Transcript recorded and transcribed by Ana Pejcinova, PhD
This transcript was recorded during a seminar by Martyn Carruthers in Poland on inner conflict. A portion of this was cut and posted as How children create conflict.
People with obsessions or compulsions often describe a predictable structure of self-sabotage, conflicts, cognitive dissonance and unassimilated emotions. Here Martyn
Transcript of Conflict Resolution
- This is one of Martyn’s systemic strategies. Here Martyn helps a man explore the structure of his ongoing conflict, and ways to resolve it.
- The demonstration subject, call him Jan, is Martyn’s student. He trusts Martyn and is familiar with Martyn’s systemic models – he does not need to fight them.
- The audience consisted of therapists, psychologists, counselors, life coaches and NLP practitioners.
- Martyn often pauses demonstrations to give his subjects time to ponder what they have discovered and to offer insights to the class.
- If you try to apply these steps with your own conflicts, be careful and gentle. Give yourself time to ponder whatever you find.
- If you follow this strategy with your own conflict and you experience strong emotions, consider contacting us. We help people to resolve self-sabotage and inner conflict to find an inner peace.
- If you follow this strategy with your own conflict; note that Martyn pays attention to non-verbal communications (unconscious body language) of which few people are aware. Please avoid making important decisions unless you feel sure that your emotions are stable and that your decisions are mature.
- Solutions for complex conflicts include assimilating the events and emotions in which the conflicts were created, and replacing limiting beliefs.
Jan is a businessman about 45 years old. He and Martyn briefly discuss a major conflict (boom-bust cycles of success and failure in his many businesses).
They decide it would not be appropriate for a demonstration and they
agree to explore Jan’s conflict about smoking cigarettes.
Conflict Resolution Transcript Part 1
Martyn: [To class] I ask that you all remain silent. I will ask Jan some goal questions and explore what he hopes to achieve. Jan and I briefly discussed his general situation, and I suspect a complex conflict.
Normally I would start by saying something like; [To Jan] Hello Jan, it is an interesting day today, the weather is changing, and maybe you can change too. Thank you for volunteering. What would be wonderful for you to achieve or to change?
Jan: I have an issue with smoking: [leans forward, uses his right hand to point right and then left in front of him] one part of me wants to smoke, and another does not want to, absolutely not [coughs].
Martyn: [To class] Note that Jan did not state a goal. Few people in conflict can congruently say what they want. What did you notice about Jan’s movements? Jan says that part of him wants to smoke, and part of him wants to quit smoking. Addictions and habits typically involve identity loss. Notice Jan’s physiology when he considers this.
Martyn: [To Jan] Tell us again, Jan! Which is which?
Jan: [repeats body movements]: Smoking [points to right front]. Not smoking [points to left front].
Martyn: [To class] Imagine that you can hallucinate the space around Jan, imagine that you can almost see his two motivations, one on each side in front of him. Let’s explore this.
Martyn: [To Jan] By the way Jan, where would your father appear, when you want to smoke? [This refers to the earlier topic of relationship diagnosis and Jan understands that Martyn is asking for his subjective experience. Jan gazes right and then points to his right side]
Martyn: And mother?
[Jan gazes left and then points to his left side]
Martyn: [To class] Jan’s answers indicate that his conflict about smoking might be parent related. Do you remember my family map positions? Jan gestures to the left about “Stop smoking” and to his right about “Smoking“. So perhaps it’s a parental conflict that Jan has carried into his own life. But that’s just a guess and as this is not Soul-guesswork … let’s explore …
Martyn: [To Jan] Did your parents smoke?
Jan: Mother never smoked.
Martyn: And father?
Jan: [looks surprised] All his life!
Martyn: Thanks Jan. [To class] Do you see how inner conflicts can reflect family dynamics? Jan may have a deeper conflict, something like: “Do I follow my father and annoy my mother, or do I please my mother and irritate my father?” Can you perceive a relationship aspect of his smoking conflict?
Martyn: [To Jan] Do you really want to quit smoking?
