Inner Conflict: Sometimes The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play

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Dave Berman

It is a common human experience to be “of two minds” about something – to find one part of you wants one thing while another part wants something else. Such inner conflict frequently manifests in the form of undesired habits such as cigarette smoking, teeth grinding, nail biting, or compulsive overeating. When these or other behaviors seem beyond conscious control it is because they are being driven by the subconscious, making the “two minds” metaphor something to consider literally. Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) are often used to resolve inner conflict, bringing actions and intentions into alignment.

In the 1983 movie War Games, a computer simulation confuses government officials into thinking nuclear war is imminent. The simulation calculates projected outcomes of various strategies and predicts “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD-ness!) in all scenarios. The programmer of the simulation watches as the teenage computer hacker who inadvertently launched the crisis-producing game encourages the program to simultaneously play tic-tac-toe. This seemingly frivolous diversion successfully helps the computer program learn through metaphor.

Hypnosis and NLP often use metaphors because they are an effective way to help the subconscious learn what the conscious mind may otherwise block or resist. A metaphor I frequently use with clients involves attempting to push open the door to my office. Most people recognize before even laying hands on the door that it opens inward and needs to be pulled. However, with some gentle coaxing and humor, pushing the door becomes a simple way to have a physical experience of resistance.

We’ve all walked up to a store and tried to push open a door clearly marked pull (or vice versa). It only takes a moment before we notice our oversight, chuckle to ourselves, and easily allow progress beyond the barrier. This experience is so familiar that recreating it in my office works as a very relatable learning model.

This diagram illustrates a point I’ve made in several earlier articles (most notably “Calibrating Your Thoughts Compass” and “Flexibility – It’s the Law!”). We feel our thoughts, take action based on how we feel, and form new thoughts based on the perceived results of our actions. When experiencing undesired feelings, it helps to examine the assumptions underlying the responsible thoughts.

Because we get the best results when we take actions consistent with how we feel (try yelling “I love you” at somebody in an angry or insincere tone and find out if you get the result you desire), I do not teach people to “fake it til you make it,” or “act as if.” Hypnosis and NLP help you establish emotional and/or energetic states you find desirable, useful or resourceful. We call this “state management.” That’s why I teach people to “feel as if,” to get into the state most consistent with producing your intended outcome.

When my clients protest that they don’t want to push the office door because they know it won’t work, they still do it anyway because there is a part of them that recognizes I must have a good reason for this silly exercise. A moment later they have an increased body awareness of the difference between the feelings of resisting and allowing. Being able to distinguish these two feelings is extremely valuable as a form of internal guidance. When you can automatically and reflexively adjust from resisting to allowing, whatever you’re doing instantly becomes easier because you are choosing the thoughts that create the more desired feeling. This also matches your vibration to what you are trying to manifest.

Despite the many varied combinations of X’s and O’s that can be placed in the small grid, tic-tac-toe is frequently played to a draw, especially when a sophisticated computer program plays against itself. Recognizing the metaphoric parallel, the program in War Games concludes that global thermonuclear war is a “Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” (This climactic scene is embedded below and the full film is available here on YouTube.)


When experiencing inner conflict, “not playing” means taking a different approach from continuing to allow the parts of you to fight it out because in that case no matter which part wins, a part of you still loses. Instead, hypnosis and NLP facilitate communication akin to mediation between the parts, fostering new subconscious understandings, and cooperation between the “two minds” (conscious/subconscious), built upon ideas that come from within. In essence, you are empowered to solve your own problem, ensuring a degree of alignment between actions and intentions not always possible when following someone else’s suggestions. Similarly, metaphors allow the subconscious to make its own meaning from a story that’s not really about you but offers a relevant lesson accessible when the conscious mind has stopped resisting.

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UPDATE 10/10/12 8am: This article has also been published in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of The Isis Scrolls magazine.

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Dave Berman is a Certified Hypnotist, Life Coach & Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:

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Posted: 6/30/12


About the Author:

Dave Berman offers Life Coaching, Laughter Coaching, Laughnosis and Hypnotherapy. He earned a B.S. in Communication from Cornell University and has extensive experience as a public speaker and workshop facilitator. His book, “Laughter For the Health of It,” co-written with Kelley T. Woods, is available here. For speaking or writing requests, or for a free coaching/hypnotherapy consultation, write to Dave, connect with manifest_positivity on Skype, or use the Viber app to call his mobile number from anywhere in the world +1 707-845-3749.

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