Addressing the Primary Sources of Conflict

Conflict is a normal, healthy, and useful part of life. At its simplest, it means there is a disagreement or difference of opinion between two or more individuals. In life we can identify two types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflict, the root issue causing discomfort and the basis which leads to one outwardly expression of it, manifests for several reasons:

1) We are not living authentic lives – our values and beliefs.
Explanation: We all have certain belief systems and a set of values that we’ve adopted as our way of living. For example: I was raised to be polite and respectful to all people. Yet in today’s world, people have accepted rudeness and disrespect as the norm. It’s easy to get swept up in what others deem acceptable. Yet if I mimic their behaviors, I create an internal conflict within myself. Families, religion, friends, and society in general can put tremendous pressure on us to conform to their dictates and leave little room for the individual to make their own determinations. This unrest is the soul’s way of letting us know that we must reexamine our actions and be true to who we are.

2) What we say or do does not match our beliefs.
Explanation: Have you ever agreed with someone simply to appease them? Or perhaps you didn’t want to offend them and cause an argument? Those who are sensitive or kindhearted often have difficulty speaking the truth to others even when they believe it’s important to do so. Or consider a teen who lies to her parents about going to an unsupervised party at a friend’s house when she was taught the importance of honesty and trust in relationships: she feels a strain on her conscience.

3) We feel pressured to be someone we are not.
Explanation: A child coerced into playing sports when he would rather be reading; a gay man or woman fearful of rejection should they reveal their true sexual identity play the role of being straight; seeking a high-powered career that affords us the finer things in life when what we prefer is a simple life of modest means; or perhaps our job’s unethical practices pressures us into violating our own moral beliefs in order to maintain our employment with the company. All of these create unrest within us and put pressure on the relationships with those involved.

4) We do not like or love ourselves.
Explanation: Do you dislike yourself, or have you ever been disappointed with who you are or been ashamed of something you’ve done or failed to do? Do you fail to see any value in yourself and sadly believe that you are worthless? Self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, is at the heart of all the decisions we make. Not being satisfied with who we are leads to internal stress and unrest, believing we should be or do more. “I should know better!” “I shouldn’t have done that but now it’s too late.” We fight within ourselves causing inner turmoil.

5) We are concerned with how others view us. We are people pleasers trying to satisfy others rather than ourselves or God.
Explanation: Those with a poor self image spend their lives worrying about what others think about them or how they are being perceived. In their minds their worth is determined by how others feel about them. This leads to anxiety and fear. Trying to please others is exhausting and when we believe we’ve failed we feel confused, frustrated, angry, and even more worthless. Trying to please others and feeling as though we are never good enough is exhausting and self-defeating.

6) We say “yes” when we want to say “no”. We feel pressured into doing things we don’t want to do.
Explanation: Recently I made a tough decision that I was no longer going to allow myself to feel coerced into doing things that I do not have the time or desire to do. And less than four days later find myself once again saying “yes’ when I want to say “no”. Giving others permission to manipulate us into doing something we do not feel inclined to do leads to self-anger and regret. Intellectually, I know emphatically that I have every right to refuse to engage in non-essential issues simply because I choose to spent my time otherwise. When I give in to the requests of others, I feel weak and become angry with myself, believing I need to assert myself more.

7) We need to be right and “win” any disagreement or dispute that arises.
Explanation: The need to be right is all ego-driven. One needs to save face, so-to-speak, in order to maintain their status among their peers. This mindset and behavior is fear based as one needs to exert power and control over the other individual and situation. Being right rarely has long-term benefits and eventually what the person fears most comes to pass – losing control of the situation, losing the respect, friendship, or cooperation of the other party.

I’ve always said that behavior, what we say or do, is simply an outward expression of what we are dealing with internally. Any unresolved inner issues will eventually get expressed outwardly. However, if we are able to heal them we become whole and authentic. The inner conflict is silenced and we are at peace with ourselves and those around us. External disagreements no longer trigger our covert issues and our response emanates from a place of confidence.

Until you are at peace with yourself and your life you cannot be at peace with others or in your relationships with them. When my external actions fully represent my internal self I am honest, authentic, and peaceful.
Peace within leads to peace between.

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