But we can also be “conflicted” within ourselves. When we hold opposing beliefs, viewpoints, ways of thinking or values, it produces conflict. This inconsistency or conflict will continue until we are able to reconcile the differences.
When there is a dissonance (difference) between attitudes and behavior, we may modify our attitudes and beliefs or we can change our behaviors.
We cannot stay in a state of conflict for long. If we hold values, beliefs, or attitudes that are mutually incompatible with each other or behave in ways contradictory to our values, we will experience enormous internal stress. That inconsistency becomes intolerable.
Let’s say for example, you are a smoker. You are aware of the dangers to your health but it is difficult to stop and you continue to smoke. You are now conflicted. You enjoy smoking but smoking is harmful. This inconsistency will continue to produce an uncomfortable tension until you are motivated to either give up smoking or change your thinking about the risks involved in smoking.
Your reasoning may go something like this:
• I enjoy smoking – it is relaxing
• The chances of developing health problems from smoking may not be as serious as most people say – I’ve known people who have smoked all their life and are okay
• A person can’t always avoid every possible dangerous situation and continue to enjoy life
• If I stopped, I would probably put on weight and then have a more serious health problem.
This conflict resolution is called denial. Since we don’t want to stop smoking, we justify our reasons to continue. That is true for overeating, drinking too much alcohol, doing drugs (including prescription pain drugs), participating in dangerous or risky activities, etc.
It is never easy to reconcile our beliefs with our behaviors. Often its because we haven’t identified the beliefs and values that are important to us. If we go against them we will experience turmoil and feel guilty. Take time to examine the beliefs you hold and values or importance you have put on them.
Values are useless unless we live by them or implement them – making an honest effort to live our values. Know when it is okay to compromise. Decide which are most important. Then don’t compromise.
A well-defined value system is basic to personal motivation, self-determination and life-enhancing goals. When we control the direction of our life, rather than allowing it to be controlled by forces and values outside ourselves, a feeling of self-affirmation is created.