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Intrapersonal Conflict (A Complete Guide)

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This article will take a look at what intrapersonal conflict is and the different types of it that exist. Furthermore, the article will also explain what contributes to it and how we can resolve it. The article will also slightly touch upon other types of conflict that we experience as individuals

Intrapersonal Conflict – What Is It & Why It Occurs?

Intrapersonal conflict refers to the conflict that takes place within an individual between his own values, goals, desires, opinions and/or thoughts. This type of conflict only involves one individual instead of two or more. 

This type of conflict occurs when the individual’s values or goals diverge and do not complement each other. This could be because of a number of reasons. For example, they have learnt about new information that changes their existing options. Also, that new information may not settle in with their existing worldview and their mind cannot accommodate it with the concepts that already exist in their mind.

Another reason why intrapersonal conflict may arise is because of reduced or limited resources. An individual may have set some goals in the past however, the situation has now changed and they are facing limited resources because of which they are pushed to do things in a way they do not agree with or would not usually consider.

Hence, there are a number of reasons why this conflict may arise. Personality changes also contribute to intrapersonal conflict where the person has a certain way of doing things but now they don’t feel like doing it in that way due to a change in their attitude, preferences or thoughts.

The Effect Of Intrapersonal Conflict

Although it occurs all inside a person, this type of conflict does have an impact on the individual which may at first not be visible but over time, when the conflict is not solved and intensifies, the physical impact of it comes forth too.

Here are the effects this type of conflict have on the average individual:

  • Confusion: Confusion and possibly shock or surprise is what the individual first experiences. They are unsure how they can go against their own values and beliefs especially when they are used to defending them. It is indeed a strange experience which they need time to understand. 
  • Guilt: This is another feeling that they experience because of the fact that they were always committed to their values however, in a short period of time, they have gone against them willingly or unwillingly. Hence, this realization leads them to feel guilty.
  • Stress: Another effect of the intrapersonal conflict on the individual is that they become stressed out. Maybe they are doing something because of desperation, pure desire or absolute need. However, they are usually stressed out because of what they are doing not only because of how they feel but they might have to deal with social pressure and the consequences of their actions.
  • Contradictory Behaviour: It becomes apparent when someone is experiencing intrapersonal conflict because they are trying to retain their past values but at the same time defending their ‘new’ actions. Hence, the contradiction and confusion in their statements or behaviours can be spotted.

Types Of Intrapersonal Conflict – The 3 Approaches

There are three types of intrapersonal conflict:

  • Approach – Approach Conflict
  • Avoidance – Avoidance Conflict
  • Approach – Avoidance Conflict

We will look at these in detail down below!

Approach – Approach Conflict

A person experiences this type of intrapersonal conflict when they have to choose between two equally attractive options – could be more – and hence they are confused as to which option or line of action they should go for. 

The problem here is that both options are good and they have access to them as well. They align with their personal goals and the individual is unable to discern any worthy difference – a good reason to choose one option or opportunity over the other.

A very good example could be a job offer that you receive once received. The first offer is one that takes you to your dream city where you have always wanted to live but at a lower salary package. The other option or job offer pays you a handsome salary but doesn’t take you to where you have always wanted to live. You are confused because both options will eventually get you to where you want to be but they will have their pros and cons or maybe require different types of effort.

Hence, the individual is at a dead end – they are experiencing conflict within themselves and not due to any external pressure. The offers are open and standing – however the individual is unable to decide!

Avoidance – Avoidance Conflict

Similar to the example above, this type of intrapersonal conflict also involves two or more options to which we have access, however, they are undesirable and we need to make a decision – we cannot leave it standing there. Hence, the individual is confused with regards to which option they should go for. They do not consider any of the options better and they are looking for a good enough reason – which they cant find – to justify why they shouldn’t go for one option which will obviously be the more unattractive one!

A good example is that of a hiring manager who has been asked to cut down costs for the company and they need to terminate one of their employees. They do not want to do this as both of them are equally good and deserve to stay however, they have to make a decision. Hence, they are experiencing conflict within themselves.

Approach – Avoidance Conflict

In this situation, a person has an option to consider that comes with both pros and cons. They consider this opportunity quite good but at the same time understand it has some cons attached to it which make it undesirable too.

A good example would be that of a job that offers a good salary – very good – but they have to work at very odd times and sometimes over the weekend too. Hence, they are unsure – inside themselves – whether or not they should go for this option.

How To Resolve Intrapersonal Conflict?

Here are a few tips that will help you resolve the conflict at hand – or in the heart in that case!

  • Get Over The Denial: Accept the situation and understand the conflict you are experiencing and why. Oftentimes we waste much time remaining in denial and the conflict intensifies. Hence, it is necessary to accept the problem and face it like a man – or a woman in that case!
  • Organize The Problem: The first step to getting over a problem is to understand it. Identify all the dimensions of it and the possible reasons as to why it exists and how it affects you. By truly understanding the problem you have already solved half of it.
  • Priorities: You need to see why you have a difficult time choosing one thing over the other. Look at what criteria you use to define what you choose. Does it need to be changed and why. Once you have reached a conclusion and accepted the decision you have made – go for the option.
  • Talk to Someone: Talking to people who are close to you helps you actually grasp the problem. No matter how much you think about something, when you put it on paper or actually try to define or explain it in words that is when you truly grasp it.
  • Accept Change: One of the reasons why we have intrapersonal conflict is that we do not accept the fact that we change over time. We become new people every day and our attitudes change towards things and people. Hence, there is obviously going to be an effect on how we behave. If we accepted this, then we wouldn’t be so surprised when we decide to choose the pineapple toppings instead of the chicken one for a pizza. 


This article took a look at intrapersonal conflict and defined it for the readers. It also explained why it happens and described three different types of approaches of intrapersonal conflict. Furthermore, the article also highlighted and explained the effects of internal and external effects on us as individuals. Lastly, the article provided some tips in the form of steps to deal with intrapersonal conflict that involved accepting there is conflict and the possible notion that we change over time.


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