Do you sometimes feel locked in a struggle with yourself? I know I do. Why is it that we know what we want to do, but it’s such a struggle to actually get it done?
The struggle with self is so old that even Saint Paul writes, in a letter to the Romans, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
Even the most successful people wind up struggling with procrastination, overeating, overspending, drinking too much, saying things you don’t mean, or getting involved with the wrong people. As I work with my clients, the issue of internal struggle comes up over and over again.
When this is happening you’re probably having a fight with yourself. Everyone has an obstinate, rebellious, cranky, demanding and jealous inner self (the part we try not to show to the world ) sort of an “Inner Brat.” When the more adult, judicious, reasonable and rational part of your mind gets into a struggle with the emotional, reactive part : that inner brat; the ensuing struggle can feel like a war inside your head.
It sounds like this:
Inner Grownup: Let’s eat healthy and lose some weight.
Inner Brat: No! I want that cake and I want it now!
Inner warfare produces a constant noise in one’s mind, as the voices of opposing thoughts become locked in never-ending argument, which makes clear thinking almost impossible. This raging battle can cause you to use poor judgment in the important decisions of your life, because a substantial part of your thinking ability is hampered. It’s like trying to think in a room where two people are arguing about everything, most of the time!
When you can’t think clearly, you are not able to understand the intuitive information you are receiving that could tell you who is trustworthy and who is unreliable; you are not able to evaluate all the options available to you and make clear decisions; and you cannot sort out the difference between realistic options and options that are too pessimistic or too optimistic to serve as the basis of a good decision. In addition, the exhaustion resulting from constant turmoil causes you to “forge” or feel unable to think clearly about your circumstances and your actions, which leads yod to be dependent on others to do your thinking for you.
As long as your inner adult and inner brat are at war, they’re deadlocked, since all sides feel equally right, and equally powerful. Even if one side could win, you’d be operating at half power, unable to think clearly, or unable to feel feelings -- which is what happens to many people. Just as in wars in the external world, both sides inevitably pay a heavy price.
When you learn how to manage your thinking and get both sides to negotiate and work together, you create a problem-solving team that is intuitive and rational, creative and practical. Only when your internal war is settled, and the sides form a working partnership, can you use the full power of your thinking ability.
To achieve this inner teamwork, take small steps in the beginning:
1. When feelings of embarrassment, unworthiness, shame, or fear arise; slow down and give yourself a chance to relax.
2. Instead of pressuring or criticizing yourself; reassure and encourage yourself past the problem.
3. Discuss the problem with yourself, allowing both the reasoning adult part and the emotional inner kid to express an opinion, while you stay in charge and keep the conversation heading toward a solution.
Asking yourself questions and comforting yourself can seem strange, because part of you will worry what others would think, but no one need ever know you’re doing this. Even once you understand how to confront your inner feelings, you may resist at first, because you feel confused, ashamed or embarrassed. Old, ingrained subconscious beliefs that your feelings are frightening, and that you're unworthy of attention are fighting with your new, rational adult knowledge that you are important to you.
Once you negotiate an internal truce, you can become a new kind of person, within whom both the intuitive, feeling part and the rational, acting part work together for the common good, without a ’good guy” or “bad guy,” or winner and loser, but seeking to solve problems so that both sldes are satisfied. Negotiation, communication and partnership become an integral part of your relationship with yourself, producing a sense of wholeness and power that give you the confidence to take risks and the motivation to get things done. It truly takes the self-image of a warrior, at times, to continue the hero’s journey toward fully living life. The reward you’ll get is peace: within yourself and within your family.
Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and her newest, The Real 13th Step. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Dr. Tessina was the CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for Love Forever. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance.” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina