Dealing With Internal Conflict: A Case Study; Part 1: Awareness and analysis

  • Post author:

Using the term “Analysing the voices in your head” will often conjure up images akin to the famous film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson. Once you can get away from that kind of stereotypical response to such a term, you may realise that much effective work, in terms of personal growth and recovery can be done by understanding and working with the many thinking “parts” that may attempt to control how we think and behave.

I am of the firm opinion that our mind is somewhat of a battlefield where opposing “parts” are trying to seize control, forming alliances with allies and enemies alike, with the soul intention of protecting the self from facing childhood pain and hurt. The very issues that stop us leading a realistic, fulfilled life void of fear, insecurity and constant procrastination. I have also voiced loudly with clients, the need to be a leader amongst these voices and direct them rather than the other way around. In virtually every case I come across where you could say someone is “stuck”, there is invariably a myriad of different “voices” keeping them that way and have been since these concepts were formed in childhood. I wrote about this here in a recent post… Understanding The “Parts” of Your Thinking.

This type of work has proved very useful with many clients and especially in relation to codependency where internal conflict is usually a daily battle. Below, I present a real-life case (names changed, permission to use secured) that highlights how valuable this work can truly be. While codependency was not the main issue here, it became a factor when the client was in a relationship.

The Case Of D:

D was a single mother with a young boy of two years old. The boy’s father was no longer in contact and D was alone bringing up her son, who had special needs and keeping down a job. Life was very difficult for D in terms of juggling work with the challenges of her home life. Relationships came and went, mostly with men who breezed in and out of her life taking advantage and leaving her fairly quickly. It was almost as if these men could smell her vulnerability and she seemed powerless to stop it happening. When she contacted me, she was in a desperate emotional state and wondering what was “wrong” with her.

This was a fairly typical case for me and I quickly introduced the idea of “protector” voices that might be active in her thinking. Upon investigation, we found that these were extremely strong and overpowered any functional voice that might counter them. We identified:

The “Manager” Critic. A berating voice that fueled other voices. Reminded D that she could not hold down a relationship, accused her of messing things up and that no decent man would be interested. Kept her stuck with a series of “should”, “must” and “have-to” statements. Berated her for putting her son at risk by having career ambitions.

The “Escape”. Hot on the heels of the critic was the “break-free” escape voice. In this case, D developed a shopping addiction which we identified as instant gratification to escape the critic. This put her in financial difficulties and the “rush” was quickly followed by other feelings. It then delivered her back into the hand of the critic.

The “Ultra-Guilty” Voice. D constantly felt guilty that she had needs of her own. She felt guilty because she over-shopped, she did not do enough for her son, wanted a relationship, that she wanted a different job or to move away.

The “Angry” Voice. Much of the frustration she felt when under the influence of the other voices came out in anger, mostly aimed at her son. Her parenting style was less than effective and she would shout and be verbally aggressive towards him. This drove a cycle where the three voices above took over.

The “Give Up” Voice. “What’s the point?” was often the question that D asked herself. This voice drove her to rumination and endless sadness. Yet another escape.

We recognized that these voices were trying to protect long held assumptions about herself of feeling inadequate and unlovable. This was the crux of the issue that these voices had developed as part of her thinking schema to constantly avoid her facing those very issues. They were directly or indirectly steering her away from the inner core wound that she held.

In my next post, I will describe how we, together planned “leadership” strategies to allow D to take charge of her internal family.

Subscribe to Dr Jenner's Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,497 other subscribers


Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This Post Has 2 Comments