When Opposing Desires Compete for Your Attention

Person finding balance between two desires

Compassion is the only thing that can cure our pain and suffering.

~Buddha

Please introduce me to this person. Both he and I are in him.

What I mean is that he exists on the inside of me.

To paraphrase his story: “I need to be the greatest in whatever I do, yet regardless of how hard I try, I am never going to be the best since this world is unjust.”

He has been burdened by this hopeless mission for the better part of my life.

He’s the source of much of my pain, and there are moments when I wish I could just get rid of him.

The other half of me, though, wishes to get rid of him.

Let’s talk about the other half now. Both he and I are in him.

From what I gather from his account, ambition is bad news all around.

Even if it involves giving up a number of the things we’re really into, we ought to quit trying to improve ourselves and commit ourselves fully to a more spiritual path.

Let me tell you, there have been some knockdown, dragout confrontations between these two components of my I try to avoid participating when possible because of the high potential for hostility.

That’s also a contributing factor.

There are numerous facets to each of us, and some of them have been there throughout the whole of our existence.

There are two things we want to avoid doing to our parts but often end up doing anyway: Give in and let them rule, or send them packing.

Our parts are well-intentioned; they think they’re assisting us, but, in reality, they’re motivated by guilt and anxiety.

Therefore, when we give them power, they do more harm than good, no matter how genuine their intentions may be.

A part of me that functions through intense ambition and rivalry is convinced that he’s shielding me from the pain of defeat, disillusionment, and embarrassment.

My too-spiritual, almost competitive side is attempting to shield me from the same dangers.

The more enlightened half of you views the ambitious half as an egotistical narcissist and wants to get rid of him.

The materialistic half of him thinks the spiritual half is an oppressive idealist and wants to get rid of him.

Neither of them wants me to write about this because they care too much about my reputation.

They argue loudly, pleading with me to put one of them in command of my life.

Every time I reach my breaking point with their bickering and choose one side or the other, the exiled component ramps up its volume.

Think of them as two children at odds, each pleading with their parent to choose one of them.

These pieces of me are defending other pieces of me, each with its own history, and they don’t even realize it.

It’s clear that things may feel claustrophobic inside you.

But you may grow to recognize and appreciate your most noticeable features as time goes on. Let me explain.

1. Figure out how to identify the elements of yourself that are seeking to control you.

Feelings of intense uneasiness, such as dread, worry, embarrassment, or rage, constitute a red flag.

Try to perceive these emotions not as something to be overcome or avoided but as signals from a part of yourself that needs your attention.

2. Pay attention to your roles.

First and foremost, all they want is to have someone listen to and comprehend their story.

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When and why they initially appeared in your life is something they could want to tell you, or something they might be frightened of.

The best listener is your own self, who is kind, serene, and inquisitive.

3. Act out the portions you’re given and confirm that what they’re saying is reasonable given what they’ve been through.

It’s possible that one of my personalities may remark to another, “I see why you view life as a competition,” while the other could reply, “It seems logical that you desire to escape to live in a convent and contemplate all day.”

There shouldn’t be any ifs or buts about how the components should feel.

4. Be kind to them.

Our components have often been underperforming for a long period of time.

They are worn out, anxious, and irritated.

Saying to them, “Wow, it must be terrible to bear that load all the time,” goes a long way.

5. Express your appreciation for their efforts to aid you, even if their approaches weren’t ideal.

Scolding a component for making a mistake is the last thing you want to do.

When we hide or feel bad about ourselves, our shadow sides have a stronger chance of emerging and taking control of our lives.

6. Reassure them that you have taken control and that they are no longer necessary to the operation of the business.

Keep in mind that their never-ending quests for excellence, spiritual perfection, and pain avoidance have become too much for them and that they are weary as a result.

They are serious about handing over power and responsibility to you.

7. However, you don’t want to fire our components, so you instead find them new roles in which they may contribute.

My competitive self, for instance, is great at working hard and should continue doing so so long as he remembers that his job isn’t to win.

As long as he understands that it isn’t his responsibility to be flawless or to drive out any other aspects of me, my spiritual self may keep doing what he does best: connecting with a greater purpose.

8. Keep in touch with your components at all times.

When they do appear, and they will, try to identify them as quickly as possible.

Each of our pieces has a story to tell, and it has to be heard again and again, maybe for the rest of our lives.

All this talking of body components as though they were autonomous entities may seem odd to you.

Although they are inseparable, there are moments when we need physical distance.

Separating from your parts but letting them know you’re still there, near by, is the finest approach to putting your actual self in command.

Being a writer who often engages her imagination has made it easy for me to see myself in the roles I’ve played.

In most cases, they resemble me as a youngster, which is when they initially made an appearance.

Being able to have true empathy for them comes from seeing them as distinct from myself, particularly when they are young.

The time and effort I’ve put in with my “internal family” has been some of the most meaningful and enlightening of my life.

Please keep an open mind and give it a try.

It might end up being a life-changing decision on your part.

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