Intrapersonal conflict: causes, manifestations and methods of elimination

Intrapersonal conflict is a difficult to resolve contradiction that occurs within the individual. An intrapersonal psychological conflict is experienced by an individual as a serious problem of psychological content that requires prompt resolution. This type of confrontation can simultaneously speed up the process of self-development, forcing the individual to mobilize his own potential, and harm the individual, slowing down the process of self-knowledge and driving self-affirmation into a dead end. Intrapersonal conflict arises in conditions when interests, drives, and needs of equal importance and opposite in direction collide in the human mind.

What is internal conflict?

Internal conflict in psychology is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon. Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. This is a depressed state of an individual caused by a clash of opposing beliefs, thoughts, and desires. This happens when an honest citizen decides to steal. People call it pangs of conscience. In essence, this is an internal conflict. This is what happens when a priest who has taken a vow of celibacy falls in love.

When a person who holds certain beliefs violates his own rules, he develops a feeling of internal contradiction. Psychological discomfort can cause deep suffering. It is not always possible to get rid of them on your own.

Forms of manifestation

Internal conflict can manifest itself in the following forms:

  • neurasthenia : depression, deterioration in performance, headaches, sleep problems, and so on,
  • euphoria : indicative cheerful mood, tears replacing laughter, joy for no reason,
  • regression : primitivism in behavior, avoidance of responsibility,
  • projection : negativism towards others, their constant criticism and assessments,
  • nomadism : desire for change in various areas of life,
  • rationalism : attempts to justify, “whitewash” one’s actions.

How internal conflict leads to illness:

How to avoid conflicts in the family? Recommendations from experts will help you!

How does personality conflict manifest itself?

When internal contradictions worsen, the quality of life decreases.

Symptoms of intrapersonal conflict:

  • apathy;
  • isolation;
  • depression;
  • decreased self-esteem;
  • irritability;
  • anxiety;
  • inability to concentrate;
  • loss of interest in life;

Depending on the severity and type of problem, symptoms may vary. In some cases, the patient tries to distract himself with activities: cleaning the house, arranging books in alphabetical order, actively working at work. In others, there is a loss of strength and apathy. This is the most common reaction to cognitive dissonance. When an individual cannot make a choice, understand, forgive himself, he is haunted by obsessive thoughts. Anxiety appears. People in this state become distracted and have trouble concentrating. Their thoughts are busy: the mind is constantly looking for a way out, stumbles upon irreconcilable differences between feelings and reason, and goes in circles.

Examples of conflicts within the individual

An example of an intrapersonal conflict is a housewife’s desire to buy a washing machine when there is no money to buy it.

  1. A person wants to go to the cinema, but at this time he needs to prepare for exams.
  2. You need to take a walk with your child, but at the same time you have deadlines at work, so you need to stay late at work.
  3. A man who is at war is forced to kill his opponents, at the same time he must observe the commandment “thou shalt not kill.”
  4. A prisoner who wants to travel, but cannot move freely due to being in a cell.
  5. A small income does not allow a housewife to purchase a washing machine, which is so necessary.
  6. When there is no coffee at home and the shops are closed for the holidays.
  7. The person was given a new position, obliged to carry out a large number of functions, but at the same time his rights remained the same.
  8. When you need to urgently complete a task in production, but the necessary equipment constantly breaks down.
  9. When the boss demands that something be done, he does not care about the means and methods. Must be done at any cost.

Why does intrapersonal conflict occur?

The causes of this and other psychological problems always go back to childhood.

Our parents instill in us attitudes that turn out to be unsuitable for life in adulthood. But the program is established in us, to go against it means to stumble upon contradictions within ourselves.

Religious beliefs are often the cause of controversy. An example is a believer who has sinned and repents. Religion is very strict: fasting, abstinence from sinful acts and thoughts. The believer understands that he should not sin, but temptation takes over. We are all human, we all have our own weaknesses.

