Generally, people tend to think of conflict as something physical, like fighting with another person. While conflict can involve other people, this does not exactly represent the psychological definition of conflict. The psychological definition of conflict is when a person has to choose between two opposing or incompatible actions, motives, or ideas. It's sort of like trying to pick items on a menu when you're out for dinner; having to choose between those things can create a conflict within a person.
Now, conflict can be important or helpful. Psychologist Erik Erikson claimed that conflict was an important motivation in each stage of development within a person. On the other hand, conflict can also lead to stress, which can harm a person both psychologically and physically. Understanding exactly how conflict works is important for understanding how to prevent these negative effects.
Kurt Lewin, a psychologist, identified three different types of conflict:
EXAMPLESuppose you're at an ice cream shop and have to decide between mint chip ice cream or butterscotch ice cream. This would be an approach-approach conflict.
EXAMPLEShould you choose to sweep the floors or wash the dishes? If neither chore is appealing to you, this is an avoidance-avoidance conflict.
EXAMPLESuppose you want to be in a production on stage, but you have stage fright and don't like performing in front of other people. This would be an approach-avoidance conflict. The partial approach would be if you decide to be in the play, you might just choose a small, inconsequential part or background role.
A person can also have a double approach-avoidance situation where they have two alternatives that are both neither good nor bad, because they have both positive and negative aspects. These conflicts are much more difficult for a person to resolve. These types of situations can increase the stress and the psychological or emotional problems that a person has as a result of conflict.
EXAMPLEA person is offered two different jobs. One of them pays well, but it is very boring work. The other one doesn't pay well, but it involves work that they really enjoy. That person has to make a decision between the two jobs, navigating the pros and cons of both.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart.