Ambivalence  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having thoughts and/or emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something. A common example of ambivalence is the feeling of both love and hate for a person. The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness concerning something.

Ambivalence is experienced as psychologically unpleasant when the positive and negative aspects of a subject are both present in a person's mind at the same time. This state can lead to avoidance or procrastination, or to deliberate attempts to resolve the ambivalence. When the situation does not require a decision to be made, people experience less discomfort even when feeling ambivalent.

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Fantastique and grotesque

The term ambivalence is encountered in the definitions of the fantastique and the grotesque. The question asked in the fantastique is "Is this a dream or reality?", the question asked in the grotesque is "Should I laugh or should I cry?. This ambivalence is also marked by the terms hesitation and ambiguity.

Ambivalence in psychoanalysis

In psychoanalytic terminology, however, a more refined definition applies: the term (introduced into the discipline by Bleuler in 1911), refers to an underlying emotional attitude in which the co-existing contradictory impulses (usually love and hate) derive from a common source and are thus held to be interdependent. Moreover, when the term is used in this psychoanalytic sense it would not usually be expected that the person embodying this 'ambivalence' would actually feel both of the two contradictory emotions as such: except in obsessional neurosis, which sees both sides being more or less 'balanced' in consciousness, one or other of the conflicting sides is usually repressed. (Thus, for example, an analysand's 'love' for his father might be quite consciously experienced and openly expressed – while his 'hate' for the same object might be heavily repressed and only indirectly expressed, and thus only revealed in analysis).

Another relevant distinction is that whereas the psychoanalytic notion of 'ambivalence' sees it as engendered by all neurotic conflict, a person's everyday 'mixed feelings' may easily be based on a quite realistic assessment of the imperfect, inconsistent or self-contradictory nature of the thing being considered.

Intellectual ambivalence

Intellectual ambivalence refers to an inability or unwillingness to commit oneself to a definite answer, position, or conclusion in thought ("yea or nay"), normally either because a definite stance is deliberately avoided or evaded for some personal motive, or because sufficient grounds (logical or experiential evidence) warranting a definite stance are lacking. To resolve intellectual ambivalence into a definite position is frequently a task for criticism or critique. The main problem with intellectual ambivalence is that it provides no clear guide or orientation for action and leadership. It is difficult to act or lead on the basis that something "might or might not be the case", that something "might or might not be a good idea" etc. In order to act or lead, definite ideas are necessary rather than uncertainty which incapacitates choices and decisions. Thus it often happens that someone in a leadership function pretends to be very "definite" about an issue, because the function requires it, even though he or she is in truth ambivalent about the issue.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ambivalence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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