Lately, we have been focusing largely on conflicts that deal with one person having a conflict with another person.  We call these interpersonal conflicts.

Today we begin to turn our attention to intrapersonal conflicts.  This type of conflict occurs when a person has a conflict with himself or herself.

We can see both of these types of conflicts occurring in the following Peanuts comic.  If you will, see if you can identify them.



charlie nowThe intrapersonal conflict is within Charlie Brown.  We can describe his conflict using the DIG Conflict Model that we have been discussing in earlier posts.

The letters of the word, “DIG,” helps to remind us that when we want to describe a conflict in some situation, it is helpful to first dig to find the DESIRE, then something that INTERFERES with the desire, and, finally, the GUILT.  Using this approach, we can describe Charlie Brown’s intrapersonal conflict as follows:

Charlie Brown seems to desire that he not yell at his baby sister, but the fact that he did has led him to perceive that, interfering with his desire, he is likely to continue his yelling at his sister in the future.  He appears to feel guilty for his actions by saying he feels terrible and hates himself.

In addition to the intrapersonal conflict in the above comic, there appears to be also a fairly clear example of an interpersonal conflict in the above comic.  It involves Lucy and Linus.


Lucy seems to have a desire that Linus leave her things alone but the fact that he was reading her comic book suggests to her that, interfering with her desire, he will continue to use her things.  The fact that Lucy is yelling at Linus and threatening to chase him out of the country suggests that she sees him as guilty of doing something wrong.

As a first step to enact a plan to wisely deal with interpersonal conflicts, on this blog we have spent some time learning to describe them in a familiar manner, using the word “DIG” as a reminder to look for the desire, then the interfering act, and then the guilt.  As we can see in the above example, we can use the word “DIG” in a similar way for intrapersonal conflicts.

In this next comic, again Charlie Brown has an intrapersonal conflict.  See if you can describe it in terms of his desire, something interfering with his desire, and his guilt of doing something wrong.


There are several good ways to describe Charlie Brown’s intrapersonal conflict.  Here’s one–Charlie Brown seems to desire to go home and do his school work, but interfering with this, he is going to the movies.  He appears to be feeling guilty about going to the movies.

Let’s try one more.  Again, see if you can describe Charlie Brown’s intrapersonal conflict with the help of the letters in the word “DIG.”


Here’s one reasonable description of Charlie Brown’s intrapersonal conflict.

Charlie Brown seems to have a desire to become a big-league player, but interfering with his desire is his observation of how he has been playing.  He appears to feel guilty about how he has been playing.

Good.  Thanks for playing along.  By now, you have had some practice using the first step to enact a plan to wisely deal with intrapersonal conflicts, that is, to describe the conflict using the letters in the word “DIG” as an aid to remind you to dig for the desire, the interfering act and the perceived guilt.


When we use the DIG Conflict Model to describe a conflict, it is advantageous to phrase the conflicts as something relevant to the future. Consider the first intrapersonal conflict we discussed today:


Let’s take another look at how I described it:

Charlie Brown seems to desire that he not yell at his baby sister, but the fact that he did has led him to perceive that, interfering with his desire, he is likely to continue his yelling at his sister in the future.  He appears to feel guilty for his actions by saying he feels terrible and hates himself.

Now one simpler way to say this might be:

Charlie Brown desired that he not yell at his baby sister, but he interfered with his desire by yelling at her.  He felt guilty about it.

In this description, we still have all of the three conditions for a conflict–that is, the desire, the interfering act and the guilt.  But they all took place in the past.  To become an expert at dealing with conflicts, we must learn to describe an existing conflict as something relevant to the future.

Try not to misunderstand me here.  People oftentimes think about and discuss conflicts that occurred in the past.



According to the DIG Conflict model, a conflict, if it currently exists, must have, in part, the following two conditions:

  1. A person has a desire that an act will occur. 
  2.  A person must perceive that someone is likely to act in a manner that is incompatible with the desire.

Framing a conflict as connected in some way to the future is forward looking.  It helps us to focus in on what we can do to make a change that can alter the future for the better.

If we could ask Charlie Brown some questions about what led him to feel so blue, we would discover that he does probably perceive that what happened is connected to something relevant to his future.  For example, imagine how Charlie would respond if I asked him, “Why are you sad that you made your sister cry?  That happened already and there is nothing you can do about it now.”

He might answer, “Maybe feeling sad will prod me into figuring out what to do in the future so it won’t happen again.”  Or, he might say, “I don’t know, I just am.”  If he answers in the first way, he will be thinking more like a person with a mature idea of what it means to have a conflict.  It is this level of maturity that I am trying to encourage. It will take some time for many of you to come to fully understand the value of this, but if you stick with this blog, you are likely to find it can become a very comfortable way to think about this stuff and very helpful.

Consider the case in which Charlie Brown, instead of insulting himself or attempting to ignore and forget the whole episode, says, “I understand why I feel uncomfortable with what I did—it was wrong.  I like myself for feeling uncomfortable when I treat my sister wrong.  This feeling is a tool that prods me to come up with a better way to treat my sister in the future.”

After some more thought and perhaps discussing the problem with some people he respects, let’s say that he reaches a point at which he says to himself,

“Next time my baby sister messes up a puzzle I’m working on, I’ll walk away, take some deep breaths, and remind myself that she is just a baby.  And maybe I can do some things to prevent this situation from ever coming about.  Hmm, let me see here.  Oh, I know what I can do.  Whenever I work on a puzzle, instead of doing it on the floor, I could do it high up in a place that my sister can’t reach.”

This would be a better point to get to.  As Charlie Brown reaches for this level of understanding, he will be more hopeful that he will be able to work out his conflict, and therefore be less depressed.  If you continue to follow this blog, you will learn to master the set of skills necessary for resolving conflicts in this mature way.


Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.


About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.


  1. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING: A TIME TO GRIEVE « Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
    December 16, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    January 1, 2013 - 11:52 am

  3. Hey there. I like the ideas of the DIG conflict model. One question I have though is in regards to the Charlie Brown comic where they are going to the movies and Charlie is having a conflict with himself about whether or not he wants to go. It seems to me like Charlie actually has 2 conflicting desires- one to go to the movies with his friends (perhaps because he’s being peer pressured to do so) and another desire to not see the movie so he can go home and help his mother or do his school work. Is the interference in your DIG model actually a separate and conflicting desire? I know often I have many conflicting desires within myself and my struggle with these multiple desires is where I run into problems when experiencing an intrapersonal conflict. I feel like clearing this up will be helpful in me understanding your philosophy in future blog posts. Thanks very much

  4. Hi JSR,
    I too, often have conflicting desires. As I think about this, I do believe that “conflicting desires” can lead to conflicts. I realize that this is a topic worthy of further discussion. I promise to take up this topic more thoroughly soon in a future blog posts.
    My Best,

  5. ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND CONFLICT « Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
    February 2, 2013 - 4:17 pm

  6. Hi Joe, I like your little phrase–hotDIGitydog. It strikes me as another fun way to remember to employ the DIG letters to clarify the nature of the conflicts we find ourselves in.

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