Michael Blackstone has 24 years experience consulting as an executive coach in personal development, leadership and team development. One-on-one, he’s worked with nearly 4,000 people around the world, and is an expert on intrapersonal conflict.
What is a life coach and why would someone want one?
First, thank you, Tim, for the opportunity to talk about some important things.
If someone has a personal issue they’d like to overcome and have been struggling with, they could consider hiring a trained life coach. Life coaching admirably fills a gap between your best friend confidant and a full-fledged psychiatrist. A certified life coach will be far more helpful than your best friend yet less expensive, in most cases, than a psychiatrist. And they won’t prescribe a drug. They’ll help you work with your real-world problem, and help you sort out a course of action based on the philosophy that you already have your own best answers and ideas—you just haven’t been able dig them out, but they are there.
How do you work with over 4,000 people?
Well, it’s actually just shy of 4,000, but I was fortunate early in my executive coaching career. A very busy training and development company recruited me. For over a dozen years they sent me on the road for two to four weeks every month to work with corporate clients the likes of DuPont, HP, Smith-Kline, Sun Micro, Xerox and others, teaching and coaching. It was a priceless training ground for me, working with so many people, discovering what stops people from getting what they want out of life, and discovering the fundamental patterns of success and non-success. It’s quite valuable knowing what doesn’t work, as well as what does.
If you could recommend one book for people to help improve their lives, what would it be and why?
That’s pretty easy, though many may think my recommendation is a little off-beat. Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul, by Jane Roberts. I’ve always asked the cosmic questions, why are we here, etc., and I finally came to the conclusion that reincarnation makes the most sense. And, of all the reincarnation material I’ve read, Seth Speaks makes the most sense. Really, more than that, though, reading that book brought me peace of mind about who I am, why I’m here, what this world is all about, and what the future has in store. As someone who personally has experienced inner conflict, peace of mind has great value.
You’re an expert on intrapersonal conflict. Most people have never heard of the term intrapersonal conflict. What is it?
It is conflict solely within the psychological dynamics of one’s own mind, so I use the more well-known term “inner conflict” interchangeably with intrapersonal conflict. Chronic and distressing inner conflict is very common. About one in three people suffer with it.
It is a problem, though, that there is very little coherent literature on the subject of inner conflict. Many people suffering with it are unaware they have it. And even if they know they are experiencing inner conflict, they will be unaware they don’t have to live with it—there are really effective methods for eliminating inner conflict. And, they won’t know that in its place, they can be experiencing inner peace, fulfillment, satisfaction, and enjoyment of life.
What are some of the signs for intrapersonal conflict?
There are many, but here are a few common ones someone can use for a self-assessment:
- Beating yourself up in your mind—berating yourself, for any reason.
- Agreeing to requests from others when you want to say no, resenting them for it and being disgusted with yourself.
- Repressing a part of yourself you think needs protecting, or you think may be immature, flawed, or even sinister.
- Disliking some aspect of yourself, or your whole self; feeling undeserving.
- You get angry and regret it later.
- You feel you have to be perfect, or you must do things perfectly.
- Driving yourself to achieve out of fear of failure, or belief you may be a fraud.
- Having difficulty making choices and decisions.
- Feeling alone; being determined to hide your inner turmoil and act as if all is fine.
When did you first learn about it and what interested you so much that you wanted to become an authority?
It showed up very quickly into my career back in ’88 and ’89, in the form of what I thought at the time were resistant clients. Nothing I tried with them worked very well, and I had a pretty good toolset. Then I had an almost accidental breakthrough with one of these “resistant” clients, and found out they only seemed resistant because I didn’t recognize the inner conflict that was right there for me to see. I started to identify more patterns of inner conflict and began having very good success with these folks by doing what can be called an “integration” or an “inner reconciliation.”
They made up one third of my clients so this was a big deal for me. What had been happening is people with inner conflict almost always hide it, even from their spouses. They hide it because they don’t understand it, it confuses them, and most think they are somehow flawed, or defective in some way. So it came as no surprise they would try to hide it from me, too. But I learned to see the patterns and help clients see the patterns for themselves and bring their inner conflict out into the open with me.
Then in 1993, I discovered the 1960s work of Roger Sperry, an eminent neuroscientist. Discovering his work I believe has been the biggest breakthrough of my professional career. He studied a small group of epileptics at CalTech who had had the connection between the right and left hemispheres of their brain surgically cut in an attempt to cure their epilepsy. The operation did cure or dramatically reduce their seizures. But now, here were these folks, called “split brain” patients, who presented a never-before-possible opportunity to study the effects of “disconnecting” the two hemispheres of the brain.
For more than a decade, Sperry and his team tested these folks and made discoveries so amazing that today, almost everyone has heard about or read a book on how to get the most out of your left or your right brain. Sperry’s work earned him a Nobel Prize in 1981, and spawned a generation of hundreds of these self-help books written by authors inspired by his team’s findings.
But what floored me was that a portion of his work got passed over, almost unnoticed in the frenzy of books that were written about the newly discovered different specializations of each hemisphere.
Sperry discovered that each hemisphere had its own stream of consciousness, independent of the other hemisphere!!! He discovered each hemisphere not only had its own consciousness, but its own set of preferences, beliefs, values, and personal style of communication! And he discovered each could have its own emotions independent of the other! He discovered each was an autonomous personality! And Sperry demonstrated they could get into conflicts with each other!
