Ambivalence refers to the coexistence of two opposing feelings, drives, tendencies and impulses, towards the same person, goal or object. The term should not be confused with ‘ambiguity’ (i.e. opposed or unclear meanings). Nor should it be confused with mixed feelings (Rycroft, 1968). For Rycroft, mixed feelings may in fact refer to realistic assessments of the object, social situation or external reality. It may also refer to attitudes or ideas (e.g. positive and negative attitudes towards abortion, exercise, capital punishment). Research (not in psychoanalysis, dynamic psychiatry or psychodynamic psychology, where the emphasis is placed on unconscious dimensions of this emotional state) sometimes refers to ambivalence as ‘mixed emotions’ and shows that the ability to tolerate, use or become aware of these states correlates to resilience, creativity and physical well-being (see Rycroft’s early criticism of the confusion between mixed feeling/emotion and ambivalence).
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