Neurotic Conflicts are often connected to convictions, beliefs and moral values with a presupposition we have developed ourselves. Once we recognise a conflict, we must be willing and able to renounce the conflicting issues. We must be able to take and assume responsibility, which risks being vulnerable, making mistakes and suffering the consequences.

We tend to be envious or idolise those who seem undisturbed, with no such conflicts, unable to consider it may be due to apathy, conformity or opportunism. The more we face our conflicts and seek solutions, the more inner freedom and strength we attain. Factors involved in the conflicts are usually incompatible with extreme opposites. The conflict remains unconscious, deeply repressed, with bubbles of rage surfacing intermittently. All emotional factors are rationalised as an injustice, invalid or only minor. Both opposing tendencies are compulsive and are defended with numerous mechanisms. Unable to make a choice, driven by competing forces and does not want to choose.

They are stranded and engulfed with no way out, which can only be resolved by working with their neurotic trends.

Compliant type – moving towards people constantly needing approval and affection. They look for a partner, friend, parent, lover, or spouse who will fulfil life expectations and take responsibility.

Compulsive Type – tends to generate indiscriminate anxiety, easily despondent when frustrated. Will always overcompensate and estimate congeniality, believing others share the same common goals. They live as children surrounded by strange and threatening people, with an insatiable need to feel safe.

As the compliant type attempts to align with others’ expectations, they lose sight of their feelings and beliefs and sacrifice true expression. An underlying wish for revenge is suppressed, and they shoulder the blame to avoid unwanted attacks or criticism. Self-assertion is denied, becomes inhibited, deemed to be demanding, angry and critical, unable and unwilling to make an impact. They feel weak and helpless when left to their own resources, lost, desperate and insignificant. Everyone else is more superior, attractive, intelligent and worthy than I am. A fragile sense of self collapses when facing rejection, with a catastrophic loss of self-esteem.

They find egotism and power with self-righteousness, offering blind compassion and empathy, unselfish and overcaring. The regression of assertiveness leads to the fantasy of unity and wholeness, with the unconscious terror of being split apart. Love is the phantom chased to the exclusion of everything else. Love will cure their inner conflicts and make life worthwhile. They plan to never be alone, never in a space where they may experience unconscious conflict and tortuous anxiety. They have a passionate need and a craving for closeness, eager to reinforce the belief there is no gap or difference between them and others.

The aggressive/compulsive type who moves against people believes everyone is hostile, refusing to see and admit their own hostility. Covered in a mask of politeness, fairness and tolerant fellowship. They need to excel, succeed, and seek recognition to fill the empty void of despair. He hates to admit to a feeling of inferiority/weakness of any kind and will find drastic ways to keep these feelings under control. They exclude all inner experiences and instincts, taking no real pleasure in their activities to achieve these goals. Any feelings of sympathy or obligation to be good and honest work against their inner structure. A shaken foundation full of guilt would destroy the illusion of unity. These opposing types have polar extremes, where one is desirable to one but abhorrent to the other. The other is a potential enemy who can break down the illusion of unity and threaten the fragile foundations. One clings to fear and helplessness; the other tries to ignore and dismiss it. Both suffer from emotional numbness, alienation from their true self with deep uncertainty about who they are—functioning like a false persona, robotic in nature with no inner life.

An onlooker, watching their own life unfold, within a magical imaginary bubble.

The created idealised image, the person they believe they are and feel they ought to be, is always flattering and unmoving in character. This unrealistic image may lead to arrogance, superficiality and a sense of heightened importance. The more unrealistic, the more fragile and vulnerable the person is, with an avid need for affirmation and assurance. The image has a static quality, causing hindrance to growth and flexibility. The ego-ideal, idealised image strives for recognition and superiority. The neurotic has little chance of building self-confidence, as emotional energies and authenticity are denied vigorously. The need for vindictive triumphs is the antidote for the feeling of humiliation or exposure. Any undermining or criticism of the image will make them feel lost, confused and disorientated.

The idealised image negates the existence of conflicts, whereby any recognition of shortcomings could lead to the experience of such conflicts and jeopardise inner harmony and emotional homeostasis. The contradictions remain out of awareness. Undiluted and denied, not interfering with each other. The neurotic can be between self-adoration and self-contempt, with little foundations to fall back upon. This generates a barrier to self-development as they can’t learn from mistakes or authentic feelings. The goal of therapy is to help the client recognise and acknowledge the idealised image. To understand its functions with subjective values and the consequences and suffering that entails.

They tend to hold external factors for their difficulties, creating more alienation from their inner life. They use projection to shift blame and responsibility onto someone else, suspecting others’ of their negative tendencies. The antidote to inner despair and a sense of oppression may lead to external crusades against oppression and ideological beliefs. When people believe others determine their lives, the logical response leads to the preoccupation with changing the punishing, reforming outside force.