One’s own beliefs, attitudes, and frameworks also create an internal conflict for the individual. It can drag on for years, causing constant discomfort up to nervous exhaustion. For example, a woman who has gained weight after giving birth. She wants to return to her previous forms, to be beautiful. But she cannot overcome herself and believes that her husband is obliged to love her like this. Constant stress forces you to break your diet, and this causes depression.

Or another example: a son who lives with his parents. He becomes an adult and begins to live his own life. Strict upbringing in the family taught him to obey his parents. And so, a thirty-year-old man comes home strictly at nine in the evening, cannot afford to buy a leather jacket instead of a down jacket, and does not even think about bringing girls home, because his mother does not like them all.

What creates internal conflict?

If you understand the underlying processes, intrapersonal conflict arises due to the inability to achieve what you want. But the obstacle on the way is not external circumstances, but internal ones.

The psyche sees two ways out of the situation and neither of them is suitable. We cannot simply want too much, because such contradictions arise only on the basis of necessary and passionately desired actions. You can't just stop loving a guy, even if you know he's not right for you. It is also impossible to overcome the barrier in the form of your own taboo. If you could overcome yourself, it would not be called an internal conflict. It occurs when the opposing forces inside are equal. While this battle lasts, it is impossible to feel comfortable.

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Why is intrapersonal conflict dangerous?

A long-term internal conflict of personality is dangerous and destructive. If the problem is not resolved, the consequences will be disastrous:

  • severe depression with suicidal tendencies;
  • neurosis;
  • aggressiveness;
  • personality degradation;
  • disorganization, lack of connection between the mental and physical aspects;
  • lack of interest in favorite activities;
  • development of an inferiority complex, complete or partial loss of positive self-esteem.

People who have been unable to resolve internal conflicts for years become aggressive or, conversely, pliable and weak-willed, refusing to make decisions and choices. Such individuals tend to look for someone to blame for everything, even in small things. They love to blame others. Prolonged intrapersonal experiences lead to frustration. This is a psychological state that is provoked by insurmountable contradictions.

If you find yourself with a problem, don't be alarmed. The first and most important step is recognizing its presence. All that remains is to study ways to combat the disease.

Many internal conflicts occur in a hidden form and people live with them for years without realizing it. Unfortunately, in our country psychological problems are considered more of a simulation than a disease. And it is not customary to go to psychologists until it reaches serious consequences, where a psychiatrist will have to sort it out. If it is not possible to visit a specialist, try to resolve the conflict yourself. If that doesn’t work, call the helpline or make an appointment with a psychotherapist.

Psychologists note that in addition to negative aspects, internal conflict can have positive ones. These include mobilization of forces, experience in resolving one’s own crises, overcoming and accepting the situation. When a person himself deals with his “demons,” he gains experience and gets to know himself. But the positive sides can be seen if the situation is resolved quickly and without consequences for the psyche and nervous system.

How to deal with such a phenomenon?

Adler believed that there are mechanisms that explain the characteristics of the subsequent awakening of intrapersonal conflict. He managed to achieve the disclosure of all methods to overcome contradictions.

The first represents the formation of interest and social feeling. The developed aspect will be fully manifested precisely in the process of professional activity and adequate interpersonal relationships. If the social feeling is undeveloped, we can say that the intrapersonal conflict will take on negative forms: alcohol consumption, gambling addiction (see Gambling addiction - symptoms and treatment), tobacco smoking, drug addiction.

The essence of the second is to reveal your own potential, a feeling of superiority over your environment. You can always find a new hobby for yourself, find a group of similar interests. In addition, a person is able to become a mentor for those who want to learn a craft.

How to overcome interpersonal conflict? M. Deutsch mentions the following ways to solve the problem:

  • An objective approach to all circumstances that are considered the foundation of the contradiction;
  • Behavior in conflict situations, which is considered a method of interaction in which all subjects of the confrontation are involved.

According to experts, a person must make a conscious decision, get rid of doubts and still achieve his goals. It is these aspects that can lead to a truly harmonious and happy life (see How to actually become happy).