Jan: [opens eyes wide, looks around, at the floor, to the left, to the right, lifts his left hand slightly and opens his mouth but says nothing and looks at Martyn. Laughter in class]
Martyn: [To class] Remember that moment – that’s what conflict physiology looks like!
Jan: As I said, one part of me wants to, another part of me doesn’t. I want to.
Martyn: To stop, or to smoke?
Jan: [louder voice] To stop!
Martyn: Can you imagine a future Jan in a smoke-free zone?
Jan: [his voice becomes high-pitched – like choking] I can.
Martyn: Really? Where?
Jan: He’s in a fog.
Martyn: How far away is future Jan’s fog?
Jan: Not far! Two steps.
Martyn: What would be on your first step, do you think?
Jan: [Gazes about one meter in front of him] Making the decision …
Martyn: And the first step is here? [Points about one meter in front of Jan]
Martyn: And the second step?
Jan: There [points about two 2 meters in front]
Martyn: Excellent. What might be on the second step?
Martyn: Great. And if the first step is here [points one meter in front of Jan], maybe that’s where you make a decision. That seems like quite a big elephant, so let’s check. [Martyn often uses an elephant metaphor, “How do you swallow an elephant?“] Can you make this decision easily, or … ?”
Jan: Not so easy.
Martyn: Maybe there are little steps before you make a decision? What do you think would be the first step toward making a decision?
Jan: On the first step [left foot jerks] I need more motivation [gestures with right hand].
Martyn: Thanks Jan [To class] Did you notice Jan’s body when he talked about finding more motivation? First he moved his left foot – that’s the side that doesn’t want to smoke. And then he moved his right hand and said, “I need more motivation” and that’s the side that wants to smoke … I’m saying what I see Jan do, for you people who are too busy writing notes to … please watch Jan carefully.
Martyn: [To Jan] Where could you find more motivation? Do you need to see somebody die of lung cancer? Maybe something else?
Jan: [sighs, lowers voice tone] Exercises.
Martyn: What exercises would you like to do instead of smoking?
Jan: [left foot jerks as right side relaxes, then overall posture drops] Tai Chi.
Martyn: Thanks [To class] Look at Jan’s physiology! Do his left side and the right side give the same message? The right side seems to show “Let’s stay on this chair,” while the left side may show “Come on, let’s go!” When does Jan’s motivation drop?
Martyn: [To Jan] How do you feel when you smoke, Jan?
Jan: Physically not very well, and mentally not good too, if I’m with someone who doesn’t smoke.
Martyn: So when you smoke you do not feel good. How do you feel when you don’t smoke?
Jan: When I smoke, I start to control myself, that for other people it may not be alright, they give me negative feedback, so I control myself [Such bipolar sentences are common during conversations with people with complex conflict.]
Martyn: Of course … what happens when you stop smoking?
Jan: I’m more relaxed.
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Page 2 – Conflict Resolution Transcript
Explore One Side of Conflict
Martyn: What motivates you to smoke?
Jan: It is like the deepest need of my organism.
Martyn: Where would you feel this deepest need of your organism?
Jan: It is on my right side.
Martyn: Good, Jan, imagine you can see on your right side this deepest need of your organism for smoking. What would it look like?
Jan: Like a clown.
Martyn: A big clown? A little clown?
Jan: A big one.
Martyn: And what would the big clown say to you?
Jan: He says, “Let’s have fun!”
Martyn: Great, does the big clown motivate you to enjoy life?
Jan: [nods his head with a smile]
Explore Other Side of Conflict: Part 2
Martyn: Now you can see what motivates you to smoke. And, on the other side, what is your motivation to not smoke? What would that look like?
Jan: Like a very beautiful white birch tree.
Martyn: And is that birch tree big or little?
Jan: Quite big.
Martyn: How do you feel when you look towards this big white birch tree?
Explore Integration of Parts 1 and 2
Martyn: Take a moment to look at them both together: the clown on your right, and the white birch on your left: two different ways to enjoy life. Too bad that they cannot work together. Now you can have all of the fun of the clown, or the peaceful beauty of the white birch tree. [Pause] What would your life be like, if these two sides of you could find a way to work together – to be together?
