As shown in last week’s series, it’s important to have a theoretical understanding of an Inner Conflict before actually going through the steps to solving it. Now, this week, we are ready to learn how to truly resolve Inner Conflicts with the 8 Steps. This is a skill that takes at least 15 to 20 “practice” Inner Conflict Resolutions before the typical Self-Parenting Practitioner feels confident enough to create a Win/Win outcome between the Inner Parent and Inner Child.
Now, these steps aren’t necessarily anything new in the “conflict resolution” world. When great leaders are doing their best to solve the classic outer conflicts we read about every day, they are essentially following the exact same steps within an outer conflict. The success of the 8 Steps is also greatly assisted if you have a clear and conscious working relationship with your Inner Child—one where you are actively engaged and trusting of each other. If you are struggling with a generational addictive family history, this perhaps won’t be as clear.
By following the 8 steps below, you can resolve any inner conflict with practice. However, I must caution you that it's not as easy as it sounds. You will need to have a genuine inner conflict, as opposed to an "inner bashing” as described in the previous article.
1) Recognize the Conflict.
In the case of “Inner Conflicts,” this usually becomes apparent through unusual body symptoms. You have a “gut feeling,” a rare headache, or a sudden severe resistance to planned activities or things you’ve done many times before. This will be accompanied by a racing or nagging inner conversation. If you have been thinking about essentially the same situation for three days in a row, and nothing is getting resolved by your inaction, this is a clear sign that what you’re dealing with is an inner conflict.
2) Write Down What You Hear.
The most important part of this whole process is to write down what you hear inside your mind. You must get the ongoing thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Having the inner conflict written down is essential and does two things: it gets the inner conflict out of your mind so it no longer clouds your thinking and makes the conflict between your two selves much more objective. This also means that other people, such as a friend or therapist, can help you follow the remaining steps.
The instant you recognize an Inner Conflict, grab some paper and begin writing whatever you hear inside your head. Don't try to determine which voice is which; simply start writing whatever voice is loudest on one side of the paper. Once the viewpoint of that voice is expressed, then you'll hear the other conflicting voice which has the opposing opinion or viewpoint. Write down that perspective on the other half of the page. As you do that, you will of course hear the next response which will then bring you back to the original side where you’ll also write down.
If you have a really good Inner Conflict this could take several minutes to over an hour to write down every part that each side is saying. The good news is that once this is out of your head, you will already feel much better. But you still have to continue the rest of the steps for a lasting solution.
3) Identify Each Self’s Needs.
Both sides to your inner conflict have needs that must be met and each side will fight for their needs to be met. Therefore it's crucial to define what those needs are. Abraham Maslow was the original psychologist to outline the importance of meeting needs in human societies. He has an entire body of work devoted to this concept called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
For our purposes we are going to make it very simple. Both selves have needs that are physical, emotional or mental. The Inner Child's needs are typically physical and emotional where the Inner Parent's needs are typically mental. Based on the written conflict, you may need to parse out the needs of each side. This can be easy or it could be hard. If one side is saying, "I want you to stop yelling at me” this represents an emotional need. If one side says, “We need to get to work on time or we'll get fired” this could be a physical need or a mental one.
Determining needs is an area where many people have difficulty. Often it takes an outside person who is not caught up in the conflict to recognize what will make both sides happy. You could probably have a stranger on the street read your inner conflict and understand it better than you while you were going through it.
4) Make a Commitment.
Assuming you have defined the needs of each voice within reason, your inner conflict will be clearly defined before you. One part of you wants THIS set of circumstances. The other part of you wants THAT set of circumstances. Finally, you have a clear definition of the conflict to resolve!
The purpose of Step 4 is for both selves to agree to work together to seek a solution that makes both sides happy. There has to be an agreement that both sides have needs important enough for the other self to support this outcome. Now we have a commitment made by both inner voices.
5) Brainstorm Together.
This can be the fun part. The idea here is to let both sides unleash their potential solutions. Here you are writing down any solution, as far-fetched as it may be, that could even remotely resolve one or both sides’ needs. This is what engages both selves in the creative act of coming up with a solution.
Nothing is decided at this point, you are just gathering as many potential ideas related to the conflict that could possibly help in anyway. None of these solutions even has to make sense at the moment. They are just ways that could theoretically be of assistance. When one part of you comes up with the idea just write it down on the column side where it meets that need.
Depending on the situation, this could be a good time to show your inner conflict to another trusted ally. He or she may be able to come up with ideas you can't think of. You can exhaust every possible idea that can possibly apply to meeting the needs of either self. Once they are all recorded in their respective columns, proceed to the next step.
6) Come to an Agreement.
For many inner conflicts, a workable solution is usually presented by now. This is nice when it happens. The solution is so clear and obvious that each voice is happy and the win/win solution falls into place.
If it's a really difficult inner conflict, you might have to eke out a “neither side is getting what it really wants, but it’s the best we can both do in this case” type solution. This is rare, but perhaps it happens in your very first Inner Conflict. Either way, the end result of this step is that both sides agree that they have determined the best possible result to solve this particular problem at this time.
7) Apply the Solution.
If step six was relatively positive, then your solution should work pretty well and both selves should be mostly satisfied. However, there may be several steps that have to be taken to see if this solution will work. Extended time might need to go by to see if this solution has its intended effect. Since both sides were willing, there should not be any resistance to putting the solution into place. If there is resistance, then one side still has some missing needs that aren’t being addressed.
8) Evaluate and Repeat, If Necessary.
For most people their inner conflict will be completely resolved and quickly forgotten. For very difficult problems your initial attempts may be well-intentioned, but may not get the full job done. That’s okay. No one said this was going to work the first time every time. Some inner conflicts are long standing and involve many different viewpoints with conflicting external circumstances as well.
Perhaps the solution you both put in place worked mostly, but there are still some sticking points. Simply start again, with the new “inner conflict” that you are now hearing about the solution and work these steps again with your deeper level of knowing.
Your Self-Parenting relationship is the one relationship you will have your entire life. Taking the time to work with these methods now will save you years of unresolved conflicts in the future. When your Inner Parent and Inner Child engage in the daily practice of Self-Parentingthese two selves get to know each other so intimately that inner conflicts start becoming less and less of an issue. Eventually they become a thing of the past. Incorporating Self-Parenting as one of your core strategies for sober recovery prepares a foundation to achieve win/win outcomes in all areas of your life. If you or someone you know is seeking professional help, please visit our directory of counseling and therapy centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.
Missed Dr. Pollard's previous articles on the basics of self parenting? You can check the entire series out here.
John K. Pollard, III, is the author and creator of the book, SELF-PARENTING: The Complete Guide to Your Inner Conversations. His book, published in 1987, became an international bestseller in the US and Australia. What began as a simple discovery over thirty years ago has now become the SELF-PARENTING Program used by practitioners around the world.