Properties of intrapersonal conflict

When contradictions are constantly operating within, an individual cannot find balance or harmony. The mind constantly argues in favor of one or the other, but it cannot completely overcome the contradictions. He experiences discomfort that he may not even notice. The main sign of internal conflict is a violation of internal harmony. The consequences resemble a collapsing house of cards. Following constant discomfort and the inability to resolve contradictions, comes aggressiveness or apathy (depending on the innate temperament, the fight or flight reaction). It begins to corrode from the inside. A person may be aware of the problem itself. But what processes it triggers in the psyche is difficult to understand on your own.

Structure and specificity of the conflict

L. Coser is considered the founder of the conflict paradigm in general in the humanities. One of the strengths of his theory is the recognition of the fact that there are examples of conflicts of positive functional significance. In other words, Coser argued that conflict is not always a destructive phenomenon; there are cases when it is a necessary condition for creating internal connections of a particular system or a condition for maintaining social unity.

The structure of a conflict is formed by its participants (opponents, warring parties) and their actions, the subject, conditions/situation of the conflict (for example, a crush on public transport) and its outcome. The subject of the conflict, as a rule, is closely related to the needs of the parties involved, for the satisfaction of which the struggle takes place. Generally speaking, they can be combined into three large groups: material, social (status-role) and spiritual. Dissatisfaction with certain needs that are significant for an individual (group) can be considered as a cause of conflicts.

Types of intrapersonal conflicts

Let's look at different types of internal conflicts. They differ in the type of contradictions that arise. But the general features are similar in all cases. And the complexity depends only on the depth of a person’s beliefs.

Moral conflict

A common type: a contradiction is caused by an individual’s moral beliefs and the desire to act contrary to them. There are plenty of examples: a man understands that he needs to give up his seat to a senior person on the bus, but he is so tired after his shift that he does not dare to get up. All the way he is tormented by an internal conflict: morality says that he is doing wrong, selfishly, and the fatigue in his body simply does not allow him to do otherwise.

Sexual conflict

Occurs in people who are bashful and shy. A man would like to add variety to his sex life, but he does not dare to say so because he is afraid of being branded a pervert. The craving for BDSM, dominance and other sexual variations makes itself felt in men and women. But people are embarrassed to tell their significant other about this. On this basis, a conflict arises. I want emotions, other sensations, but the fear of being judged or losing a loved one prevails.

The consequences of such complexes: searching for what you want on the side and the subsequent breakdown of the relationship. After all, the secret always becomes clear.

Religious conflict

People brought up according to the Bible or the Koran have certain attitudes. But not everyone manages to follow them in life. Faith is a powerful tool. She helps you live, explains what you need to do. But in life it is impossible to follow all the commandments. People who have formed deep religious beliefs, when faced with temptation, experience deep internal conflict.

For example, a believing teenager falls in love. Hormones released into the blood when falling in love push him to engage in romantic acts and affection. At the same time, he understands that his actions are sinful and contrary to everything he was taught.

Political conflict

Political conflicts arise among people who have to defend their interests and fight for territory. They can be international and affect domestic or foreign policy. People are sometimes forced to risk their lives to defend their interests.

Love conflict

The struggle between mind and feelings is typical for people who are in love or involved in a relationship. The habit of being together does not allow you to break off the relationship. The abandoned party may realize that they are going nowhere and ending them was the right decision. But feelings will push a person to do various stupid things: get drunk, scream under the window about his love, pursue the new passion of his ex, call at night.

The breakup itself is often accompanied by internal conflict. Deciding to leave is not easy. After all, in addition to the arguments of reason, there are also feelings and habit.

Self-esteem conflict

People with different body types may experience dissatisfaction with their own appearance. A person tries to change himself, but this is not easy to do and not everyone succeeds. A person cannot come to terms with the fact that he looks imperfect, and this gives rise to conflict. This happens after injuries and accidents that affect one’s appearance, after gaining weight or having a bad haircut.

Possible reasons

An example of an external reason for the development of an intrapersonal conflict - a person wants to have freedom of action, but is limited by the bars of a prison cell

Considering what factors can influence the occurrence of intrapersonal conflict, we distinguish external and internal causes.