Jan: I would feel totally resourceful, open and joyful.
Martyn: How would your life change if you live like that?
Jan: I think … ummm … [Jan’s muscles relax and he gazes into space]
Martyn: Thank you, Jan. I’ll talk to the class for a minute.
Theory of Identity Conflict
Martyn: [to class] Coaching conflict can be complex, so I’ll break it into steps. On one side Jan [points to Jan’s right] finds motivation to smoke, and on the other side of him [points to Jan’s left] is motivation to not smoke, and Jan lives with this double motivation. He can feel good when he smokes, and he can feel good when he doesn’t smoke. But he experiences conflict when he decides which to do.
You could call the clown a “personality side” of Jan, or you can call it a “part” or “ego state” or a “complex”. Jan describes the qualities of the white birch tree on the left. As Jan looks at his representation of his future, he sees fog between him and the future he wants to live.
During conflict coaching, you can probably find two conscious parts quickly, two motivations towards two conflicting behaviors. Often a person likes one side and dislikes the other: [opens one palm, as if holding a “part” and speaks with an enthusiastic voice] “This is the side of me that wants me to be healthy, [opens the other palm and speaks with a disgusted voice] and this is the bad side of me that makes me eat cake.” Many clients say things like, “Help me get rid of a horrible side of me!”
Imagine that I am your client and I’m talking to you directly: I say “I have a bad part of me that makes me do a bad thing, and I want you to help me kill it and throw it away.” What’s your next step?
Student: “What are the benefits of the horrible part?”
Martyn: Good! [acts client] Benefits? What do you mean by benefits? I can’t stop X, but – I hate that part of me! There can be no benefits from doing it, it’s killing me, it’s antisocial.
Student: Not benefits from doing it, but benefits from killing that part.
Martyn: Good question. [acts as a client] If you cut it away, I could forget about it entirely… [to student] What would be your next step?
Student: What does this part want to tell you? [Jan’s left hand twitches but he still gazes into space]
Martyn: Good! [acts as a client] Eugh! It makes me sick. I don’t like it!
Martyn: Often a client will like only one part [acts client]: “There’s a beautiful part of me that wants me to be happy, and there’s a dark side of me that makes me feel sad.” Or “I want to live and I hate the part of me that has cancer,” Or “I want peace but there is a demon in me that makes me angry,” Or “I dream of harmony but I have an aggressive side that destroys my relationships.”
In my opinion, many people pay us to make friends with their own parts that they do not like. And then we can introduce those parts to our clients in friendly ways. Sometimes one part of a person is also identified with someone else – a person may jump in and out of deep sadness or rage or anxiety as they change their identifications.
We had a client who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. We … maybe we don’t understand what schizophrenia meant to the psychiatrist who referred her to us. This woman seemed to have a part that was frightened, and she hated feeling fear. For two hours, all we did was to make friends with her fearful side. Then she could feel protected by her fear and we could discuss and plan her life goals.
(Months later this woman appears mentally healthy and takes no medication – see psychosis)
Online coaching to resolve inner conflict
Jan [sighs and starts looking around]
For example, [To Jan] would you like to continue researching your conflict?
Jan [smiles and nods]
Jan, on your right side of you there was a motivation to smoke, a clown, and on the left side there was motivation to be healthy, a beautiful white birch tree. I wonder what the clown would say about the white birch tree?
Jan: That it is beautiful.
Martyn: If the birch tree could talk; what would the birch say about the clown?
Jan: That it is so jovial.
Martyn: What does the clown know? What can the birch learn from the clown about life?
Jan: That it is possible to live life with joy, that life means joy.
Martyn: Can you ask the tree, would it like the clown to teach it about the joy of life?
Jan: It does, and in the same time it knows that it is important to find all joy of life.
Martyn: A wise tree! And what does the clown need to learn from the birch tree about life?
