MAKING MY PEACE … with ambivalence


Making My Peace … with ambivalence


Ambivalence? What is ambivalence? The Cambridge Dictionary says ambivalence is ‘the state of having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.’ I am rarely ambivalent, but many people are.

Is ambivalence caused by apathy? No. Apathy means no interest. Ambivalent people have an interest and no interest at the same time.

Is ambivalence a sign of neutrality? No. Being neutral is a conscious action or decision at a certain time about a specific event. Ambivalence is having dual feelings at the same time – wanting to do something and not wanting to do it; feeling happy and sad at the same time; liking and disliking something simultaneously.

People often misinterpret ambivalence as neutrality or apathy, or worse … rejection!

Is ambivalence about rejection? No. Rejection means a no, a definite no. Ambivalence is having no clear, unequivocal (total) decision – so you are not being rejected by an ambivalent person because they accept you and reject you at the same time.

The problem with ambivalence is that the person who is ambivalent doesn’t know where they stand on an issue, and therefore no one else does either.

Frustrating, confusing? Yes. Frustrating and confusing for you and me, and especially aggravating for someone who makes quick, spontaneous decisions, and knows immediately how they feel about something or someone. For an ambivalent person, it is just as frustrating and mentally challenging – especially if they feel under pressure to make a decision.

Ambivalence is quite normal. Chronic ambivalence is not the norm. Uncertainty about your own feelings or choices makes it difficult to make decisions – it is debilitating and paralyzing, leading to procrastination and avoidance in making any decision or thoughtful action.

Who are chronic ambivalent people? There is a chain of thought that obsessive-compulsive people are chronically ambivalent, or over-thinkers, over-evaluators, or dissociated people, or fence-sitters, or people who have difficulty solving problems, or it comes from a fear of making the wrong decision or a bad decision or a ‘no-going-back’ decision.

Chronic ambivalence makes it difficult to move forward, to gain ground in life – even for the people around the ambivalent person; people at work, family members, friends, associates, and partners. Being in a relationship with a chronic ambivalent person can be extremely difficult. Often neither person can move forward.

Making my peace with ambivalence, I learned the following:

  • All people are ambivalent sometimes.
  • Nibbling at problems is good; gnawing everything to pieces is over-analysing
  • Finding difficulties is good; fixating on them is counter-productive
  • More information is good; delving deeper and deeper and deeper is like going into a black hole
  • Attention to detail is good; losing track of the big picture is like reading the words but not understanding the story
  • A yes or no, do or don’t decision can be reframed in an alternative way (e.g., instead of “Do you love me?” think of an alternative, such as “What do you love about our relationship?” or “What do you love to do when we are together?”
  • Change and expansiveness can be overwhelming if they are not taken step by step
  • Breaking down a decision into steps, and analysing only one step at a time, can result in steadily reaching a definite answer for each step, which may help to identify the blockage and ultimately reach a final decision
  • Confusion is the result of too much, too soon; but too little, too late may result in paralysis
  • Keeping still in a storm is good; paralysis in a field with a bull might result in being struck by the horns of fate
  • Identifying when ambivalence occurs – when someone is leaning towards one answer, and when they change to another answer – can help to shift the circumstances that result in ambivalence
  • Writing down the advantages, disadvantages, and the interesting aspects of a problem might free the mind from ambivalence
  • Writing down what you want, why you want it, why you can’t achieve it, how you can achieve it, and what would be your answer/solution/choice if the disadvantages/obstacles/negativities were removed might release ambivalence
  • Ranking the choices by percentage or point scores might reveal the highest rating choice; repeating the same exercise in an hour, a day, three days etc. may help to identify movement towards or away from a decision; (e.g., are you moving towards a yes or are you moving towards a no?).


Martina Nicolls: Rainy Day HealingMAKING MY PEACE






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