Calming that 'Civil War' Inside
by Mark HurwichShould I have that dessert or stick to a healthier food plan? Accept the salary in that new job offer or ask for something more? Speak up about the neighbor’s unkempt yard or keep my peace?
We like to think we’re rational beings with a single-minded purpose. So, when we notice internal conflict that we can’t settle, we often want to suppress it.That works for small matters and maybe in the short term for bigger ones. But beyond that, it’s stressful. That’s why settling these kinds of conflicts and the burdens underlying them can contribute to better health. So how do we solve struggles around difficult choices, especially when emotion is involved and logic isn’t adequate?
First, notice the polarization: “On the one hand, x... On the other hand, y.” Treat these different points of view as if they were represented by little people, or separate individuals, inside the mind that are both positively intended, but don’t have the best strategies to realize what they seek.
Try this activity as a means to settle this internal civil war.
• Get a chair for each character in the internal struggle, and add one for yourself in a mediating role (or have someone else mediate).
• Sit in the chair that represents th3 weakest party. In that chair, speaking 100 percent from that little person’s view, answer the question, “What am I afraid of in this situation? What’s the outcome I want?”
For example, if the conflict is around a dessert, the desired outcome might be to feel good, and the fear is that skipping dessert in a social situation will be socially awkward. • Move to the neutral chair, and summarize what was said. • Now, move to the other party’s chair and ask the same questions. Perhaps this little person wants to stick to the food plan in order to maintain health and attractiveness, and is afraid that eating dessert will appear socially as undisciplined or weak.
• Repeat the process of summarizing from the mediator’s chair. • Now, ask each party (in turn, with mediator validation) the following questions:
What desires do the two points of view have in common? (For example, both parties seek personal happiness.)
What do both want to avoid? (In the given situation, both parties are afraid of losing social acceptance.)
What could one party offer to the other that would help them get what they both want with less conflict? Is there a compromise or an alternative that can be tried as a pilot program or experiment?
It might sound silly to talk to oneself and move from chair to chair. However, if trying to sort out a situation internally is not working, it makes even less sense to stick with a strategy that isn’t working. It’s amazing how simply listening to that voice we’ve been trying to suppress will yield creative insights.
Mark Hurwich founded Concentrated Coaching, where he helps people that feel stuck to reconnect to their passion and purpose and become unblocked. Call 267-629-2189 or visit ConcentratedCoaching.net. January 2014.