Jan: It is not necessary to be a clown all the time – it is enough to be a clown for performances only.
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Conflict Resolution Transcript Page 3
Part 3 becomes Conscious
Martyn: [To class] Note that Jan’s physiology is now symmetrical. At this moment I see no sign of conflict. Jan can appreciate a side of him that wants to have fun, and he can appreciate a side of him that wants to live peacefully. My next question may be: how can Jan maintain this state through life challenges? Notice what happens when we explore integration.
[To Jan] Imagine that you can live your life with the beautiful white birch and the clown together inside you, so that on every step you take, you can feel the harmony of the birch and the joy of the clown. How would it be to live your life like that, Jan?
Jan: Super … it feels … wonderful [Part 3]
Martyn: Imagine you can take a wonderful step into the future, and live your life in harmony, peace and fun. Maybe it could be wonderful to live with no inner objections … no conflict.
Part 4 becomes Conscious
Jan: [flat voice and tiny movements of hands, shoulders and head] In such a life there would be no obstacles.
Martyn: [To class] Look at Jan, his body started a series of slight movements, so it seems that another part might soon be conscious. Or maybe I’m wrong; maybe there is no objection. [Saying that is provocation for Jan, whose unconscious twitches become stronger.]
[To Jan] Maybe this change would be perfect for you without any problems.
Jan: Yes. [with weaker and weaker voice] Let’s do it.
Martyn: Super! [To class] I taught you all how to deal with Yes, but and Yes/No objections … here is an example of Yes/No
Martyn [To Jan] Jan, I would be happy to help you make this wonderful step into your future. Jan smiles. [To Jan] Is there something that could stop you living this peaceful joy? [Jan rests his chin on his right hand and raises some fingers of his left hand.]
Martyn [To class] Notice that Jan immediately becomes asymmetrical. Perhaps another part is emerging: signaling with Jan’s left hand.
Jan: I think I’d get sick.
Martyn: This is important. A part of Jan (part 1) wants to quit smoking, another part (part 2) wants to smoke. Some sort of integration of those is possible, so let’s call it “peaceful life” (part 3) for now. As Jan starts to consider “peaceful life”, a fourth part emerges that objects to “peaceful life” (part 3). Remember – this fourth part was latent, in a fog, until Jan considered this possibility.
Now Jan is saying: “Wow, this is wonderful! It’s what I want in life.” And now another part of Jan objects (part 4), saying “Hey, wait! Stop!!!” This fourth part had nothing to say earlier, perhaps because peace and joy were in conflict, and perhaps peaceful joy could not be considered. Perhaps now that there is a possibility of this basic conflict being integrated, and peaceful joy being realized, part 4 wakes up and communicates something like, “Stop! Wait! This conflict has a purpose!”
[To Jan] Feel this side of you that may get you sick. Where might this part be?
Jan: In my body.
Martyn: Where in your body? [Jan shows signs of trance] Take your time …
[To class] This fourth part did not communicate until the surface conflict might be resolved … if this surface conflict is important it should not be lost …
There is a NLP technique called Visual Squash: we could have one part fully on this side [holds a “part” in one hand] and one part fully on this side [holds a conflicting “part” in the other hand], and then with hypnotic language, [Martyn emphasizes “NO” non-verbally], Jan would be instructed to squash these two parts together. NLP people may use post-hypnotic double-binds to keep those two parts bonded.
[To Jan] So what would be the result if you squash these two parts together?
Jan: [enthusiastic tonality] Good!
Martyn: And this part here, the fourth part, what would it say if these two parts are squashed together?
Jan: [pause] I’d feel that I have no power; umm [pause] I don’t want to do that squash.
Martyn: If I am convinced that it’s good for you, maybe I’ll grab your hands and I’ll squash them together physically. If you are partly in trance, it would take a lot of composure to resist my suggestion. What would this fourth part say?
Jan: That it should not work this way, that it is not right.
Martyn: What would happen?
Jan: [neck and chest tighten] I’d choke.
