Have you ever felt like you wanted something–for example, to start an exercise program, to get to know an acquaintance better, or to start taking steps toward a vision of the future…but found that you were getting bogged down by niggly little things, like missing a phone call or not getting something on your calendar?
Sure, that sort of thing happens all the time for various reasons, but what I’m talking about is those times when you can detect that you’re playing some part. You feel pulled toward taking the steps you want…so you keep moving in that direction…but a part of you doesn’t seem to care if you do or don’t.
It’s like you’re tripping because you haven’t tied your shoelaces.
You could just tie your shoe laces…but there’s this wall of apathy in the way.
It sometimes shows up by distracting us with something else to do. Like, “I could just download this exercise app and put on my stretchy pants, and I know it won’t take more than half an hour…but the floor needs sweeping, and I’ve got to return that phone call and…well look, now it’s 5:30 and I’ve got to get dinner started.”
Sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time and energy to take a seemingly simple step.
This is ambivalence.
I remember when I was trying to make my first appointment with someone that I suspected could help me with something I was struggling with. I hit a wall of ambivalence. I had a hard time effectively returning communications and taking the time to consider what would work best on my calendar.
There was something kind of fishy about it.
Ambivalence is this state we get in because we’re torn between wanting something…and not wanting it.
In our mind we want the thing, and we can see all the reasons why the thing would be good and why it would be supportive for us. But there’s a part of us that shys away from going for it.
I have a notion that this is because the new thing, the therapy, the class, whatever it is, will change us…and we recognize that. So our natural tendency to prefer the known keeps us where we know we are safe. The new thing represents change, and it represents wading into the unknown.
There are consequences to change that we can’t anticipate.
And one of the scariest forms of change is personal transformation.
My own advice on the subject of ambivalence is to acknowledge the part of you that doesn’t want the new thing, and the change and potential transformation that it represents. Then to make a bit of space for that scared or hesitant feeling to tell you where it’s coming from and what it needs.
There’s nothing wrong with being scared. The unknown can be pretty scary. But we don’t know what we might find. There’s bound to be something interesting.