Ambivalence is one of our more perplexing psychological ailments. The source of this paradoxical mental-emotional state lies submerged in our psyche, almost as unfathomable as those bizarre deep-sea creatures that underwater cameras have discovered.
Ambivalence is the misery we feel when we have conflicting feelings—love and hate, for instance—that we experience simultaneously toward a person, group, object, institution, idea, or action. Ambivalence constitutes an excess of conflicting thoughts. It’s a tortured state of mind that involves failing to reach a coherent point of view on a subject one feels strongly about.
This psychological impasse contains elements of indecision, cynicism, confusion, and mixed feelings. But ambivalence has its own special psychological configuration. Under its influence, a person hovers in pronounced self-doubt, unable to feel or even to imagine a genuine or authentic self capable of assuming inner authority. This person is unable to feel or connect with the part of himself or herself that’s reasonably confident of knowing and acting upon one’s best interests. This state of self-alienation, of “not knowing one’s mind,” is one of many symptoms associated with inner passivity.
How widespread is the problem of ambivalence? Its collective effect could be contaminating many social and political issues. Ambivalence would likely be at play in people who hate the government while claiming to be patriots who love their country. Ambivalence is conceivably a factor with people who believe they’re decent and good while also convinced they’re wretched sinners. Also under its influence are people who understand the need to have police forces yet personally detest representatives of that authority. So too for those who denounce “forbidden” sexual attitudes and behaviors while in their imagination experience a compulsive allure for them. The ambivalence in these examples can be painfully acute. [Read more…]