Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing.[1] Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having thoughts and/or emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something. A common example of ambivalence is the feeling of both love and hate for a person. 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.[2]


In psychoanalysis

In psychoanalysis, the concept of ambivalence (introduced by 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.

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.

See also


  1. ^ Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary, 3rd Edition.
  2. ^ Van Harreveld, F., van der Pligt, J., & de Liver, Y. (2009). The agony of ambivalence and ways to resolve it: Introducing the MAID model. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13, 45-61.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • ambivalence — [ ɑ̃bivalɑ̃s ] n. f. • 1911; all. Ambivalenz, du lat. ambo « tous les deux » et valence 1 ♦ Psychol. Caractère de ce qui comporte deux composantes de sens contraire. Ambivalence affective : état de conscience comportant des dispositions… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ambivalence — ambivalence, ambivalency ambivalency . 1. mixed feelings or emotions; uncertainty or vacillation in making a choice. [WordNet 1.5 +PJC] 2. (Psychol.) the simultaneous existence within a person of both positive and negative feelings toward another …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ambivalence — noun dubiety, dubitancy, equivocalness, hesitation, incertitude, indecision, indecisiveness, indeterminacy, indetermination, irresoluteness, irresolution, mental reservation, prevarication, uncertainty, undecidedness, undetermination, vacillation …   Law dictionary

  • ambivalence — (n.) simultaneous conflicting feelings, 1924 (1912 as ambivalency), from Ger. Ambivalenz, coined 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler (1857 1939) on model of Ger. Equivalenz equivalence, etc., from L. ambi both (see AMBI (Cf. ambi )) +… …   Etymology dictionary

  • ambivalence — [n] equivocation confusion dilemma, doubt, fluctuation, haze, hesitancy, hesitation, iffiness*, inconclusiveness, indecision, irresoluteness, muddle, quandary, tentativeness, uncertainty, unsureness; concept 564 Ant. certainty, decisiveness …   New thesaurus

  • ambivalence — [am biv′ə ləns] n. [ AMBI + VALENCE] simultaneous conflicting feelings toward a person or thing, as love and hate: also Chiefly Brit. ambivalency ambivalent adj. ambivalently adv …   English World dictionary

  • ambivalence —    by Marc Schuster   Ambivalence is a slippery term whose definition and significance has shifted throughout Baudrillard s career. One constant, however, is that ambivalence always calls into question the legitimacy of value. For Baudrillard,… …   The Baudrillard dictionary

  • ambivalence — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ deep, profound ▪ She feels a profound ambivalence about her origins. ▪ moral, sexual VERB + AMBIVALENCE ▪ fe …   Collocations dictionary

  • Ambivalence — Le terme ambivalence a été introduit en 1910 par Eugen Bleuler pour caractériser un aspect de l état psychique des schizophrènes. Il a été repris par Sigmund Freud dans une acception différente: il s agit de la juxtaposition plus ou moins… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ambivalence — The coexistence of antithetical attitudes or emotions toward a given person or thing, or idea, as in the simultaneous feeling and expression of love and hate toward the same person. [ambi + L. valentia, strength] * * * am·biv·a·lence am biv ə… …   Medical dictionary

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