When The Battle is with Yourself

Every once in a while we find ourselves at war (or at least having a tiff) with ourselves.

I had one of those “at odds with the self” dreams some time ago. In the dream I was in a boxing ring with myself (yes you can do that sort of stuff in dreams). The two parts of the self were bashing away at each other and both our faces became swollen, bleeding, and disfigured. It was one of those slugfests where there was no winner but just a lot of damage.

Upon waking my first conscious question was “Now what was that all about?” Here was the interpretation that bubbled into my mind after some reflection.

I had been very critical with myself in the previous few days. I won’t bore you with details but that internal conflict bled into my dreams. The typical result of such internal battles is never very pretty. A lot of black eyes ensue.

So in the middle of meditation the next day, while trying to calm my mind that was behaving like a barrel full of hyperactive monkeys, I had this insight. Here goes.

In order to both understand and calm our inner battles, which can occur for a multitude of reasons, we need to experience that

it is better to be:

1.   Sad Rather Than Mad

Getting to our core emotional state is essential to insight. I had recently experienced a great loss (our beloved dog died of cancer). As a typical male, my default emotion was a low-grade anger. So it is quite understandable that I would have the boxing match dream. What I really needed to do was to continue to walk into my experience of sadness. This is by far a more difficult emotion than anger to process.

Question: What is your underlying emotion when at war with yourself?

2.   Aware Rather Than Unaware 

While we may sleepwalk our way through our waking state or through life in general our dreams do not let us off the hook. Finding ways to be present with our real emotions that are connected to our recent history (sometimes past) of trauma is the path to fully living our lives. The key to understanding is often found when we unlock the code in our dreams.

Question: What are your dreams telling you about your real conflict?

3.   Accepting Rather Than Resisting

The flame of our internal battle is often fanned when we do not accept what is or the reality of our circumstances. When we try to change what can’t be changed, all we do is hurt ourselves. Resistance always causes us to stay at a superficial level and not go deeper. Instead of letting us experience our emotions more fully we end up medicating ourselves with substances like alcohol to food or frenetic activity and/or twisting our real emotion into something more familiar and seemingly easier to handle.

Question: What will it take for you to stop resisting your unfortunate circumstances and come to a place of acceptance?

The war with the self is often reflected in dreams. It also comes out when we project our conflict onto others. We do this by becoming overly critical of the flaws (always easy to find) in others.

In the end we are the ones who negotiate our own peace treaty by

§      Honestly accepting what is

§      Being compassionate about our tendency to twist our emotions

§      Choosing not to dump our emotions on others

§      Desiring to live our lives as awake and aware as we possible can.

Then maybe the two parties boxing in the dream will be dancing with each other tomorrow night when we are asleep. It will be a sign that we are finally at peace with ourselves. For now.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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