What is an intrapersonal conflict (+4 steps to overcome it)

In this article, we will explain what intrapersonal conflict is, its characteristics and main causes. We will also recommend you 4 steps(tips) to overcome any intrapersonal conflict. 

What is Intrapersonal Conflict?

Intrapersonal conflict refers to an internal crisis that happens within an individual, and may be caused by frustrations. Intrapersonal conflict can lead to depression, insecurity, abandonment of goals and inability to socialize correctly. Intrapersonal conflict represents the antagonism of intrapersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal Conflict: Characteristics and Main Causes

Intrapersonal conflict is defined as the internal crisis that occurs in the mind of an individual, generally caused by frustrations, and which leads to depression, insecurity, abandonment of goals and inability to socialize correctly.

Intrapersonal conflict represents the antagonism of intrapersonal intelligence. This theory corresponds to the models developed in 1983 by Howard Gardner on the studies of multiple intelligences.

What causes an intrapersonal conflict?

Intrapersonal conflicts are generally caused by the clash between what a person wants and reality. When one lacks a correct emotional intelligence, the individual is incapable of knowing oneself, therefore he cannot interpret correctly the failures or mishaps in his emotional or professional life.

Without proper self-analysis, there is no self-esteem, and without that clarity about personal value, making decisions raises enormous doubts and paralyzes the individual. These decisions can range from the simplest to the most crucial.

A subject in intrapersonal conflict usually presents some of these signs:

  • Your self-esteem is very low.
  • You are unable to perform an introspection to correct behaviours and actions that do not favour you.
  • Cannot calm down in stressful situations.
  • You are not aware of your limitations.
  • You cannot align yourself in the present, in the here and now.
  • You cannot understand yourself and neither do others and therefore it is difficult for you to work with other people.

Intrapersonal conflict in today’s society

This pathology has been multiplied in today’s societies by the diversity and complexity of social interactions. Some common examples are as follows:

Internal contradictions due to male and female roles – As a consequence of the increase in LGBT communities, sex reassignments are now carried out at an early age on children, which can generate confusion and contradictions.

Individuals of different nationalities in an environment – Many displaced people or immigrants fail to be aware of their new realities and locate themselves in the present.

Inability to attribute meaning to religious precepts – This represents an outstanding case for homosexual communities and their role in religious practices.

Prevalence of violent contexts – Children and adolescents who suffer school bullying see how their self-esteem is detrimental, and on many occasions, they do not have the intrapersonal intelligence to understand and discriminate between their internal value and an external attack.

The best recommendation for someone dealing with these feelings is to see a specialist.

Starting from a good expert guide, these mental battles can be easily eradicated without leading to depression or other severe pathologies.


  • Disputes in the couple because one of the members is very suspicious of everyone.
  • Loss of employment, as an individual has very low self-esteem that does not allow her to carry out her work comfortably, thinking that she is useless.
  • Make use of bullying at school because you have to pay your academic frustrations with someone more brilliant than you.
  • Break a friendship because the individual needs to be the centre of attention constantly.
  •  Generate hatred towards the immigrant because you are afraid of losing your space and customs.

The 4 steps to overcome * any * intrapersonal conflict

The four steps or the four phases in which I believe that any intrapersonal conflict can be resolved are these:

Acknowledge it

The first thing is to understand the deep root of the problem, which is always inside. The cause of our problems is never on the outside, in others, although external circumstances can awaken, make it more visible or palpable, a conflict, emptiness or blockage that we already have inside.

This conflict usually tends to come from a limiting belief installed in the subconscious, due to one or more experiences that we misinterpreted at the time (due to not having enough information or help to frame them healthily) and that generated a rigid way of thinking. and interpret situations.

The key in this first step of any healing process is to locate that root, that core of thought and feeling, from which everything else is generated. Limiting beliefs can be conscious or unconscious, and some very common are, for example:

  • “For others to love or accept me, I have to be … X”
  •  “Life is dangerous and I have to be alert all the time”
  • “People like me don’t deserve to live”
  • “If I don’t get X thing, I will die”
  • “My value depends on what I have»

Once the unconscious idea that is perpetuating the problem is located, the first step is already taken. Some say that realizing is the most important step, but it is not, it is only the first; If we realize the root of the problem but do not know how to solve it, nothing will change, except that we will add more frustration to the equation.

 Emotional drainage

The next thing in the process of leaving the conflict behind is to unload the entrenched emotions related to that particular conflict, sometimes contained for years or decades. This can be scary for people with difficulty expressing their emotions directly, but it is a necessary step to regain balance.

Emotions are energies made to pass through the body momentarily and generate an action appropriate to the needs of the moment, but what we are taught in the West is to repress and deny them, which is just the opposite for what their natural function is: go through our body and move to action (e-motion, energy-movement).

Healthy emotional discharge is one that leaves behind a feeling of relief, and sometimes tiredness. But, on the contrary, an unhealthy emotional discharge is one that we constantly justify, rationalize and rethink, regenerating emotion over and over again in an endless loop.

