I’ve been thinking a lot about ambivalence and how it contributes to overwhelm. For me, ambivalence sits in the category of “meh” or “don’t really care one way or another”. A google search came up with this definition, “literally being of two minds.”
As I examine this through the lens of my life and through working with clients who are going through transition, it struck me how often we sit in this uncomfortable place of in-between; this place of swinging on a pendulum from one desire to the next, of being preoccupied with both what is wanted and what is not. You swing over here….hm, this is ok here in the status quo place, you don’t have to change, it doesn’t feel good, but there is a strange comfort in not doing anything and yet, there’s a yearning, a desire deep inside and a dream of something else. So then you swing over to that scary place of what you think you want, maybe you want it, ooooh it seems wildly fascinating but risky, and your body tingles with both excitement and terror. Back and forth you swing in the discomfort of your ambivalent soul. You wade through the plethora of options and it paralyzes you as you try to decide which way to move forward. In a constant battle with yourself, you end up at a standstill. You end up in “meh.” It’s too much to think about….you’re overwhelmed.
So then you get busy. You distract yourself, you pile up your to-do list so that you don’t have to think about it. Here’s the thing, that in-between place is way more uncomfortable and stressful on the body and the mind than making a decision one way or another.
It is the fear of making the wrong decision that keeps us firmly in place and unable to decide. We make up all sorts of stories about how it’s going to go. The reality is, you can’t make a mistake. Even if you do something that seems utterly disastrous, you will get through it! And chances are you’ll discover things about yourself in the process. It’s all information that you can tuck into your “basket of learning.” There is a gift in everything.
The only way out of the ambivalent cycle is to make a decision. The fear of what might happen paralyzes you and when you finally make a decision, you realize it’s not as bad as you made it up to be. All those stories you made up probably weren’t true. As you develop the muscles to make choices based on what you want, you develop confidence and resilience. You teach yourself that no matter what, you will be OK. You’ll live.
What’s that thing that you’ve been mentally wobbling on the fence about? I challenge you to take a step. The bridge will be there.