The iceberg

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iceburgOne of the challenges that we all face as parents, teachers, therapists is trying to look past a child’s behavior to understand why they are doing the things they do.  We relate this to looking at an iceberg.

What you see on top of the water are all of the observable behaviors and actions that a child is displaying.  Often times we simply try to make changes based on the top of the iceberg and think that we have everything solved, like a child having rage episodes, cutting, or lying or picking on others. But the real issue is what’s going on underneath the behaviors below the surface.

What is going on underneath – below what others can see?

Things beneath the behaviors could have to do with problems at home, fear, guilt, or low self-concept, or simply lack of self-awareness or skills to process a problem.   These are some of the examples of things underneath the behaviors. Until you deal with those, the behaviors on the surface will persist or change into other problems.  The process of parenting often helps children become more integrated personalities, where children learn to know themselves better, and therefore, become more able to find success.

Do you know someone who is stuck in a way of thinking or behaving and they can’t move on?  Here are a few examples:

  • Someone who can’t stop grieving a loss for years or feels an unsatisfied need for justice
  • Someone who lives and makes decisions based in fear of what others will think or what “might” happen
  • Someone who lives in guilt and acts as though they must always make amends for their actions – they say they are sorry a lot.
  • Someone who says one thing and does the opposite – they are conflicted in their attitudes and beliefs.


Children have icebergs, and adults have them too!  Luckily, most adults are more able to work through the underlying issues because their brains are more mature than children.


Today we want to take this idea of trying to understand the underlying parts of our children’s behaviors and think about ourselves.  Healthy family members need to do this often!

As we mature, we can take the skills our parents gave us and notice things about ourselves that need to change.  You see, we can all be compared to icebergs!  There is much more that no one sees that makes us who we are; and these things need to be integrated into our personalities.  Have you ever wondered why certain things make you really happy, angry or sad or frustrated?  Have you noticed things that push your buttons and cause your emotions to rise to above normal?  Have you ever taken the time to think about why this happens and what lies underneath?  The process of self-examination is called introspection and it is vital to our personal health and growth.

Integration is next after introspection.  Integration is the process of matching our past with our present and solving personal inner conflicts.   This isn’t for “those people,” because everyone needs to do this.  Most of us do this all the time, even though we never knew what it was called.

Why is introspection important?  Because throughout life, we all have circumstances and challenges which require us to look within (introspection) and align our thoughts, behaviors, frustrations and problems (integration) so they all line up and work together.  Life events, such as a loss of a loved one, guilt over a divorce, regret for a choice, a moral failure, an unhealthy compulsion or desire, a loved one going through crisis, a shattered dream, a change in your goals, or trying to do something new, such as a new skill or job, are times that we must look within and integrate these challenges into our personhood.  We have to match up the new with the old and move forward.  Failure to do so will cause us to be “stuck,” limiting our ability to adapt to life and integrate our person or identity.

Do you know someone who cannot move through a life event like those mentioned above?  Maybe you have an issue below the surface of your iceberg, that without introspection, you didn’t realize was there?

Introspection and integration are not only important for us personally.  Times when we are not integrated are quite apparent to those around us.  They may not use these terms, but our turmoil and conflicted behaviors can cause feelings of fear, confusion and anxiety in others.

Everyone has internal conflicts, so don’t panic!  We all have thoughts that surprise or maybe even scare us from time to time.  We all can be fragile, confused or feel out of sorts when we have challenges in life.  A person whose personality is not fully integrated tends to swing wildly back and forth between two or more life approaches.    This could be exemplified by someone addicted to sex who also is a dedicated Christian.

Biblical Christianity vs. Sexual Acting Out

These conflicting views need to be integrated and the differences cleared up.  This person might either decide to let go of their Biblical values and proceed into sexual acting out, or modify their behaviors.

All of us, at times, find ourselves conflicted; and it is not as unusual as the example just given.  Here are some examples:  A parent loves their kids and has emotional explosions on their kids from time to time; an adult acts one way when they are with their parents and different when they are with their spouse or children; a person agrees in a meeting with their boss, but they disagree in the copy room; a person who never smokes unless they are drinking; or simply, a person who says one thing and does another.  These are less extreme conflicting behaviors, but they still cause others to wonder.

People who are well integrated are comfortable in their own skin and self-confident.  They are able to respect themselves and other personalities and beliefs more easily.  Integrated personalities are more able to see reality and make the correct effort to make changes.  Integrated people can appropriately disagree if needed and accept their weaknesses.  An integrated person is consistent in their actions, thoughts and attitudes most of the time.

So, what about your iceberg?  Do you know what is down there below the surface?  Do you notice inconsistent beliefs or behaviors?  This video uses an approach that links your brain and language called neuro-linguistics.

See what you think!  The idea of identifying and holding the conflicting views or behaviors closely together and bringing them together is a powerful skill and message.  If there are things below your surface that need attention, you can try to do your introspection alone.  If that doesn’t work, you can always talk with a friend, your pastor or a skilled therapist.  Your happiness could depend on it… and your family will be blessed!

In closing, introspection and integration are lifelong duties.  You never get done, but you do get better!

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The Quakerdale team