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November 16, 2022

Forms Of Psychological Conflict

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Do you feel like sometimes you get in your own way? You have really strong reasons to do something but then you find yourself doing the opposite? This is likely because on a psychological level you don’t have the clarity, motivation, or alignment required to follow through as intended. Something is getting in the way, keeping you from smoothly translating your intention into action. There are a few different culprits that explain why this happens.

It’s very possible that consciously you have one plan but subconsciously you have another. Both plans have a desire to be expressed but only one can win. This is called having ‘competing commitments’. This happens when two needs are unearthed in one single event, one need being more aspirational and one being more survival. 

For example let’s say that you really want a promotion (that’s the event). The aspirational need this reveals is the possibility of a better life where you’re paid more and doing work that fulfills you. There’s a strong motivation there. But at the same time maybe getting that promotion requires that you start cold-calling prospects to get more deals done. This threatens you and creates a need for psychological safety that you may be unaware of. Two needs, one action, and unfortunately the one we wouldn’t choose is the one that usually wins.

Another form of psychological conflict is called cognitive dissonance. This occurs when your experience differs from what you expect to experience within your actions, thoughts, and feelings. Ultimately this inconsistency is often a consequence of the beliefs that you hold, and whatever you're experiencing exists in conflict with your worldview. This creates a tension in the mind that influences you to change your actions, thoughts and feelings to create coherence with your beliefs.

For example, let’s say you hold a deeply-seated belief that life is meant to be hard, which you learned by no fault of your own. When you start to experience some form of success it activates feelings of cognitive dissonance, and unconsciously you are pulled to sabotage your success or discredit your success because it differs from what you expected. 

These are really technical details about how our psychology works, so I’d like to summarize by putting it more plainly. Your subconscious mind doesn't always agree with what you’ve consciously decided is in your best interest. This can create conflict in your mind that influences your thoughts and behaviors, and steer you away from your goals.

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