Have you ever felt ambivalent?  Most of us know what it is like to both love and hate something at the same time.  This can be on a small scale, like when a dieter both loves and hates the taste of ice cream.  On a larger scale, the experience of ambivalence does much of the damage in sexual abuse, as one tries to reconcile the combination of relational pleasure and intimacy during a choice-less, life shattering betrayal.

The truth is that we all experience stress-causing ambivalence from time to time. If we were to allow ourselves to be honest about the conflicting feelings we experience, we could alleviate some of the inner turmoil that we often explain away as ambiguous distress, sadness, or anxiety.

Take, for instance, a time when the God you put your faith in has seemingly let you or a loved one down…big time.  You are flooded with questions and emotions that seem to threaten your understanding about who God is and what you can expect from life.

But “the Lord works all things together for the good”, right? While this may be true, it is not likely to be the way you actually feel.  Dismissing our actual feelings with truisms or glib sayings is not easy, but it is significantly easier than admitting that this death/job loss/abuse, etc, causes you to doubt His sovereignty, His goodness, or even His existence, or that it causes you anger, even rage toward His willingness to allow the events to unfold as they have.

Your mind and body will process these emotions with or without your permission; however, without allowing yourself to admit the existence of these conflicting emotions, they will manifest themselves in covert ways that are out of your control (i.e. nonspecific depression, anxiety, sometimes even physical illness).

This ambivalence occurs in response to myriad situations. Your anger towards a child you love, your distrust of yourself, your realization of your parents’ flaws.

The honesty involved is not effortless, but with a little help, it can be learned. If you have a good friend, a pastor, or a therapist to help you sit down and begin to practice the process of self-honesty, the experience is rewarding, even exciting at times.

If you need help finding a therapist, we can help you to get connected. Or you can ask your pastor, PCP, or friend for a trusted referral.

Finding yourself in a place where you can be honest about the way you feel, even when it does not make sense or jive with your better judgment, can save you from the stress that is caused by ambivalence.

Photo Credits:
Picture 1: http://dirty-knickers.blogspot.com/