Internal Conflict: Definition, Types & Example

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  • 0:01 Definition of Internal…
  • 1:09 Individual Internal Conflict
  • 2:32 Conflict When Working…
  • 4:03 Internal Conflict…
  • 5:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister

Jessica has a Doctorate degree in Social Work

Internal conflict results in having to choose between what two opposing desires. This lesson looks at the different types of internal conflict, including examples, to help you understand the concept more fully.

Definition of Internal Conflicts

Have you ever been in a situation where your mind was telling you that you shouldn't do something, say something, or go somewhere because of a possible consequence? How about a time when you really wanted to buy something, but you knew that you would not have enough money to pay a bill if you did so? Or perhaps you didn't agree with the decision a group made? For some people, the urge to do or not do something gets so strong that they experience a conflict inside themselves. A conflict inside oneself is often referred to as an internal conflict and will be the focus of this lesson.

To be more specific, an internal conflict often happens when you have to make a moral or ethical decision because you're facing a dilemma of some sort. In result, you have to choose between what is right and what is wrong or what would be considered good or bad. In the context of psychology and sociology, there are different types of conflict that are associated with an individual: working with others and conflict within groups. Let's take a closer look at each of these types of conflict.

Individual Internal Conflict

Internal conflict is associated with the questions you ask yourself about right versus wrong, or good versus bad. Internal conflicts are generally a result of a dilemma happening in your life and can be something very simple or very complex in nature. For example, if you just got your paycheck and had a lot of bills to pay, you might be conflicted between the idea of going shopping at the mall instead of paying your bills! You know that the wrong decision will result in a difficult situation for you (having unpaid bills), but you really have a hard time fighting the urge to go shopping! This is individual internal conflict.

Everyone experiences internal conflict from time to time. But internal conflict can be much more complex than just fighting an urge. For example, imagine getting ready to apply to college and being pressured by your parents to study psychology so you can become a psychiatrist. However, you have always wanted to become a nurse.

Do you apply to nursing school, or do you find a program where you can major in psychology? This is a huge decision to make and if you change your mind later on, it will be difficult to change paths. This is a much more complex individual internal conflict that will most likely take some time to work through and figure out. The decision may not come down to right or wrong, but it's an important consideration that can affect your quality of life for years to come.

Conflict When Working With Others

We all have had to make difficult personal decisions based on the here and now (do we pay a bill, or do we go shopping?) or decisions based on the success of our future (which degree do we choose to pursue in college?). But when we work with others, we also experience internal conflict, such as how to respond to someone, when to make a suggestion to someone, or how exactly to go about making someone else happy.

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