Internal factors are rooted in the contradiction of internal motives and needs. The more complex the structure of a person’s inner world, the more susceptible he is to introspection and internal conflict. Internal factors include:

  • inconsistency between social norm and need;
  • contradictions of interests, motives and needs;
  • contradictory social roles;
  • inconsistency of social norms and values.

In order for internal factors to influence the development of intrapersonal conflict, they must have a deep meaning for a particular individual, otherwise the person simply will not attach importance to them. In addition, it is important that these contradictions be approximately equal in the strength of their impact. In another situation, a person will simply choose what is best for him, no conflict will arise.

External factors in the development of intrapersonal conflict are determined by the position of an individual in a group of people, his position in the organization, and his place in society.

If the reasons are due to the position of a particular individual in the group, then the factors provoking the emergence of conflict are:

  • physical barriers that prevent basic needs from being met;
  • biological limitation - people with physical disabilities or mentally retarded individuals have obstacles in the body itself;
  • lack of an object that is necessary to satisfy needs;
  • social conditions.

Given the position of the individual at the organizational level, the following contradictions may occur:

  • between responsibility and lack of rights in order to realize it;
  • between poor working conditions, quality of task performance or strict deadlines;
  • between a critical task and poorly defined means for its implementation;
  • between the desire for self-affirmation, career, creativity and the opportunities to realize this, for example, people strive to achieve growth in the career ladder, but cannot do this due to the lack of necessary conditions, which is why an intrapersonal conflict develops;
  • inconsistency between moral standards and the desire for profit, for example, a person works in a production facility that produces low-quality products;
  • between mutually exclusive tasks and requirements, for example, the need to improve product quality while the equipment remains the same;
  • incompatibility of social roles, for example, the status of a friend is subject to certain standards of behavior and requirements, and the status of a leader is subject to others;
  • between traditions and personal values, for example, working on weekends, frequent corporate events.

The reasons that are determined by the situation in society are associated with the inconsistency that is formed at the level of the social macrosystem.

Ways to resolve intrapersonal conflict

Psychological work to eliminate intrapersonal contradiction is a painstaking process that requires thoughtfulness and diligence. It takes place in 5 stages:

  1. The first is awareness of the problem.
  2. The second is identifying the causes, in-depth analysis. Problems are broken down into individual parts. The process is similar to unraveling a knot. It needs to be loosened up to understand where all these threads come from.
  3. Next, work on each aspect in turn. A person must understand which part of the internal conflict still needs to win. This is not easy to do on your own. If it doesn’t work, call the helpline or make an appointment with a psychotherapist. The problem is that the opinions of others can completely confuse everything. Each person has his own beliefs. And it’s not a fact that they are correct
  4. If we are talking about anxiety, its causes are analyzed. Pull the thread and understand what you are afraid of. Does everyone in your situation feel this way? Is there really a risk? Do fears help you? They must be eliminated completely. Because fear's eyes are really big.
  5. Work on beliefs. Example: remorse is a useless oppressive feeling. It is necessary to get rid of it. Remember, all people make mistakes.

So, one by one, the individual must put each of his beliefs on the scale and understand that the world is not divided into black and white. Situations are different, but all these are just situations, they will disappear in a year. And your nervous system will remain with you. Take care of her.


resolution of intrapersonal conflicts


1. establishment and awareness of the fact of such a conflict;

2. Determination of the type of conflict and its causes;

3. Application of the appropriate resolution method.

In this regard, six forms of manifestation

intrapersonal conflicts:

1) Neurasthenia

, manifested in intolerance to strong irritants, depressed mood, decreased performance, poor sleep, headaches.

Neurasthenia is one of the types of neurosis, i.e. a neuropsychic disorder arising on the basis of an unproductively and irrationally resolved neurotic conflict. Neurasthenia occurs as a consequence of long-acting psychotraumatic factors.

