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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. 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. The expressions "cold feet" and "sitting on the fence" are often used to describe the feeling of ambivalence.
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.
In psychoanalysis, the concept of ambivalence (introduced by Eugen 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 ambivalence would actually feel both of the two contradictory emotions as such. With the exception of cases of obsessional neurosis, 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. A drug addict may feel ambivalently about their drug of choice; they know that the drug has a destructive effect on their lives (socially, financially, medically, and otherwise), while simultaneously seeking and using it because of the pleasure they get from the drug's usage.
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 nature of the thing being considered.
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