I was blown away. Given my experience with inner conflict in many of my clients, this was the key to understanding I did not even know I was missing. Inner conflict can be fully explained and understood and even predicted by the very architecture of the brain. I realized that inner conflict, when it occurs, happens through conflictive communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
What I further realized this could mean is that if this part of Sperry’s research were as well-known, 1) many, many more people would be able to recognize their inner conflict. 2) They would learn the root cause of their inner conflict is in the structure and functionality of the brain, and NOT that they are flawed or defective, or have anything they need to hide. Their own personal stigma would be lifted. And 3) they could easily find the assistance to help them resolve their inner conflict. Many would be able to do it themselves by reading a book!
I remember working with a client I discovered had inner conflict and where his wife frequently accused him of being a liar. What I realized was happening is he would be in, let’s say “left hemisphere mode,” and would express an opinion to his wife, for example, “I really enjoyed our visit to your folks’ house.” And then on another day, he would be in “right hemisphere mode,” and say with strong feeling, “I really hate going to your folks’ house.” Both statements were actually true for each hemisphere, and the architecture of the brain explains this, but can you put yourself in his wife’s shoes? Absolutely!
I explained to him in great detail how each hemisphere in the brain can work independently and each inspire and carry out contradictory behaviors at different times that will confuse other people. He started to softly cry and I asked him what that was. He said, “For the first time in my life someone understands me. But even more important, I finally understand myself!” I cried with him at his tremendous relief in discovering there was nothing wrong with him… once he learned the real mechanics of his brain. We did an inner reconciliation and a few days later he had the most wonderful conversation with his wife in many years.
My mission in this chapter of my career is to publicize intrapersonal conflict as the biggest unrecognized obstacle to personal fulfillment, satisfaction, and enjoyment of life for up to one third of the adult and teenaged populations of all developed countries; and to popularize the methodologies for resolving inner conflict, replacing it with inner peace.
And inner peace within more individuals facilitates more family, work, regional, national, cultural, international, and world peace.
Can it be dangerous? What are the long term effects of having a severe case?
Yes it can be dangerous. Severe inner conflict can lead to despair, deep depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide.
Long-term effects of severe inner conflict can be many, one or more of the following may occur together: loss of relationships, no joy in living, cynicism of the good in others, chronic depression, physical symptoms, little or no emotional availability for loved ones, regular irritability with self but projected onto others—loved ones or workmates, mid-life crisis. If someone is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, intrapersonal conflict is the first suspect.
I want everyone to know inner conflict is absolutely resolvable. If you experience any of these signs, I recommend you find an experienced NLP Master Practitioner near you. They have the tools. Just tell them you believe you experience inner conflict. If you know someone you think suffers with inner conflict, show them this information or go to http://www.intrapersonalconflict.com and recommend they find an NLP Master Practitioner near them and make an appointment.
What is the worst case you have ever seen?
Well, I think the case I mentioned is one of the most poignant, but another one I recall as more tragic was of a woman who was beaten over several years beginning when she was just 10 years old by her mother’s boyfriend. She learned to completely dissociate from her body to not experience any emotion or pain when she was being beaten. She told me, “I just learned how to ‘go away.’”
She became a poet and channeled emotions through her poetry. She was compelled to please others yet was unavailable emotionally. She longed to get reconnected to her emotions, to just be able to cry. One of her sons committed suicide and she never shed a single tear, but wanted to. After we worked an inner reconciliation, she reconnected with her son, grieved, shed tears and came to closure. And other parts of her life opened up, as well.
On your site you reference a video of a man who has had his brain separated in two. How is it possible to be so normal when you have two unconnected hemispheres of the brain? If anyone wants to see the video they can go to http://www.intrapersonalconflict.com. It is an amazing clip.
That’s a really good question that Sperry and other neuroscientists have wrestled with, even to this today, but there are some good facts and theories that fit in with what I have discovered about inner conflict.
First, there are redundancies. Although the corpus callosum, the 200+million neural fibers connecting the two hemispheres, has been surgically cut, both hemispheres still hear the same incoming information and see the same incoming information. What’s been lost is the ability of the hemispheres to share information and interact with each other through the lost internal connection.
The left hemisphere has speech capability while the right hemisphere does not. The right hemisphere has some language processing even though it does not speak. From that alone we realize that, if each were on their own, the left hemisphere with its ability to talk would have a significant advantage in the reality of today’s world than the right hemisphere, which has its own consciousness, can think, but would not be able to talk.
There are many neuroscientists who now believe language and speech give rise to the consciousness we are most aware of. With its language superiority, the left hemisphere consciousness dominates, and it is the consciousness all of us “live in” and are most aware of. And that’s what you see in the video, the left hemisphere Joe doing all the talking, and appearing just like a regular person.
You also see from this video, the right hemisphere has a mind of its own. It can interact with the tester, Michael Gazzaniga, by following verbal instructions. Though it cannot speak, its individual performance opens the possibility that one day, “he” may not want to go along with Joe’s wishes, and there will be… inner conflict.
Thank you for speaking with us Michael.
It was a pleasure. Thanks.