2) Euphoria

, manifested in ostentatious fun, expression of joy inappropriate to the situation, laughter through tears. Euphoria is accompanied by facial and general motor revival, psychomotor agitation.

3) Regression

, expressed in resorting to primitive forms of behavior, including avoidance of responsibility. It represents one of the mechanisms of psychological defense, a retreat during that psychological period when a person felt most protected. Regression of behavior characterizes the infantile and neurotic personality;

4) Projection

, manifested in the form of attributing negative qualities to another person, criticizing other people. Sometimes this state is called protective or classical projection, emphasizing its connection with psychological defense;

5) Nomadism

, which boils down to frequent changes in place of residence, place of work, marital status;

6) Rationalism

, which comes down to self-justification of one’s actions and deeds. It is based on hiding true thoughts, feelings and motives for actions from consciousness by formulating explanations of one’s own behavior that are more or less acceptable to a given individual. Rationalism is explained by the desire to preserve self-esteem and self-respect of the individual.

Let's consider the main ways to resolve intrapersonal conflicts:

  • Compromise is an attempt to make a choice in favor of an option and begin to implement it. This method is the fastest among others; it allows you to reduce the psycho-traumatic impact of a conflict situation. At the same time, compromise is not associated with an analysis of the causes of the conflict, therefore it allows only partial realization of painful impulses;
  • Care is a conscious avoidance of solving a problem with the hope of its further disappearance. This method is also relatively fast; it is not associated with influencing the cause of the conflict, therefore it can only bring temporary relief;
  • Reorientation represents a change in claims regarding the object that caused the internal cause. This method involves identifying the real cause of the conflict and its carrier. It also requires the ability to manage one's own motivation and direction. Reorientation takes some time, but usually it gives a guaranteed result. Since orientation is associated with the basis for a person’s assessment of certain actions and actions, reorientation leads to a change in these assessments;
  • Sublimation is the process of transferring psychic energy from unacceptable to acceptable forms, thereby eliminating the cause of internal conflict. Sublimation is the most adequate way to resolve conflict, because is associated not only with determining the cause, but also with the impact on it. Therefore, sublimation is a relatively time-consuming method. All people have the ability to sublimate, but it requires development and exercise;
  • Idealization is the process of endowing an object that causes internal conflict with qualities and properties that are not actually inherent in it. Thanks to idealization, an object, without changing in essence, becomes more significant and is valued higher. Idealization manifests itself in the form of avoiding reality, indulging in dreams and fantasies. This method is temporary, because... not related to identifying the causes of the conflict;
  • Repression (repression) is the process of suppressing thoughts, memories and experiences that are unacceptable to an individual, up to their complete expulsion from consciousness and transfer to the realm of the unconscious. It is considered the most primitive and relatively ineffective way to resolve conflict. Appeal to repression characterizes the personality as infantile and invisible;
  • Correction is a change in the elements of the Self - concept in the direction of achieving an adequate idea of ​​\u200b\u200boneself. By “I - concept” we agree to understand the individual’s system of ideas about himself. Correction is an impact not on the cause of the conflict, but on one’s own ideas about it. However, this method has shown its relative effectiveness.

As a result of studying this topic, the following conclusions can be formulated:

  • Intrapersonal conflicts have been the object of study by representatives of various directions in psychology. As a result, a certain plurality of judgments has arisen, making it difficult to develop practical recommendations for resolving such conflicts;
  • The general trend in the study of intrapersonal conflicts is the transition from considering the conflict at the level of a private individual, represented primarily by the motivational, cognitive or role sphere or other personal formations (morality, adaptation, frustration), to the description of the conflict as a holistic phenomenon of the individual’s self-awareness.


Ways to resolve intrapersonal conflicts

One of the main ways to resolve intrapersonal conflicts is to adequately assess the situation in which the individual finds himself. It includes the individual's self-esteem and assessment of the complexity of existing problems.

