What is an internal conflict?

An internal conflict is a psychological struggle whereby someone finds himself or herself in difficulty when making a decision during a personal situation.

You are grappling with an internal conflict if you are caught between (usually two) choices that are conflicting desires. It is a question of engaging with our psyche in order to make the right decision that is in our best interests.

Often, decisions we make can have a deep impact on our lives. Thus, the critical nature of these internal struggles can cause us to feel great angst and frustration.

We may feel insecure and powerless as the conflict of interests within us looms over us with increasing intensity. This makes the process of overcoming such struggles much harder. We become increasingly distressed, so the internal conflict will not be resolved.

Such dilemmas are commonplace within our minds. When we have to make important and hard decisions, we can struggle to choose between two co-existing but antithetical desires that can be confusing and troubling. Questioning what is best for us is a big deal and the gravity of this can leave us to be overwhelmed and unsure how to proceed.

Therefore, we must find a way of dealing with these predicaments in a sensible yet honest manner. This way, we ensure that we are not overcome by crucial, integral moments in our lives and our best interests are met.

How to deal with internal conflict

The way to deal with internal conflict is to be self-aware.

We should cultivate awareness of ourselves by concentrating on our most prominent emotions and what they are telling us. We should also consider our place in the external world.

Overcoming inner struggles and making coherent and mature decisions when we face an internal conflict is a matter of analysing our lives. We should take the time for reflection of our wants, desires and our character. This will allow for a better understanding of who we are and our place in society.

Mind the psychological barriers that might be sabotaging your decision making

When there is an internal conflict in our minds, there are a number of things that may make the situation worse. This would cause us to bring upon ourselves a state of deep consideration and reflection. We must do this to surpass the psychological barriers that lie in the way of us when we need to make a decision.

These barriers could be your mind resisting opting for a certain choice; one choice may be desirable to you, yet, the other is the more rational and sensible option. Your mind may resist the rational option, yet, you know it to be a mature and responsible decision.

Another example is if the situation involves an object or a person of personal attachment. This could range anything from a lover to a sentimental heirloom, for example. In this case, you may find it difficult to make a decision because the stakes are so high.

If you are unaware of what you want from life, unaware of your identity or just don’t know what you want to do with your life, then you will find it very difficult to overcome an internal conflict.

internal conflict struggle

Having a vision, even if it is rough, of where your circumstances are heading, having some set of beliefs and having an understanding of your character allows for your decision making to have something to be targeted at.

Another important point about dealing with inner strife is that there needs to be a balance between emotion and rationale.

If we indulge too much in our emotional desires and needs, then our rational judgement may be clouded, and our choices may be misguided and reckless.

Whereas, only focusing on rationale and logic can be insensitive to our emotional and sentimental needs that need to be satisfied. This means that we could potentially deprive ourselves of contentment and happiness. Finding a balance between the two is crucial so that we make an informed decision that will meet our best interests.

Relax, reflect and evaluate so you can be sure you have done all you can to make the right decision.

Types of internal conflict

A dilemma posed by an internal conflict is usually encompassed by some emotional or ethical question. We will often all face the same types of conflicts in our lives, although the nature of them will vary from person to person.

Here are a few examples of internal conflicts that we may find ourselves in at some point in our lives. Keep in mind the above examples of how we can overcome these struggles as well. We must self-reflect to make us aware of our needs and listen to our emotions and be rational in an equal manner.


Moral conflict is where you must decide between two choices that may be opposite in nature but can be equal in moral value. Each choice may provide some good, but maybe at the expense of causing a predicament elsewhere.

A good way to demonstrate this is a thought experiment posed by moral philosopher Philippa Foot called The Trolley Problem

A train is hurtling along a track that has five people tied to it. There is a lever to divert the train onto another track where there is only one person tied down.

Either five people will die or just one person will die. The dilemma you have is whether you should leave the train on its natural course and not interfere, or whether you should pull the lever, killing one person but saving five other lives in the process.

The thought experiment is a good way to illustrate what a moral conflict consists of. It also demonstrates the strain and tension it can place on our psyche when considering morality.

More realistic examples can help us see how we can fall into struggles of this type.

make decisions

Perhaps your colleague doesn’t turn up to work one day because he had plans but was unable to book the day off. Your colleague is on their final warning and if found out, they could lose their job. They ask you to lie for them and say they had a family emergency so they will be off the hook.

Your colleague is being irresponsible and deserves to be disciplined, but they could potentially lose their job. You value honesty and believe in telling the truth, but telling the lie would save your colleague from the hardship of becoming jobless.

What do you do? This is a lesser catastrophic scenario. But it still can be translated to more serious situations such as lying for someone in court or with the issue of euthanasia.

Clearly, moral conflicts can range in degree of seriousness. The consequences of some choices can be on a much larger scale than some minor scenarios. However, the process of overcoming such situations is the same.

If you become frightened or scared by such critical moral dilemmas, you must take time to reflect on the situation. Take deep consideration of your own feelings and try to balance it with a rational response to the situation. You should also consider the effects your actions may have on others in the process.

Moral conflicts are probably the most difficult to overcome. However, by not letting the overwhelm take over and leaving time to analyse these struggles thoughtfully and responsibly, we can begin to tackle these conflicts.

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