1. uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. Psychology : the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
Earlier this year, an Italian journalist who was writing about the concept of ambivalence for a Milanese newspaper came upon this earlier post where I covered ambivalence definition number two above. In our interview, we discussed the ideas I put forward in that post, but her article examined ambivalence definition number one, as well. I have some thoughts about that first aspect of ambivalence –the problems inherent in choosing — and some further reflections on the second.***
Over the years, many of my clients have discussed an inability to make up their minds when confronted with an important choice: which career path to follow, where to vacation, how to spend some extra money, whether to accept a job offer, etc.; one client couldn’t decide which of two men she wanted to date on an exclusive basis and went endlessly back and forth between them without ever committing to either one. In my experience, there are various reasons why people have such a hard time choosing, but at base, they usually reflect idealized expectations and an underlying perfectionism.