This paper highlights the importance of considering two facets of the content of internal conflicts: The concrete subject theme of the conflict and the abstract motivations that people perceive as being conflicted (e.g. values implicated in the conflict). The paper demonstrates how personal value priorities contribute to the understanding of internal conflicts. In two studies I examined the relationship between values and the content of internal conflicts. In Study 1 (N = 250), students described a central conflict that they were experiencing and analysed the values they perceived as opposing in their conflict. Results indicated that the reported conflicts were usually between values not conceptualized as motivationally opposite to each other. Furthermore, personal value priorities were related to the values implicated in the conflict both directly and indirectly by their effect on the themes of the conflicts. In Study 2 (N = 230), working parents analysed the values they perceive as coming in conflict in two work–family dilemmas. Findings supported the premise that values explain individual differences in the motivational meaning attributed to a conflict even when the conflict theme is held constant. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.