Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ambivalent Mind


Of all the things I've seen in my work, I'd have to say that ambivalence - the state in which one feels contradictory emotions for a person or a situation - is a rough road. The coexistence of both positive and negative feelings towards a situation or a person keeps you in an emotional holding pattern. Your ambivalent mind draws you in and then pushes you away. You live your life in an approach-avoidance style.

As a result, this rigid cycling pattern never moves you forward. You are constantly moving from one side of the fence to the other. "Do I want this? I think maybe I don't." "I really like her, but sometimes I'm not so sure." Or you park yourself entirely on the fence. "I'm not making any decisions about anything."

Ambivalent thinking has genetic origins to obsessive compulsive tendencies, psychological defensive styles like "splitting" or personality disorders, and under-developed cognitive-behavioral styles of problem solving. If you're ambivalent, there are things you can do to break the holding pattern. Professional help can get you going in the right direction.

If you're involved with someone who is chronically ambivalent, keep an eye on the grains of sand in the hourglass. If too much time goes by and the relationship is unhealthy, it may be a good idea to think about detaching yourself.

14 comments:

Von said...

like to comment Deb on ambivalence in adoptees?

Wanda's Wings said...

This was very interesting.

OHN said...

Deb: What is the difference between ambivalence, and the feeling of always being able to see both sides of an opposing issue? Even during an argument if one party (while defending their view)is able to see the opponents view as possible (but not in agreement with the view).
Whew...does that make any sense? :-)

Dr. Deb said...

Von,
I'm not familiar with the research on that. Good question!

Wanda,
Ambivalence is tough for those who can't escape its hold,

OHN,
It means you have a wide frame of reference in your ability to abstract and generalize. Being able to see all different kinds of views is a sign of well-being and healthy thinking. :)

Sarebear said...

I struggle with this alot. In so many areas.

Especially ambivalent about my psychiatrist, but since someone else is paying the bills I can't afford, I don't have a choice. I mean what kind of psychiatrist flies off the handle at you when you tell them you are afraid of them? Um, they are proving me right to be afraid of them lol.

Dr. Deb said...

Sare,
Yikes! I think you ARE right!

Xmichra said...

This is odd, this subject, just given the thoughts in my head this week. I don't think that I have thought of myself as being ambivalent, but I think perhaps regarding one issue I am.

I know that I am in a good place, I think that we always have something that isn't perfect in our mentality or an issue that just can't really resolve. But that could be my ambivalence talking.. lol... so it's a strange concept, and a little frightening when you tend towards being introspective.

you've given me something to think about Deb.

Inez Falencia said...

There are so many cases of ambivalence is happening around us. Sometimes we are confused to take a stance. And if this is the role of the social environment so that a person suffering from ambivalence. The extent to which he was instrumental in the appeal with the role of genetics.

Thank Dr. Deb

From Broadway said...

This is a great post!!!

Battle Weary said...

When I saw the word "splitting", my mind went to a completely different place than what was explained in the link connected to the coping mechanism! Of course I immediately thought of DID and splitting, because that is my frame of reference. I do have to say that though in our case things can sometimes appear to be ambivalence, it really is multiple points of view! :D

PTC said...

I am completely ambivalent when it comes to my eating disorder. I don't want to change, but sort of want to. I think my desire to not change is stronger than my desire to change though.

I'm so torn, lose weigh = losing my therapist.
Gain weight = can stay in therapy but will hate my body.

yogurt said...

"Ambivalent thinking has genetic origins to obsessive compulsive tendencies"


Makes sense. The indecision. Can't commit to one or the other, because, what if....

TK Kerouac said...

If you are ambivalent in relationships
is it because on one hand you know its unhealthy
but go between looking at the good vs the bad over and over

and staying regardless because of codependency

Even keeping parental relationships going, because you've learned to split even though you know they are unhealthy

Camille said...

I have this problem and it surfaces when I am severely angry.