You want, but something is holding you back.
You know you don't have to, but something pushes you in the opposite direction.
Latent conflicts are a constant in our life and often become a source of anguish, anxiety and frustration.
There is no doubt that being faced with internal conflict is not pleasant. At best it is an undesirable situation and, at worst, pathological.
But how we deal with these conflicts and how we resolve them decisively affects our level of satisfaction and happiness. And since we cannot avoid conflicts, it is better to equip ourselves with psychological tools to resolve them and even take advantage of them.
Internal conflict: the forces that push in opposite directions
Conflict, in psychology, implies the activation of two or more strong reasons that are incompatible with each other. It is a dilemma in which one reason distances us from the other, demanding an internal adjustment.
In some cases, the reasons behind the internal conflict are positive, we are drawn to both one decision and the other, such as when we have to decide between going to a concert or a play or we have to choose between two university careers that we both like.
In other cases, the reasons that fuel internal conflict are negative because none of the options appeals to us, but we are forced to make a decision; that is, we must choose the lesser evil. Deciding whether to stay in a job we don't like, or to give up and take the risk of unemployment, is an example of an internal conflict in which both solutions are perceived as negative or threatening.
Positive internal conflicts generate some tension and stress from having to make a decision, but negative internal conflicts can cause a lot of anxiety and distress. The latter are not easily resolved because we can feel helpless and paralyzed by the fear generated by the two solutions. In this way, a person could spend years trapped in conflict situations.
But the conflicts aren't always that obvious.
What is a latent conflict?
Conflicts are often unconscious; that is, we are unable to clearly identify the source of our anxiety. We feel very strong impulses, such as fear and hostility, but we don't understand where they come from.
The latent conflict is that which has not yet been expressed in an overt behavior that allows us to identify it, but is at the basis of other conflicts, thus making them difficult to understand.
This type of conflict feeds on resistance. We want something intensely, but subconsciously we refuse to enjoy it, feel it or fight for it. It is a contention, even if we are not fully aware of why we are containing ourselves. As a result, there is a misalignment of our desires, needs, thoughts and behaviors.
The 3 most common types of latent conflicts
We can be victims of different types of latent conflicts, some of the most common are:
1. Moral conflict. This internal conflict refers to two or more contradictory beliefs about ethical behavior. Generally in our conscious mind a belief prevails, but deep down we harbor an opposite belief, which we are usually afraid to recognize, but it is exerting a force from the unconscious that destabilizes us. It is common when we embrace a value system imposed on us by family or society (religion, political ideology), but which we have not thought about and which goes against some of our impulses, wants and needs.
2. Conflict of self-image. This conflict arises when we behave in a way that doesn't agree with what we think we are. We can be proud to be kind, but when faced with a provocation, we react aggressively. This latent conflict usually involves a problem of acceptance, we prefer to stick to the positive image we have formed of ourselves and deny the characteristics we consider undesirable, but since these do not disappear by magic, they continue to pulsate determining our behavior.
3. Interpersonal conflict. This conflict is not external, but has an internal origin, since it implies an internal ambivalence. It is usually common in couples and families as these types of relationships make us more vulnerable and sensitive, and this usually generates a lot of fear and resistance. In this case, the normal thing is to feel compelled to behave in a way that we do not perceive as authentic, just because it is supposed to be what we need to do. The problem is that this latent conflict, even if we don't recognize it, emerges in the form of resentment or tension.
Why do latent conflicts arise?
Latent conflict is not recognized because one of the reasons represents a severe psychological blow. Recognizing this opposing force can shake our image of ourselves or the world, so our mind activates a kind of defense mechanism through which it protects us because we believe that desire or instinct will make us - somehow - more. vulnerable. Usually it is the repression of a content, but since it continues to exist, its dynamic force pushes from the unconscious, generating a feeling of widespread malaise.
In reality, latent conflict is the expression of the idea that the mind - and therefore the brain - works - or should work - as a unified system in which there are no internal contradictions or disharmony. Indeed, psychology itself long considered conflict as a "divided personality" as opposed to an "I" which should be a single and harmonious entity, in such a way that any deviation from this inherent balance and cohesion was considered pathological.
Fundamentally, latent conflict, as indicated by a Columbia University study, is also the inability to take responsibility for one's own wants, drives and needs when they go against what one considers socially correct.
How to resolve a latent conflict?
Many of the impulses we experience, such as fear and hostility, are culturally frowned upon. Being immersed from birth in a moral system that determines what is good and what is not, very soon we learn that certain psychological contents are "dangerous" or "threatening", so we develop mechanisms that allow us to hide them. First we hide them from others, then from ourselves.
The problem is that hiding a latent conflict doesn't solve it. It just generates anxiety, anguish and frustration without anyone knowing why. The key is to allow these latent conflicts to enter consciousness in order to rationally analyze them.
Recognizing that our "I" is constantly evolving and that one of our most important tasks in life is to rediscover ourselves - and, if possible, change - will help us lower rational barriers and develop a more open mind in which latent conflicts do not they are seen as threats, but as opportunities for introspection and change.
We must understand that latent conflicts are an opportunity to get to know each other. After all, the presence of a conflict implies the need to face some truths. It is an invitation to take away the social strata and connect with our true essence, so that if we channel them well, they will allow us to live more fully, authentically and happily.