Ambivalence is the presence of two opposing interpretations or values against the same object or also referred to as ambivalent behavior.
The word ambivalence was first coined by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939) combining the Latin ambi which means “both” and bravery that indicates “value” or “price.” The concept of ambivalence was later popularized by the psychiatrist Freud.
Some synonyms for ambivalence are: ambiguity, duplicity, contradiction, indeterminate, polarized. Antonyms of ambivalence we can find the words defined, precise, exact or clear.
Ambivalence in psychology
In psychology, ambivalence refers to a state, temporary or permanent, where two generally opposite feelings coexist. This ambivalent situation happens when the attitude towards a fact or object becomes incoherent.
To understand the reason for incoherence in our attitudes, we must distinguish the three dimensions in which they are divided and where ambivalent behaviors persist:
- The rational cognitive dimension: lies knowledge, belief or opinion about something. Bleuler called this intellectual dimension. Ambivalences in this area include, for example, arguments that incorporate two opposing views.
- The affective dimension: those emotions or feelings for or against something. Here lies the emotional ambivalence where, for example, the feelings of love and hate are combined at the same time on an object or person.
- The behavioral dimension: defined as the way in which a person reacts to something. Bleuler defines this dimension as volitional, since it is subject to the will. Ambivalent behavioral attitudes are presented, for example, in inconsistencies between what one feels and how one acts.
Ambivalence is presented, in most cases, as an inconsistency with respect to the valence or positive or negative value that each one gives to each of the dimensions of the attitudes. For example, an ambivalent man can love a person very much but hate keeping in touch with that same person. The positive value towards the affective dimension is contradictory to the negative value of its behavioral dimension which results in an attitude of ambivalence towards the loved one.