Psychology: This insight can help calm your inner struggles

Dialectical approach
This method helps me calm my internal struggles

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Internal conflicts can cost a lot of energy and distract us from other aspects of our lives. Here, our author describes how she can deal with the struggles in her head.

A perfectly normal Thursday in October. In the evening I had a date with a friend. We wanted to eat at a tapas placeRestaurant that I like very much. I like having my buddy around, being with him usually feels easy and pleasant. But already on the morning of this Thursday, a familiar feeling arose within me: I want to stay at home today. Wonderful. There it is again, my personal classic. I don’t even know how many times I’ve experienced this situation. The annoying thing is that I don’t usually just think about it for five minutes and then make a decision. No. I think back and forth all day long, only notice a third of conversations, my thoughts drift off every few minutes and I still can’t get rid of my inner ambiguity. And the shame that I have to deal with such problems while other people are learning to walk again after an accident has unfortunately never brought me closer to a quick solution.

On that specific Thursday, I at least overcame my shame and spoke to a psychologist about my inner conflict. To my surprise, she didn’t roll her eyes, laugh, or look at me with pity, but instead asked me how I would describe the two sides that were playing a tug-of-war in me. What is behind the site that wants to cancel on my buddy and stay at home? What needs does she advocate for? What feelings do I associate with her? And the side that wants to hit him, what arguments does it have? How do I feel about her? The amazing thing is: these questions led me to a solution.

Dialectical approach: There is A and B and both are related – and are right

When I recently heard the episode “Resolving Inner Contradictions” from the podcast “Cared for Feeling” with Atze Schröder and Doctor Leon Windscheid, I spontaneously thought of this experience of mine, as the two of them seemed to have a very similar approach about dealing with internal conflicts. What they treat is called dialectical behavioral therapy and goes back to the American Marsha Linehans. The core idea, at least that’s what I heard, is that we have different sides, voices, parts (or whatever else we want to call it) within us that can contradict each other. For example, the need to be alone and for company. Or the need to be alone and the desire to be a reliable friend. Or the need for cheese pizza and the demand on yourself to eat healthy and be disciplined.

The dialectical thing is that the sides do not simply exist independently of one another, but are mutually dependent. After a week of cabbage soup diet, the need for cheese pizza becomes stronger. After a hectic day at the office, the need to be alone grows. Understanding and accepting that several voices can sound within us at the same time and that they all have their justification and reasons can, according to the idea of ​​this therapeutic approach, defuse the internal struggles. And now back to my experience – because I did it, I believe in it.

Identify arguments, seek compromise – and there is peace

On that Thursday, I was able to describe my inner arguments relatively easily: On the one hand, there was the need for peace, security and relaxation. On the other hand, I demand that I be reliable and not leave a good friend hanging for every little mood swing. This second side was supported by the desire for truffle gnocchi in white wine sauce and the hope that the evening would be nice and not tiring. In my opinion, both sides had their reasons, so a compromise was required: I would give preference to one side today and next time in a comparable situation it would be the other’s turn – especially if what I was told was the winning side this time advised, feels stupid today. Since on this particular day I was about to have a quiet weekend with enough time for myself, I listened to the voice that wanted me to go out for tapas. And as luck would have it, old schlawin, it gave me a very nice evening, which, if I could have foreseen it, I would have been reluctant to miss.

Interestingly, I haven’t experienced such an inner conflict since that Thursday in October, i.e. being torn between canceling and keeping the appointment. I also attribute this more to coincidence and other factors than to the fact that I consciously registered and allowed the two sides to argue with each other once – but what do I know. In any case, I like this idea of ​​dialectical behavioral therapy, that multiple voices can be right at the same time, even if they seem to contradict each other. That different ideas can be right next to each other. The pleasant consequence for me is more peaceful compromise and less fighting.

Sources used: Podcast “Cared for Feeling”, episode “Resolving Inner Contradictions”, February 13, 2024

Bridget

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