict – stay in, go out. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Be brave, be vulnerable. 

Hence, don’t be surprised if you experience mixed emotions. Not just a mixture of fear, anger, sadness. But a puzzling contradiction between resentment at the restrictions, yet relief at how much easier life can feel now you don’t have to travel to work. Or deep appreciation of those we love, yet rising irritation at their faults. 

It’s not just the general stresses of the pandemic that are making us feel bad. It’s that we have to cope with parts of ourselves that are continual – and often unconsciously – confused and in opposition. Symptoms such as fatigue, demotivation, sudden changes of mood and difficulty in making decisions are not intrinsic character faults, but the outward signs of our inner conflicts as we come to terms with the new normal.

What to do? Simply accept that different parts of us are reacting to the crisis in different, sometimes conflicted ways. Try not to judge anyone, including yourself. So far as you can, acknowledge and appreciate every single one of your own and others’ thoughts and feelings. And be reassured that once the pandemic recedes, these particular internal conflicts will gradually be resolved.

Balance time together and time apart

We all need company – to feel validated and secure, cared for and connected. And we all also need to spend time alone – so we have time to reflect for ourselves, recover from the stresses of the world, feel in control of our lives. But crucially, each of us has an ideal balance point – where time in company and time alone are in the correct proportions for us to thrive. 

Before the pandemic, we may have arranged our lives to hit this balance point. Crowded workplace balanced by peaceful alone time… working by yourself balanced by a great social life. The pandemic has likely changed all that – and almost certainly in a way that now doesn’t deliver what we ideally need.

It’s important to redress the balance. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by too much people contact – even online – get more time to yourself. If you’re feeling abandoned by too little people contact, get more of it

And if your needs turn out to be far removed from the needs of those you love then gently explain that you are different from them… but that doesn’t mean you don’t care for them. Whether a part of you needs more time away from, or more time with, that’s not a reflection of anything other than the fact that the crisis has changed everything.

Make age-shifting positive

All of us – however young or old we are – have the potential to change our ‘age’ from time to time. We can shift to being a child, happily playful or achingly needy. We can start acting like a parent – caring for those around us or telling everyone off. 

When we’re anxious, as we are right now, we’ll often shift ages – regressing to younger, ageing to older, usually temporarily and in fits and starts. But the darker side of these age shifts can be painful. If you or your loved ones keep acting like a needy child or a nagging parent, that’s going to add to everyone’s stress.

Keep a compassionate eye on your own and others’ behaviour. Realise that you’ve negatively age-shifted because you’re stressed, anxious, upset. How can you calm yourself – and others – to show your more positive side? How can you be a playful rather than a naughty child, a caring rather than a punishing parent – and encourage those you love to do the same? 

Focus on the future

During the pandemic, it can seem as if we’re trapped in a bubble of the unhappy present, with longing for a happier past. But there’s a real comfort to be found in focusing on the future, even if it seems a long way off. 

This crisis is lasting longer we want, and it often seems as if it will go on forever. But it will come to an end. This too will pass. And when it does, there may well be positive impacts on the way we live. And you and those you love will be able to enjoy yourselves again, together. 

So although it’s important to notice the good things here and now, also allow yourself to focus on the good things that the future will hold for you. Every day, think and speak optimistically not only about what you plan to keep from your pre-lockdown life – the people you’ll hug, the places you’ll visit, the career you’ll resume. 

Also actively plan the future changes you’re going to make – what you’ll begin and so enhance your life… what you’ll let go of and so free yourself to do something better… how you’ll improve life for yourself, for people you love, for the world.

Above all, Keep Calm and Stay Kind. 

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