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Conflict Patterns

Many psychological difficulties and symptoms are the consequence of (unconscious) inner conflicts. The concepts offered in psychology and psychotherapy since Freud’s day, so as to bring order into the unbelievable multitude of these inner conflicts, can hardly be kept track of. Whether it is useful to create a list of, or a system of all the possibilities seems theoretically questionable. From the procedural viewpoint of metatheory, the question arises about the function of conflict, and, building upon that, whether such functions can be fundamentally distinguished from each other. What has proven to be useful, including as orientation in practical work. is the distinction between unfruitful and fruitful conflicts (see Staemler/Bock). Unfruitful internal psychological conflicts always arise when there are two conflicting impulses, and neither of them have a relationship to a need, but jointly serve to defend against an unpleasant feeling. (“I ought to, but I don’t want to!”). Neither the feeling that one ought to do something, nor defending oneself against it, is a need. Both together may serve to defend against becoming conscious of how empty and lonely one feels inside. A fruitful conflict, however, consists of the awareness of a need and the (fearful) avoidance it. From a counselling point of view the two conflict patterns must be differently treated.

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