By Christopher Simon


“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God. . . . But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”    ~ James 1:5-8

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ambivalence as “simultaneous and contradictory feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action.” This is an all-too-human experience that has a physical basis in our two-sided brain.

Positive emotions are usually processed on the left side of the brain and negative emotions on the right. A child who has just “appropriated” a cookie after strict instructions to stay away from the cookie jar may feel pleasure at the same time he is feeling guilt or fear.

All of our significant relationships have some ambivalence. Parents love their children and yet nothing can be quite as exasperating as a child misbehaving.

The secret to dealing with ambivalence is to not let it spoil an otherwise good experience. Going to a party should be fun, though it will perhaps also have some anxiety attached if you aren’t crazy about parties, but that doesn’t have to ruin the experience. Commit yourself to enjoying the event and you probably will, regardless of the hassles involved.

Likewise, our relationships can be spoiled by ambivalence if we focus too much on the negative aspects, but if we commit ourselves to loving the other person despite their flaws then the ambivalence is neutralized.

Another way to deal with ambivalence is to reflect on our values and to reconcile our feelings based on the higher value.