Martyn: [To group] Fortunately, most people seem to be healthy enough to un-squash or dis-integrate such hypnotic commands, and within a few days or weeks, they recreate their conflict. Then their conscious mind says, “Hah – it didn’t work!” Therapists often call these people resistant clients! But the people who are not healthy enough to untangle the conflicting parts – obedient or compliant clients – may feel weaker or become physically ill. I was rather well trained in NLP, but now I discourage the use of many NLP techniques. (See NLP Techniques & Personal Ecology).
[To Jan] So, imagine this fourth part of you, Jan, the part of you that wants you to have harmony and joy apart, in conflict. Imagine that you can see this fourth part of you. Maybe it is watching carefully what is happening about this conflict. Maybe ask this part, “What does it gain by keeping this conflict?” Something so important that if you lose it, it may make you sick.
Jan: This part says that I can be friendly to both people who smoke and to people who don’t.
Martyn: Does this part want you to be friendly with people?
Jan: Yes [gestures with right hand to Father position]
Martyn: With whom especially does this part want you to be friendly with?
Jan: With my family [gestures with right hand to Father position]
[To class] Notice that every time Jan speaks about this fourth part, he uses his right hand and not his left. Remember who seemed to stand there earlier.
Martyn: Maybe this part thinks that if you stop smoking and live joyfully and peacefully, something not good will happen with your family?
[To Jan] And imagine that you can see this fourth part of you, Jan, what would it look like?
Jan: Like a Chinese scroll.
Martyn: Maybe you would like to thank this Chinese scroll for its wisdom: it wants you to have good relationships with your family. Maybe, in the opinion of this part, if you live joyfully and peacefully, you might lose connection with your family. What do you think?
Jan: This part says that these things, smoking and contact with family, do not depend on each other.
Martyn: Good. So focus on this Chinese scroll, and also keep your attention on the other two parts, the birch and the clown helping each other. What would the Chinese scroll like to say to the birch and the clown together?
Jan: That everything possible, everything that they may want to reach, lies inside a person [points with his right hand to his own chest]
Martyn: Excellent! And what would the tree and the clown say about this concept that everything that they may want to reach lies inside this person? [points at Jan]
Jan: They agree. My whole future … ummm … [signs of trance]
Martyn: [To class] It seems that the first level of conflict for Jan is about behavior: “Do I smoke, or do I not smoke?” And the second conflict is about values – about what is important: joy and harmony outside in the world (part 3), or inside Jan (part 4)? This fourth part of Jan seems to communicate to Jan: “If you only find harmony outside, you will be sick.”
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Part 5 becomes Conscious
Now we can explore the second level of integration and, who knows, maybe we will find a fifth part that is not yet conscious. A fifth part would become conscious by objecting to parts 3 and 4 cooperating. The first conflict was about smoking versus not smoking, and the second conflict looks like outer joy versus inner joy. Lets go back to Jan [turns to Jan and observes him for a second].
[To Jan] Jan, can you imagine again that you can see the white birch and the clown working together, so that you can have harmony and joy simultaneously in your life. Of course, there is this side of you that says, “Hey, there can be harmony and joy inside too, and not only in the world.” Jan, imagine what would happen if you find harmony and joy inside and outside simultaneously. Imagine you can live life with internal harmony and joy and external harmony and joy. What would that be like?
Jan: It looks like my main life goal.
Martyn: [To class] This conflict may lead to “What is the meaning of my life?” I said earlier that a conscious conflict is rarely so important: for example “Do I smoke – or do I not smoke?” is a detail compared to “What is my main life goal?”
[To Jan] What does this side want to tell you about the your main life goal?
Jan: That it is important to live life in balance. Inside and outside balance [part 5].
Martyn: I wonder what the birch and the clown working together would say about the part of you that wants inside and outside balance simultaneously?
Jan: The birch says “There is health inside harmony“, and the clown adds, “And joy!”
Martyn: Imagine you can live your life with harmony and joy inside, and with harmony and joy in the outside world. Fantastic! Perhaps you begin to realize what your purpose in life is: to live life, harmoniously and joyfully inside and outside. Nothing else is so important. Wonderful – yes?