External stimulus, achievement or validation determines their emotional mood, frustration and excitement. When confronted with these conflicting drives, outward rage manifests as powerless to entertain contradictory goals and becomes acute. The discrepancy between the neurotics’ behaviour and idealised image of themself are blatant, evident and obvious to an aware observer. However, when pointed out, they are rationalised away, denied or refuted by the neurotic person. The protective structure is highly brittle for all its rigidity and fears that emotional equilibrium will be disturbed. When thrown into chaos, they can become infuriated, elated, depressed or inhibited. A feeling of uncertainty, disoriented as they can’t rely on themself to soothe and give validation. The fear of going insane, under acute distress, the idealised image is threatened, where mounting tension is exhibited as rage.

Therapy is bound to create upset as the client addresses the root causes of their disturbance. Facing the fears of exposure, fear of being fake or dishonest, allows them to attain a more grounded solid base. The neurotic wastes enormous energy, keeping the conflict out of awareness, as the two incompatible goals are draining. There is a clear lack of direction, a union of simple-mindedness, as they may sacrifice everything for success or power. They will pursue a mirage of illusions as a solution to conflicts. The parts split off are still active but can’t be put to constructive use, and all creative forces go to waste. Unable to make decisions that must be resolved if a real ordeal appears may leave the person panic-stricken and exhausted.

This manifests as general inertia, laziness, and a conscious aversion to contradictory efforts. They suffer from an impairment of moral integrity, with increased egocentricity, making others subordinate to their needs. They believe the intellect can solve life problems alone, as the mind is superior to the emotional/spiritual realm. They believe they are the honest ones, with the right opinions and views, supported by fanatism. The black-and-white thinking resolves a world of fault and punishment, good and reward. The entrenchment of intrapsychic processes means they can’t perceive the remnants of cause and effect. They are averse and incapable of assuming responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The more they make sense of their entanglement within the conflicts, the greater the despair and hopelessness—this surfaces when a person reacts to a disappointment with the intensity or duration totally inappropriate to the provocation as the hopelessness is unconscious. They have to make sacrifices conscious to fix the sense of despair. They will attempt to ascribe the despair to external circumstances but not the despair of being themselves. The person without hope is dangerous, who may want to enslave others, to have people without dreams, feelings of any initiative. To fill their void of emptiness, they may seek constant external attention and attention, exploiting and coercing others into submission.

Resolutions of Conflicts

Initial change comes by altering the conditions within the personality that created the conflicts in the beginning. Their child was raised in an environment threatening their inner freedom, spontaneity, self-confidence, and security. The neurotic must be helped to retrieve their natural child, to become aware of their real feelings, desires and needs. To evolve their sense of values and beliefs based on their experiences and feelings. They must explore their unconscious attempts to resolve the conflicts and how the idealised image keeps these infantile resolutions in place. They use their intellect and externalisation to keep the conflicts from awareness. Explore how they shuttle between extremes and how their incompatible drives and attitudes cancel each other out. How and why they seek fusion with others, making compromises and irrational solutions. for instance

  • Ego-centricity with Generosity
  • Conquest with affection
  • Domination with sacrifice

The neurotic must see their original pursuits are futile and how they interfere with their life. Their constellated coherent identity is forever flawed, cursed with unresolvable conflicts that leave them unlovable and not good enough. The process may entail a lot of mourning, grieving what they did not receive or experience and who they hoped to be.

The world of external dangers and native enemies can lead to social hostility, suppression, and taboos. They can tend to demand justice and become dependent and frustrated when challenged to break the taboos. Some of the common results are

  • Compulsive behaviours
  • Co-dependency – feeling inferior to others
  • Inhibited and withdrawn – unable to express wishes and ideas and do someone with their own fruition
  • No self-assertion – can be over-passive or over-aggressive—no control over anger or rage when triggered.
  • Sexuality – Compulsive, perversive or inhibited.

They develop external anxiety based on how they see the world and not on how the world is. They develop behaviours and activities to escape this anxiety and the fear of re-experiencing being helpless and hopeless. Due to irrational thinking based on childlike cognition, they believe they are fundamentally flawed, with something wrong with them to generate parental abandonment. They will either rationalise the problem, deny it, narcotise it or disown feelings and thoughts. However, this manifests as inner hostility and frustration with the believed source of their anxiety. If a certain activity is the source of anxiety, as in creating tension with the incompatible opposing forces, they may:

  • Becomes fatigued and strained, unable to continue
  • Feel inadequate with the task too big and imposing.
  • Spoil the pleasure of the activity and diminish the rewards
  • Avoid the activity again.

To maintain the idealised image of a caring person, they tend to project their inner hostility onto the outside world—the self-righteous justification of their hostility against those with different opinions and values. The craving for love, validation, and reassurance creates dependency. The real dilemma is that they cannot accept this love, as their underlying belief is not good enough. Love contradicts the underlying belief ingrained in the unconscious, creating anxiety, confusion, and disorientation.

Horney , K. (2003) .Our Inner Conflicts: A CONSTRUCTIVE THEORY OF NEUROSIS. Routledge; 1st edition