Evolution of the Self

On the paradoxes of personality

What If Your Ambivalence Can’t Be Resolved?

There’s a common belief that with the right mind set virtually all conflicts are resolvable. But in many instances, making such an assumption is simply unrealistic: a fiction, a fantasy. As a therapist, over the years I’ve encountered many situations in which a client was struggling mightily with ambivalence. And no simple resolution to their dilemma existed. Read More


What a brilliant outline of this type of dilemma. You have perfectly described what I have gone through at certain times in my life and I am sure millions of other people.

The inability to decide because of fear or dreaming up the worst case is paralyzingly. It's funny, what you wrote seems so simple, so clear, yet I have never heard it articulated so well.

Why don't we teach people at a young age to learn how to make decisions. Why must they wait until their 50 to learn this skill.

Thanks for the wonderful insights.

Holy crap dude, did you nail

Holy crap dude, did you nail this. My divorce was absolutely laden with this kind of ambivalence, and even though I finally did extricate myself from the marriage, it was nothing close to a "Well thank God that's over" finality. It's good to see my experience is common among conscientious people.

Alan, when the dilemma

Alan, when the dilemma is:

'If the jug falls upon the stone, woe to the jug. If the stone falls upon the jug, woe to the jug."

How do you teach people to make decisions? How do you teach peole to decide what to do if both options result in equal harm to you?

Let me add to the chorus

Finally, my ambivalence articulated! Yes, compromise to integrity, I could *so* identify with that and most everything else. I felt much more at peace after reading the article, and armed with good information.

Amazing article about ambivalence

I have been reading about ambivalence and cognitive dissonance for several years now, mainly to help me define what is going on with me and in attempts to resolve this uncomfortable "on the fence" state. Your article speaks for me in so many ways. I know that I cannot go on like this for too much longer. Doing nothing is becoming almost as damaging as the possibility of the worst happening.

I wonder if tossing a coin, where each side of the coin is each opposite decision, that makes us stuck in the ambivalent state would help... I wonder if I would go "I don't think I want that..." with one side and "Hey, that might be ok" with the other... Would thinking only rationally about it help? What about "follow your heart" advice?

Thank you for this wonderful article.

Your dilemma is most

Your dilemma is most interesting. And, yes, it actually might be a good idea to toss a die and let "chance" determine your choice. It could be a way of bypassing the defenses and self-mistrust that are keeping you stuck. And if neither of the two choices is life-threatening, then acting in and of itself could be curative in a way.

Is taking a decision, no

Is taking a decision, no matter what, a way to solve a dilemma? What is the best way to take a decision in this case, think rationally or follow your heart?

Sorry, but there just aren't

Sorry, but there just aren't any easy answers here. Besides, if it's indecisiveness in general that's the root of the problem, this is probably what needs to be dealt with--and resolved. And this may require some involvement with counseling or therapy.

Thank you for this article. I

Thank you for this article. I struggle greatly with ambivalence in my romantic relationships. I shift within days and sometimes hours, between being certain that i love and want to marry my partner, and being highly irritated by him and wondering if there isn't someone better suited to me out there. It has become a rabbit-hole of obsession and anxiety and while I know that the positives weigh far more on the pros and cons list, I can't seem to let it go. I'm starting to despair that I will never "just know" as so many women experience. Do you have any other practical suggestions to help break this cycle of anxiety and begin to find a way to make a decision?

Wouldn't offer you any simple

Wouldn't offer you any simple advice here 'cause there might well be deeper issues behind your indecision, obsessiveness, and anxiety. So all I can suggest is to look for a good therapist in your area that might help you get to the heart of your problem--and assist you in resolving it.


hi there, I can relate so much to your comment....would you like to converse about this at some point? cheers...


Its hard to find resources that do not immediately focus on the infidelity. I am the the other man. I'd like to add something if I may. Not that this article need needs anything. "The Game". Cake Eaters etc...Yes this does happen and is ageless.
Many times women in this powerless situation are accused of playing the game. When in fact the game is just there and it sucks them in. It very difficult to describe to those observing it. I dug deep and figured this out instead of letting my ego carry me away and accuse her of playing me or having her cake...I do love her and regardless what she decides she knows that I understand.
Understanding it one thing but it's still difficult to accept there is no resolution. This helped both of us a lot.

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Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., who holds doctorates in English and Psychology, is a clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy.


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