In social psychology there is the concept of reflection - the ability of an individual to look at his situation from the position of an external observer, at the same time to become aware of himself in this situation and how he is perceived by other people. Reflection helps a person to identify the true causes of his internal tension, worries and anxieties, correctly assess the current situation and find a reasonable way out of the conflict. The famous psychotherapist Maxwell Moltz in his book “I Am Me, or How to Be Happy” offers a lot of useful advice that can help a person resolve personal conflicts. Most of these tips are based on the phenomenon of self-reflection. Let's consider some of them: create the correct image of your own “I”. Know the whole truth about yourself. Be able to face the truth; respond to facts, not ideas about them; do not pay increased attention to what people think about you, how they evaluate you; not to react too emotionally to external stimuli, to be able to delay your reaction to them (“I will only worry tomorrow”); do not cultivate feelings of resentment or self-pity; be able to forgive yourself and others, forgiveness has a healing effect; be able to direct your aggression in the right direction. For excess emotional “steam,” you need to have a safety valve (physical activity, creativity, walking, etc.): don’t “fight windmills.” React emotionally only to what really exists here and now; do not make a mountain out of a mountain, realistically assess the situation with all the ensuing consequences; have a clearly defined goal and strive relentlessly to achieve it. If possible, set realistic goals for yourself; act decisively, purposefully, attack and not defend.

During a conflict, emotions overwhelm a person and prevent him from acting rationally.

In order not to carry an unnecessary and burdensome burden within yourself, you need to learn to manage your emotions and periodically “cleanse” yourself from an excess of feelings such as resentment, anger, fear, hatred, etc. To do this, you can use a wide variety of ways and techniques, for example: speaking out in a circle of friends, “unwind” in sports games, throw a tantrum in private (so that strangers do not hear), tear old magazines to shreds, beat the mattress with your fists, etc.1 Freed from the burden of emotions, a person receives additional resources to solve his problems. D. Carnegie recommends not to panic in conflict situations (to overcome stress), but to accept what happened as a fait accompli and act, putting aside emotions. “It seems to me,” writes D. Carnegie, “50% of my worries disappear when I make a clear, meaningful decision; another 40% usually disappears when I start implementing it. So, I overcome my anxiety by about 90% by following these principles: Accurate description of the situation that worries me. Writing down possible actions I can take. Decision-making. Immediate implementation of this decision." If the obstacle that caused the intrapersonal conflict cannot be overcome, then the frustrating individual can find other ways out: replace the means of achieving the goal (find a new path; replace goals (find alternative goals that satisfy needs and desires; evaluate the situation in a new way (loss of interest in goals as a result of receiving new information, reasoned refusal of a goal, etc.

A special approach is needed when resolving an unconscious internal conflict. The problem is that such a conflict exists on a subconscious level and its causes are not clear to the conflict bearer himself. A person may react painfully to certain life situations, he may be irritated by some events or actions of others, he may experience hostility towards a certain type of people.

The causes of such conflicts must be sought primarily in the person himself. To do this, you need to carefully analyze several typical situations that cause your negative reaction and ask yourself a few questions: What irritates me about this...? Why am I reacting this way to this...? How do I behave in this case...? Why do others react differently to this? How adequately am I reacting to this...? What is the reason for my irritation? Has something similar happened to me before? There are other possible questions that will help you better understand yourself. If a person is able to realize the real sources of his internal conflicts, he will be freed from the burden of old problems and will respond to crisis situations adequately. If you cannot resolve such problems yourself, then you need to consult a psychotherapist.

Internally, personal conflicts and stress activate the processes of spending a person’s physical and spiritual strength. There are various ways to restore and mobilize them, as well as to relieve increased internal tension: for example, yoga, meditation, auto-training, etc.

Series of messages “Psychology”:
Part 1 - Modeling situations in order to find “bugs” Part 2 - The influence of words on health... Part 9 - Conflict situations in the family. Veda. Part 10 - Causes of unstable relationships in the family Part 11 - Ways to resolve intrapersonal conflicts Part 12 - Remember! Part 13 - Mantra for the offended. ... Part 17 - Get rid of the RESULT! Part 18 - The reasons for flow disruption abounded. Part 19 - 10 steps towards the cherished goal..

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