Our Inner Voices
To grasp the essence of this article, it's necessary to appreciate personality as a vast mosaic composed of pieces of different shapes and colors. At first glance, it appears as a unified piece, but if we zoom in, much like we would with an imaginary microscope, we find a multitude of interconnected parts that don't always harmoniously align...
When we say "I," we perceive ourselves as a complete mosaic. This possibility allows us to create a sense of identity. However, you've probably noticed a thousand voices in your head speaking all at once. Don't worry; you're not on the brink of madness. This natural condition arises because the pieces comprising the mosaic of your personality often can't reach a consensus. When this condition intensifies, it's referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder. Without going to such extremes, we all coexist with this multiplicity of "little selves" that interact with each other and often come into conflict. As a result of disagreements among these parts, "intra-personal conflicts" (within the person) arise. In other words, different "parts" of oneself desire, want, value, and are drawn to different motivations, guiding behaviors that are exclusive and sometimes outright contradictory.
Let's look at some examples to make it more understandable:
- "One part of me wants to finish my degree, and another part of me wants to travel and seek new experiences."
- "One part of me wants to take care of my health, exercise, and lead a healthy life, while another part of me wants to relax, smoke, and indulge in pure pleasure."
- "One part of me wants to commit to a relationship, and another part of me wants to feel free, without attachments, and enjoy singledom."
- "One part of me wants to be a present mother, and another part of me wants to focus on professional development."
We could continue listing countless internal contradictions, couldn't we? Now you can start to explore... What are your conflicting parts?
How to deal with our Internal Contradictions
These incompatibilities create a lot of "internal friction" and demand an enormous amount of energy. We feel "divided." We have the sensation that we can't simultaneously achieve the objectives each of these parts seeks, and at the same time, we don't want to give up on any of the possibilities. The mere idea of sacrificing one option to attain the other distresses and angers us.
These incongruities can lead to three different behaviors:
1- Action Blockage:
When we become immersed in considering the positive and negative aspects of one option or another, in the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, making it impossible to choose or commit to either. The difficulty of giving up the benefits of one of the possibilities inhibits action. For example, a person who cannot decide between different business options and therefore never starts or consolidates any business.
2- Oscillating Behavior:
When we alternate between two behaviors that are incompatible with each other. Imagine that you like to feel active and healthy, so you decide to start training, you maintain it for a while until you fall into periods of laziness and neglect. You hold onto one extreme of the polarity until you reach "saturation" and then swing to the opposite extreme of that polarity, again and again in relatively short periods of time. This also includes people who find excessive pleasure in food and are concerned about their silhouette, going back and forth in life between excesses and restrictions, unable to find a balance between both tendencies.
3- Exaggerating one extreme and suppressing the other:
When faced with this contradiction, we focus on one possibility and deny the other. The choice to engage in one behavior at the expense of another may be due to personal values or what we believe is more recognized and accepted in the culture to which we belong. It's the case of people torn between pleasing others or attending to their own needs. If they feel "selfish" every time they take care of themselves, they may build a personality oriented towards others' expectations and preferences at the expense of their own interests and desires. At some point, when the cup is full, those who have always been accommodating may burst into anger to release the pent-up frustration. However, when the tide recedes, they return to their usual behavior, of course, until they fill the same cup they just emptied.
Inhibition leads to immobilization.
Oscillation leads to instability.
Repression leads to exaggeration.
So, how do we unite what is divided? How do we reconcile what is incompatible?
Seeking to relieve tensions
Harmony among the embattled parts occurs when their voices are heard, and a deep understanding is revealed:
Every behavior is generated by a positive intention
This statement dispels the idea of a "self-sabotaging" unconscious that lurks and subdues us through our most vulnerable part. Even behaviors that seem incomprehensible and even harmful were born from a positive intention. For example, a person who smokes may have the positive intention of reducing anxiety, escaping from difficulties, or seeking tranquility. These benefits sustain the bad habit.
Every part of ourselves seeks well-being or aims to avoid discomfort. Recognizing and legitimizing this intention helps us not get angry with "our parts" and start looking for more favorable ways to achieve what we want without harming ourselves or others.
Questions we can ask ourselves:
How can I capture the attention of others without always standing out?
How can I feel close to others without getting sick to be cared for?
How can I feel loved by my friends without having to please them all the time?
How can I find pleasure in food without overdoing it?
The focus here is not on WHAT but on HOW. What are the means available to me to achieve what I desire?
Another important premise can be derived from this:
People choose the best option they consider available to them
It is then a matter of expanding possibilities to have healthier, more mature, and creative strategies that align with our intentions. Well-directed therapeutic work facilitates access to new and better tools for addressing these conflicts.
Reconciling our parts
To appease the conflict among our parts, we can start by:
1-Identifying the conflicting parts
That means dentifying behaviors that contradict each other, opposing values, exclusive options. It helps to take an inventory of these so-called "selves," assigning a name to each of them: "the innocent," "the entrepreneur," "the fearful one," "the victim," "the creative one," "the guilt-ridden one," "the aggressive one," "the procrastinator," "the peacemaker," "the just one," etc., etc.
2-Finding out the positive intention that each of the involved parts pursues.
Legitimize them and recognize the good that each of them brings. As you ascend the value scale, you may realize at this point that parts that seem irreconcilable "touch" each other or pursue the same thing or something similar in their way.
3-Facilitating a dialogue among them
Positioning ourselves as spectators and facilitators of the dialogue. Not putting ourselves in the position of having to choose one and banish another. It's about "integrating" the energies of the parts, intertwining one with the other, making space for them to express themselves. For example, a demanding part won't have to give up setting goals and striving for self-improvement; it will need to integrate the polarity that balances that exaggeration, considering the more idle and relaxed part that may have been left out and needs to express itself and be heard. Many times, the symptoms and illnesses of the body and mind are the ways in which the unheard parts clamor to be heard.
Every so often, we must have a "consortium meeting" to attend to all the parts, listen to all the voices, and reach agreements that are expressed in increasingly coherent actions. Incoherence in action results from parts that detach themselves like "springs" from that large mosaic composed of pieces we call personality.
Let's be democratic, let's be coherent. Let's have PEACE.
The more we know ourselves, the better we understand ourselves, the better we manage ourselves.