Self-conflict refers to a state of internal disagreement or tension within oneself, often arising from conflicting goals, beliefs, or values. It is a common experience that can occur at any stage of life, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including personal circumstances, external pressures, and psychological factors.
The important thing to know and understand is that self-conflict can play a significant role in parenting. Parents often face internal struggles and tensions as they try to navigate the many challenges associated with raising a child. Here are some typical scenarios which we experience as parents from time to time, and what we commonly address as “guilt.”
- Coping with parenting challenges
Parenting can be challenging, and parents may experience self-conflict as they try to cope with the emotional and practical demands of raising a child. For example, they may struggle with feelings of guilt or inadequacy when they are not able to meet their child's needs or expectations.
Oftentimes, we struggle to define values and set boundaries for our children due to self-conflicting beliefs. This usually happens when we compare our own childhood to that of our children, creating inner tension and conflict in our minds.
- Juggling with competing demands
Parenting is just one of the many roles that is tied to a parent who has a family to raise. For instance a mother also has to ensure that she is managing her other roles and responsibilities in a just manner, such as that of a wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, neighbor, or a professional at work. For a father, there is the also the responsibility of being a husband, professional at work, son, son-in-law, neighbor, etc. This is a major reason why parents are faced with the challenge of juggling between the many demands, such as the need to provide for their children while also attending to other responsibilities such as work commitments, family affairs, and their own needs and desires. This can create huge internal tension as parents struggle to find a balance that works for them as well as their families. And, when we add to all of these the fear of failure, it can fuel anxiety - making it more difficult for parents to take risks or even pursue their personal goals.
- Making difficult decisions
As parents, we are often faced with the challenge of making important choices and decisions, be it in the long run or short term. These choices and decisions may center around adopting a particular parenting style, making decisions about your child's education, or dealing with health issues. These decisions can be overwhelming and create internal conflict as parents try to balance their own desires and values with what they believe is best for their child. For instance, some parents choose to migrate to far off lands, in the hopes of finding better work opportunities to support their families. Such decisions involve taking great risks and can impact each family member in a different way, making them difficult to make and implement. Feelings of self-doubt can create inner conflict by making it difficult for a person to trust their own judgment and make decisions confidently.
- Developing a sense of self
It is challenging for parents to develop a strong sense of self as they try to balance their roles as caregivers alongside meeting their own needs. This can create internal conflict as parents try to maintain their own as well as their child's well-being. In some cases, unresolved trauma from the past can also lead to self doubt, such as conflict within the marriage or childhood trauma. These past instances of unresolved emotional pain can ignite inner conflict by causing a person to feel stuck or disconnected with themselves and their surroundings.
Getting around the Inner-Critic
The inner critic or the voice within us, that often criticizes and judges oneself harshly, is to blame after all. As a result of which, we often engage in negative self-talk which makes it difficult for us as parents to accept and appreciate ourselves, as often as we should.
In order to address this issue, it is crucial to acknowledge our feelings of self-doubt and helplessness. And, this can be done by understanding ourselves better. Here are some important reminders to help address these feelings.
1. Understand that self conflict is normal.
Self conflict is secondary to human nature. Each one of us experiences it in varying situations and context. It can be both positive and negative, depending upon the outcome that it generates. For instance, it can lead to personal growth and transformation when an individual challenges their beliefs and values, to explore new perspectives. On the other hand, it can be a source of stress and anxiety, particularly when individuals feel trapped between competing demands or expectations.
2. Self conflict can manifest in different ways.
Self conflict can manifest in various ways, such as indecision, procrastination, guilt, avoidance, or self-doubt. It can also be expressed through emotional states such as anxiety, depression, or anger.
3. It can be resolved.
Self conflict can be resolved through acknowledgment and adopting the right strategies (more to follow), including self-reflection, seeking support from others, seeking professional help, and making deliberate changes in behavior or thought patterns. Accepting that there is no one "right" solution or path can also help to alleviate the pressure of self conflict.
4. It can be a valuable learning experience.
Self conflict can be a valuable learning experience, as it can provide individuals with opportunities to examine their values, beliefs, and goals, and to develop a deeper understanding of themselves. By working through self conflict, individuals can become more self-aware, more resilient, and better equipped to deal with future challenges.
Mindful Strategies to Adopt
There is no denying that inner conflict can be exhausting and also lead one further into a state of demonization and depression. As much as it is a natural and anticipated challenge that comes with parenting, it is important for parents to be aware of these internal struggles and to seek support and guidance when needed. By acknowledging and working through their own internal conflicts, parents can become more resilient and effective caregivers.
Here are some strategies that can be helpful for parents and caregivers in navigating and managing their internal tensions.
1. Identify the source of the conflict.
The first step in handling self conflict is to identify the source of the tension. Self-reflection is a valuable tool for exploring one's thoughts, beliefs, and values. Taking time to reflect on what is causing the internal conflict, and considering different perspectives and options, can help to clarify one's thoughts and feelings and identify a path forward.
2. Reframe the conflict.
Reframing the conflict can shift the focus from what is not working to what is working. For example, focusing on the positive aspects of a situation or identifying opportunities for growth and learning can help to reframe the conflict.
Self-conflict can be exacerbated by negative self-talk, such as self-criticism or self-doubt. It's important to recognize these negative thoughts and challenge them by reframing them from a different perspective. Facing difficulty in making decisions can also lead to self conflict by prolonging the process and creating anxiety and uncertainty. So making a decision, even if it's not perfect, can help to move past the internal tension and gain a sense of control over present circumstances.
3. Seek support.
Seeking support from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can provide an opportunity to talk through feelings and concerns, gain new insights, and develop effective coping strategies to address stressful circumstances.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be beneficial as it involves paying attention to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, and taking the time to be grateful can help to calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. It is important that you make the effort to find out what works best for you!
5. Practice self-compassion.
Practicing self-compassion forms an essential part of self care. It is important to treat oneself with kindness, empathy, and understanding and this involves acknowledging and accepting one's feelings and experiences without judgment or self-criticism, and extending the same level of kindness and compassion to oneself that one would offer to a friend.
Engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or pursuing an interest/hobby, can help to reduce stress and promote emotional well-being.
6. Take action.
Taking action to address the conflict can help to reduce feelings of helplessness and increase feelings of empowerment. Breaking down the problem into smaller, more manageable steps can help to make the situation feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
7. Making dua.
Without a doubt, supplication is one of the most powerful tools that a believer possesses and one that can significantly help in dealing with prevailing challenges and easing conflict within the self.
Here are some duas that may be helpful for those struggling to find inner-peace and strength to cope with parental demands and expectations. Consider printing out the graphic and posting in so that you can refer to it regularly and memorize these supplications.
These are just a few examples of duas that can be used to ease self conflict. It is important to remember that dua is not a magic formula, but rather a way of seeking Allah's help and guidance in difficult times. By turning to Allah and seeking His support, parents can find comfort and guidance in the face of self conflict.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.