Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe.
M. Csikszentmihalyi (a founder of Positive Psychology)
Itmonisation is the process of integrating various aspects of oneself. Essential to this is an ability to deal with inner conflicts. There is profound awareness that inner conflicts can have serious consequences (Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde are well known examples in literature) (1). So this area will mainly focus on resolving them.
Problems and inner conflicts
Problems are usually visible, inner conflicts are usually not. Problems become conflicts when they are internalised. For example, a problem with an abusive boss is out there, but it can create an inner conflict between your need for financial security and your need to maintain your dignity. This may be triggered by but is not the same as the conflict with your boss – it is a conflict between two aspects of yourself. Whatever problem you have you are likely to deal with it better if you resolve your inner conflict first – otherwise you are fighting on two fronts at the same time!
The secret of happiness?
It is practically impossible to avoid conflicts, but if left unresolved, they make us vulnerable and may even affect our mental health. Without a relatively coherent self, it is difficult to function well as you are pulled in different directions. Personal integration and harmony, on the other hand, create a sense of contentment; it was found that ‘people are happier if they have managed to resolve their inner conflicts, and achieve some degree of integration of their personality.’ (2) This suggests that, unlike pleasure or satisfaction that depend more on external stimulation and outside events (e.g. agreeable stimuli, success, recognition etc.), happiness ensues from our internal state (‘peace of mind’). So, let’s look more closely at how we can resolve inner conflicts.