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Have you ever experienced a circumstance that brought joy and sadness at the same time?
For example, a newly pregnant woman attends the funeral of her father. Or you are informed of your friend’s engagement the same day you are diagnosed with cancer.
While these are extreme examples, a battle of emotions happens quite frequently. The scientific term for this state is called ambivalence.
Let’s look at another example that may be something you’ve experienced, perhaps frequently. By birth, you are likely a part of a family. Whether or not you are happy with your family, outside of disowning or ignoring them, they’re still connected to you by blood. Say you have an aunt that you love, she was there for you as a child and continues to applaud your accomplishments. However, she constantly disagrees with your choice of partner. You feel happy when she is a part of MOST of your life, but are angry when she makes snide remarks about your current girlfriend.
This situation can often lead to heavy negative feelings, either toward the cause of our ambivalence or toward ourselves. We certainly find it difficult to live in this state of constant flux and can become consumed and exhausted by it. We desperately want to figure out what side we are on. Sometimes it can even lead to procrastination and emotional paralysis.
However, there are 2 ways to reframe these feelings to make them more manageable:
- Accept our ambivalence. According to Psychology Today, we are complex creatures with complex feelings. Ambivalence is human nature, not to be solved. Life is not meant to be black and white; thus, using our energy to determine our concrete positive or negative emotions on a subject is a waste of time. Lean into the convolution.
- Understand that ambivalence boosts our judgement skills. In an article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the authors research groups of people with or without mixtures of feelings. Those individuals who were experiencing happiness and sadness simultaneously accepted alternative viewpoints more easily and made better decisions.
Therefore, although it may seem like your mind is constantly on trial, with the prosecution on one side and the defense on the other, welcome the ambivalence and use it to your advantage. The next time you’re tasked with a tough decision, you’ll likely be more informed and confident if you have a lot of different emotions swirling around in that big beautiful brain.