Change the theme

This is the most difficult step of all, or at least it is the first time we go through it; It consists of reviewing the topic or issue of the intrapersonal conflict and learning to look at it in a new way, from a new perspective. One of the reasons for not being able to overcome intrapersonal conflict is that we are not willing to change our way of thinking, or we do not know how to give new meanings to what happens to us (or happened to us).

The interpretation that we make of what we live is something very personal and often involuntary, and this interpretation is precisely what determines what the lived experience is going to have for us, and how we are going to live it (good, regular or bad). 

In other words, what makes you happy or unhappy is not what happens to you, but what you think about what happens to you.


The last step (but not least), is to put into practice this new way of looking at ourselves, at others, at Life, and at the subject or issue that was conflictive for us.

The physical body has memorized certain patterns of behaviour and feeling, and it needs us to give it new learning, new experiences, and positive reinforcements to finish installing conflict resolution.

To put into action these new understandings and meanings that we have taken in the 3 previous steps, we need to be open to Life. We must be brave to dare to provoke situations in which we can verify that the new meanings that we have learned are true, and we must also have our senses alert to locate all the confirmations of the new meanings that our daily experience is going to give us.

And every time something happens that confirms that the new meaning or the new way of thinking is true, we can make a mental note saying to our body: “See?”.

This, which may seem silly, is not at all. This last step helps to strengthen the previous 3 steps, preventing them from being blown away by the wind of old inertias and mental and emotional customs.

Finally, I want to remember that you have to be very patient with the processes of growth and evolution, both with those of others and (especially) our own. Sometimes we fall into the mistake of rushing and getting impatient with what appear to be “relapses” or steps back, but this is the result of a lack of knowledge and perspective:

We may think that we know ourselves quite well, but normally there are 90% of our psyche that we do not know (the subconscious), and the process of making the unconscious conscious (putting Light in the Shadow) is a long way that can take a lifetime. In other words, there is much that we do not know, and the process is slow by definition.

Furthermore, we tend to believe that our problems are “only ours” and that it is very difficult for us to overcome them is a personal failure. The truth is that we are the depositories of thousands of years of human tragedies, transmitted from generation to generation through the genetic chain down to the last link: us. Our problems are not “ours”, they are of all Humanity. That is why they cost (sometimes) so much to overcome because we are not only processing an individual burden, but this burden is attached to the weight of all collective suffering, past and present.

So, patience. Patience with the process.


In this article, we explained what intrapersonal conflict is, its characteristics and main causes. We also recommended you 4 steps (tips) to overcome any intrapersonal conflict. 

Intrapersonal conflict is defined as the internal crisis that occurs in the mind of an individual, generally caused by frustrations, and which leads to depression, insecurity, abandonment of goals and inability to socialize correctly.


1) Acknowledge it: understand the root of the problem.

2) Emotional drainage: expressing emotion

3) Change the theme: give it new meanings

4) Action: test the new “I”

If we skip any of the 4 steps (2 and 3 can go in a different order), the process will not be complete and we will probably repeat the conflict over and over again until it is fully resolved; so it is interesting to know in what step we usually stumble and we have not just done.

If you have any questions or comments in the content, please let us know!

FAQ about Intrapersonal conflict

What is an intrapersonal conflict example?

An intrapersonal conflict example is when you feel completely miserable at your job, but you have to go because you think you cannot do anything else. Without proper self-analysis, there is no self-esteem, and without that clarity about personal value, making decisions raises enormous doubts and paralyzes the individual. 

What is the difference between interpersonal conflict and intrapersonal conflict?

The difference between interpersonal conflict and intrapersonal conflict is that the latter is an internal conflict (with oneself). Interpersonal conflict is usually between two people or more. 

What are the 4 types of conflicts?

The 4 types of conflicts are conflict with others (interpersonal), with oneself (intrapersonal), with the environment and with the supernatural. 

How do you deal with intrapersonal conflict?

To deal with intrapersonal conflict you have to first recognize it, to live the emotions that it is causing, to make a plan and change your current situation.

Further reading

Interpersonal Conflict, by William Wilmot 

Interpersonal Conflict: An Existential Psychotherapeutic and Practical Model.by Karen Weixel Dixon

The Little Book of Inner Peace (MBS Little book of…), by Ashley Davis Bush

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh 


 Brown, J. S. (1957). Principles of intrapersonal conflict. Conflict Resolution, 1(2), 135–154.

Cox, Kathleen B. PhD, RN The Effects of Intrapersonal, Intragroup, and Intergroup Conflict on Team Performance Effectiveness and Work Satisfaction, Nursing Administration Quarterly: April-June 2003 – Volume 27 – Issue 2 – p 153-163

Conflict, edited by Professor of Human Geography and Director Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences Martin Jones, Dr, Martin Jones, Andrew Fabian

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!