Dayna Sharp, LCSW
Ambivalence. It's when you feel more than one way about something. For example, I might feel ambivalent if I want to begin therapy because I believe it will help, but I'm also scared because I'm not sure if I can trust the therapist and because I might have to look at some difficult things about myself. I'm ambivalent. It's a normal human experience, because we're quite complicated and can feel lots of different ways about things.
But sometimes we can get caught up in ambivalence to the point we feel paralyzed. We might get stuck in our head thinking about the possible decisions, along with a sense of anxiety and angst. We might get stuck in procrastination, unable to make up our minds. This intense kind of ambivalence can actually feel painful.
A Way Out: Recognizing All or Nothing Thinking
Ambivalence is often a problem of perspective. Sometimes we might be thinking in terms of right or wrong, good or bad. What if we make the wrong choice? What if I go to a therapist and it's bad? What if I take the new job and it's horrible? What if I decide not to enroll my child in sports, and then they're behind everyone else and can never play sports when they're older or will have low self-esteem and no friends because they don't know how to play? What if I marry this person but then I find someone else that's my soul mate?
Just reading the questions can give you a felt sense of anxiety, right? What the questions have in common is that they are based on an idea that there is a "right" choice and a "wrong" choice, that the outcome will be "bad" or "perfect". The reality is there often is no right or wrong choice, no terrible or perfect choice. When we realize that, it usually frees us from the pain of ambivalence.
A more realistic and less painful view is to take things one step at a time. Call a few therapists, and see which feels like a good match. No therapist is perfect, and no therapy is perfect. Usually, they're not horrible either. Most likely your experience will be somewhere in the middle. Expect ups and downs, and if there are too many downs, talk it out or make a change. Same idea with a new job: use your interview to really feel whether it would be a good match for you. It won't be perfect. There will be moments you might enjoy it and others that will feel distressful. Again, if there are too many downs, you can always look for something new. If now's not a good time for sports, your child is resilient, and will likely be fine. Life won't be perfect with sports, and it won't be horrible without. Wondering if there's someone "better" out there for you is usually a fantasy of some idealized, wonderful person. Here's the truth: No one is wonderful. And we are all wonderful. All at the same time. We are complicated, messy people all with different parts of ourselves, some more likable than others. If your chosen partner treats you well and you enjoy your connection with them, you can put your ambivalence at ease. You may want to read more about ambivalence in relationships in my blog post, "Push Pull in Relationships".
Regardless of which choice you make, if it is in your best interest (meaning it won't harm you), it is unlikely to be "wrong". We all mistakes, and taking healthy risks is a part of living your best life. Not making a decision is a choice in itself, with its own consequences. When we avoid and procrastinate, we hold ourselves back from the possibilities of life. And we also surrender our role as the author of our lives, just letting things happen. Freedom comes from realizing that there is no perfect choice. There are always going to be ups and downs. And remembering that through it all, we can be okay. And even thrive!
Do you struggle with ambivalence? Creating Space Counseling and Wellness can help you to better understand your struggle and to find the self confidence to try another way. Call today to see if I might be a not-perfect, but good match for you! 856-281-1664