• Posted in December 2017
  • Article written by Michael Carroll

An NLP Solution for Personal Conflict

How to Integrate or Negotiate Parts

Have you every thought that sometimes you act as if you have a split personality with behaviours that are totally contradictory? Do you sometimes find yourself sabotaging your personal success? Do you feel as if on occasions you are at war with yourself as different parts of your personality compete? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, the chances are you are experiencing what we refer to in NLP as a parts conflict.

In NLP a ‘part’ is a metaphor we use to collectively group a set of behaviours, attitudes that seem to be held together in a sub system by filters such as values and beliefs. When a part is fully operational, an individual has little access and in some cases no access to the larger system that constitutes of their overall persona. Parts can be highly destructive and frequently underpin addiction, self sabotage and health issues.

On the other hand parts can be highly positive and form the basis of high levels of focus and high performance.

So let’s look at an example. Have you ever been strongly committed to making a change to live more healthily? As you move forward with your health goals, you feel good about your heath choices, you are eating the right food, exercising, sleeping well and generally taking care of yourself. Then you find yourself in a context or unconsciously create a context where you make a set of contradictory choices to the healthy life style you have committed.  It’s as if there is an alter ego present within you who jumps up and the choices become unhealthy in terms of overeating, excess alcohol etc.

In the scenario mentioned above, when this part is fully operational people will find themselves far removed from the healthy choices they previously made and now have behaviours that in many cases are polar opposites to their previous goals. It’s like they become another person with different set of values and beliefs and will make strong statements to reinforce the sabotage part’s behaviours such as, ‘I want to let rip now’ ‘fuck the healthy choices’.

The above is one example of what is known as a towards/away conflict. The positive part is moving towards health and the other part takes the person away from their goal and is frequently popping up and disrupting the person’s life. After the ‘away part’ has had its fun, it will go back to sleep for a while. Now the person has choice again and has access to their whole system, they evaluate their behaviour and frequently ask ‘why the hell did I do that’. In the whole system of their psyche they have choice, when the part is operational they lack choice.

Other examples of a towards/away conflict will be present in relationships. So a person will be committed and loving to their partner (towards) and behave in a supporting loving way and will be happy doing so. And then an ‘away from’ part will appear and the person will behave completely differently and in a way that would be damaging to the relationship. When the part is present the person will sabotage the relationship for example withdrawing and being cold, argumentative and even infidelity. Again when the part goes to sleep, the person has access to their whole psyche and the part is no longer operational they will evaluate their behaviour with regret on the basis they are congruent with the relationship, will struggle to make sense of their behaviour which they consider to be out of character.

So why are these parts so persistent and effective in sabotaging our goals and dreams. We usually learn to behave as we do through life experience. In NLP we have a presupposition that states ‘all behaviour has a positive intention’. In the case of a part series of life experiences or a single intense life experience build the part which in itself will have a positive intention. In most cases with the away from parts the positive intention is out of date, and thus the part is redundant and can be integrated into the whole system taking any positive attributes to the whole system. You may be wondering what positive attribute does a part that sabotages has? Well they are usually dynamic and persistent!

So a possible positive intention of the ‘unhealthy part’ in the first example could be to assist with relaxation, or to block out stress, or to feel good in that moment. Now the behaviours of the unhealthy part over the long term will not achieve any of the above, but they did once even for a short period of time and have become so generalised they form a nemesis personality to how the person behaves, in most contexts with the positive intention of ‘blocking out stress’ and the only way the part knows how to do this is with the unhealthy behaviours of eating the wrong foods, drinking large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes etc.

If we look at what could be a positive intention in the relationship sabotage a likely example would be protection, or preservation of independence. Again the intentions mentioned above will usually occur from life experience. So a person may have been hurt in a previous relationship and now they have a part that ‘protects’ them from getting hurt again, and the part is very good at offering behaviours that will prevent the person getting too close in the relationship and thus will be protected from getting hurt .

If the positive intention was ‘preservation of independence’ in the relationship context, it is possible that the person may have had a negative experience in a previous relationship where they felt they lost their sense of self. So the part comes up with behaviours that will create distance in the relationship to satisfy its intention of ‘preserving independence’. The behaviours of the part will sabotage closeness and intimacy that is usually present in the relationship.

So from the paragraphs above you can see the parts have a positive intention and the more a person ignores the message the part is sending, the more pronounced the part becomes and it shouts louder from within to be heard, it sends stronger feelings and more intense images. The part wants the person to pay attention to its messages. Below there is a method known as ‘Visual Squash’ used in NLP to bring together conflicting parts, so the internal battle at last comes to an end and the person can move forward in the life context without sabotage.

The following experiences will be covered in this workshop

Visual Squash, a process for integrating parts

1. Identify the conflict and the two parts involved

2. Create a representation of each part

Spatial: From an observer position, create an image to left and other to right. You will be representing the context of where the conflict is present; From observer position you will see the behaviours and attributes of each part.

3. Associate to each part and elicit intention.

Starting with the away from part, step into the image of each part individually and fully associate to what you see, hear and feel in this part. When in the part space, ‘what is my intention here.’? Chunk up until you reach the positive intention that both parts have in common.

4. Represent part on each hand and ratify intention

Client visually represents, one part on left hand the other on right. Listen if there is any dialogue from each part. Ratify intention of each part.

5. Share resources and get agreement for the parts to come together

Ratify the resources each part has that would be useful in an integration. “What qualities does this part have that the other one can benefit from?” Get agreement from each part they are willing to work together as an integrated part preserving the qualities each one brings.

6. Integration

Create an image in front that represents self-integrated. Focus on image while hands come together. When hands come together bring any representation that comes from hands inside self.

7. Future Pace.

Step into representation of self that was created in the integration above Test for congruency.

The process above is excellent for integrating parts and thus ending conflict in a context where conflict has been evident. It is important to emphasise that not all conflicting parts belong together. There are ecological conditions for integrating parts, see below:

1. The parts are at the same logical level and type. This means they would naturally belong in the same set of behaviours.
2. They have the same positive intention.
3. Both can bring positive qualities to the new integrated part.
4. They both agree to come together as stated in step 5.

You may wonder how parts agree to come together. Each part will have its own communication system and a way of saying yes and no. More often than not the yes and no’s are feelings inside that you can verify earlier on in the process as yes and no.

If the parts do not agree to work together, you can negotiate that they can co-exist without conflict. Again you can do this with the kinaesthetic yes and no that each part will have. You can also create a metaphor when the hands are out, using a metaphor that connects the parts but not integrating them as one. People have used metaphors of bridges and rainbows to connect the parts.

In this article I have written about how personal conflict occurs in our lives and how that conflict is often instigated by a renegade part that seems to be in a mission to sabotage success. I have explained that usually the part has a positive intention and its behaviours are usually out of alignment with the intention.

By listening to the message of the intention the part can be integrated with its opposite, leaving behind any negative behaviours. If the part does not agree to integrate then a negotiation can occur so the parts can co-exist in cooperation and thus not be in conflict.

About The Author

Michael Carroll is the founder and course director of the NLP Academy and co-founder with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair of the International Trainers Academy of NLP.

He is the only NLP Master Trainer in the world certified by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair and he works closely with them in developing and delivering high quality NLP training.



  • Excellent course and great support from Michael throughout. I’d recommend this to anyone who would like to work more effectively with people, or improve their focus and gain clarity on goals and ways to make them happen.

    Natasha May
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