English lawyer George Carman said “mixed feelings, like mixed drinks, are confusing to the soul”. Ambivalence and contradiction are part of the normal emotional range.
Who has not happened to have the opposite emotions towards someone or to be plunged into doubt between what you want and what you do not want? You don’t have to be in a particularly hectic time to feel love and hate or attraction and rejection towards someone …
This type of situation is common and is part of the nature of our psyche. The mind is not a perfect “machine”, but we should not be content to feel this contradiction. What are mixed feelings? How to get out of this loop? We are going deeper into the subject here!
Mixed feelings, conflicting feelings
Mixed feelings, also known as conflicting feelings, are feelings that are apparently contradictory. In other words, they are opposite feelings that are directed towards the same object or the same situation. A simple example: feeling both love and hate towards someone.
It is a paradox of emotional coexistence that can cause strong discomfort, as well as conflicting feelings in itself. According to Freud himself (1926), anyone who is a prisoner of mixed feelings “has a well-founded love and a justified hatred for the same person”.
Mixed feelings aren’t just about love and hate. They also encompass feelings of attraction, loathing, affection, respect, disgust, anger, indifference, etc. As we know, the emotional range is very wide, and the emotions themselves, individually, are full of nuance.
The ambivalence of emotions
The term ambivalence in the emotional spectrum was first used by psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1910). It designates “ those situations of psychic life where opposite feelings coexist and of equal force without being able to make a choice between one and the other.”
Thus, ambivalence is used to designate pathological situations. But also different aspects of non-pathological (ie “normal”) psychological life.
How do you deal with mixed feelings?
Accepting and dealing with a situation in which there are mixed feelings in itself is not easy, especially if some of them are undesirable. Like the feeling of liberation we can feel when someone we have cared for for a long time dies.
Thus, the confrontation even between simultaneous feelings can generate frustration, anger, sadness, uncertainty, indecision… and can make us feel that we are stagnating. What can we do in these cases? Here we offer you some ideas:
- First of all, accept to feel those doubts and that this is precisely what makes you human. Don’t judge yourself, it’s not bad to feel like this. We all doubt, we are all afraid and we all make mistakes.
- Try to stop and analyze what you are feeling inside. Give yourself time to think things through and don’t force yourself to decide anything. Try to regain your serenity.
- To manage ambivalence, it is essential to observe it from the outside, to know it from the inside and finally to understand it. Try to look at yourself from the outside: what would you say to this person if it was not you?
- If, however, you still feel overwhelmed by this constant doubt, perhaps you should seek help. Psychotherapy is a good choice to light the way.
What does science say?
Various studies show that conflicting and contradictory feelings are not necessarily synonymous with indecision. Rather, they are linked to the emotional complexity of humans. Our emotional world is so rich that it allows us to experience contradictory emotions simultaneously.
Differentiate between emotional states
A study (2016) by researchers at the University of Waterloo, in particular by Grossmann, Huynh, and Ellsworth, used a sample of 1,396 people from 16 different cultures to explore these feelings. The results amazed the researchers.
Participants were asked to indicate the emotions they had experienced in certain situations in their life. For example, when they had a problem with a family member, when they fell ill or when they were overworked.
What did the study find? In Western culture, we tend to think of mixed feelings as negative or unwanted, and we associate them directly with indecision.
However, again according to the study, people with these types of contradictory feelings are better able to differentiate their emotional states. They also manage to find a better balance in their life. Curious, right?
One final thought
What about you? Has this happened to you? How did you act in these cases? We have given you some tips for dealing with these emotions, but the reality is that there is no magic formula to get out of this emotional loop that we can find ourselves immersed in.
However, this mouth can help us realize that we are complex beings. Each of us doubts and we have to live with this emotional ambivalence which makes us, at the same time, unique.
Of course, if you feel the situation is overwhelming you, seek help. You can get out of this loop: know that all emotions have their reason for being. Let’s learn from them, let’s feel, don’t go against those emotions.