Part 6 becomes Conscious
[At first, Jan shows signs of exaltation, then surprise, then doubt, after a few moments his posture drops; and then he shows an expression as if of a sudden realization.]
Martyn: Bonnng! Looks like part 6 is showing its head! [laughter in class] Something important may still be missing. What do you think, Jan? Is something still missing?
[Jan closes his eyes and his face muscles become flaccid]
Chronic Conflict Explained
[Martyn to class] The relationship dynamics underlying chronic conflict usually fit into my family maps that I taught earlier. When we help people manage the first level of conflict, a client often says something like, “Everything that I’ve ever wanted is possible now!” while signaling “No!” non-verbally. You can manage these and similar objections using the Yes/No and Yes, but skills that we taught earlier in this course.
Jan started with a conscious conflict, then found unconscious conflicts. Often, the conscious parts are like voices: one may urge, “Smoke! Yes! Smoke!” and the other, “Don’t smoke! No! Don’t smoke!” Imagine how it would be to make decisions from in-between two loud inner voices.
Student: I can think of many people who live their lives like that.
Martyn: I’d guess between 15% of Europeans and maybe 20% of North Americans, based on my clients, workshops and talks, although perhaps my work attracts people in conflict.
[Martyn watches Jan as he talks. After a few minutes, Jan makes some small movements and opens his eyes; Martyn immediately turns to Jan.]
Martyn: Anyway, that’s too much theory; right Jan? Can I check if any of this makes sense?
[To Jan] Hej Jan, dzien dobry – jak sie masz? [Hi Jan, good day – how are you?] Remember the clown on your right. The clown (part 1) said that smoking will give you more fun and joy in life. And on your left was the beautiful white birch (part 2) which may represent your peaceful health. And if the clown and the white birch are together in front of you, you experience cooperation with the outside world (part 3). That looks great: you can express joyous motivation and peaceful beauty during life. And on your right was a Chinese scroll (part 4) that seemed to say, “No! It is more important that you experience cooperation inside.”
Perhaps you can say, “Thank you” to the Chinese scroll. And feel the conflict between the Chinese scroll and the cooperation between the clown and the white birch. And imagine, Jan, the possibility to have cooperation inside and cooperation outside at the same moment. Imagine that you can live your life with full cooperation inside, and with peace and fun in the outside world. What would it be like, if you can enjoy both of those simultaneously?
Jan: I feel a strong inner need to find such life.
Martyn: Imagine that you can see future Jan who can enjoy full internal peace, while cooperating with the outside world. What might you call a state when you have full cooperation inside and full cooperation outside?
Jan: I don’t know why, but I see the symbol of a cross in front of me.
Martyn: Great, look at that symbol of the cross in front of you, perhaps it represents Christianity – perhaps a symbol of two parts working together – perhaps peaceful fun in life and inner cooperation – perhaps something more spiritual – perhaps some or all of these. What name would you give to this cross [part 5] that may somehow represent the integration of the second level of conflict.
Martyn: Consider living life with harmony, with full inside harmony and full outside harmony. Maybe that would be perfect! Maybe nothing else is wanted or needed. Maybe that would be the end of the path, there would be nothing else to do.
Jan: [hesitates] I … need to contact others as well … I need to see my harmony in a context.
Martyn: Good. And enjoy feeling your need to contact others. A part of you wants to live in full harmony, and perhaps another part of you says, “Something important is still missing!” What is this part like – that wants you to contact others?
Jan: Like a sunflower. [Part 6]
Martyn: Look at the sunflower that represents contact with others, and also at the cross, which represents harmony inside and outside. And when you consider contact with people, who is the most important person to be in contact with?
Jan: With my mother.
Martyn: And look at that sunflower with the idea of full contact with your mother, and with other people. With the cross you may find harmony, inside and outside. Consider the possibility of living your life with full harmony inside and outside, and with full contact with people, especially with your mother. How would it be for you to experience both of these together in the same moment?