AskDefine | Define ambivalence

Dictionary Definition

ambivalence n : mixed feelings or emotions [syn: ambivalency]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings (such as love and hate) towards a person, object or idea.
  2. A state of uncertainty or indecisiveness.


coexistence of opposing attitudes
state of uncertainty

Usage notes

This word is often used as to express a lack of concern about the outcome of a choice to be made,GGLJ:2006-10,GGLJ:en&q=ambivalent+to+mean+indifferent. In this case, a more appropriate word to use is indifference. The confusion is probably caused by the similarity of sounds between the two words and the passive sound of the word.

Extensive Definition

Ambivalence - a state of having emotions of both positive and negative valence or of having thoughts or actions in contradiction with each other, when they are related to the same object, idea or person (for example, feeling both love and hatred for someone or something). The term is also commonly used to refer to situations where 'mixed feelings' of a more general sort are experienced or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness concerning something.

Ambivalence in psychoanalysis

In psychoanalytic terminology, however, a more refined definition applies: the term (introduced into the discipline by Bleuler in 1911), refers to an underlying emotional attitude in which the co-existing contradictory impulses (usually love and hate) derive from a common source and are thus held to be interdependent. Moreover, when the term is used in this psychoanalytic sense it would not usually be expected that the person embodying this 'ambivalence' would actually feel both of the two contradictory emotions as such: except in obsessional neurosis, which sees both sides being more or less 'balanced' in consciousness, one or other of the conflicting sides is usually repressed. (Thus, for example, an analysand's 'love' for his father might be quite consciously experienced and openly expressed – while his 'hate' for the same object might be heavily repressed and only indirectly expressed, and thus only revealed in analysis).
Another relevant distinction is that whereas the psychoanalytic notion of 'ambivalence' sees it as engendered by all neurotic conflict, a person's everyday 'mixed feelings' may easily be based on a quite realistic assessment of the imperfect, inconsistent or self-contradictory nature of the thing being considered.

Intellectual ambivalence

Intellectual ambivalence refers to an inability or unwillingness to commit oneself to a definite answer, position, or conclusion in thought ("yes or no"), normally either because a definite stance is deliberately avoided or evaded for some personal motive, or because sufficient grounds (logical or experiential evidence) warranting a definite stance are lacking. To resolve intellectual ambivalence into a definite position is frequently a task for criticism or critique. The main problem with intellectual ambivalence is that it provides no clear guide or orientation for action and leadership. It is difficult to act or lead on the basis that something "might or might not be the case", that something "might or might not be a good idea" etc. In order to act or lead, definite ideas are necessary rather than uncertainty which incapacitates choices and decisions. Thus it often happens that someone in a leadership function pretends to be very "definite" about an issue, because the function requires it, even though he or she is in truth ambivalent about the issue.

See also

ambivalence in Czech: Ambivalence
ambivalence in Danish: Ambivalens
ambivalence in German: Ambivalenz
ambivalence in Dutch: Ambivalentie
ambivalence in Norwegian: Ambivalens
ambivalence in Polish: Ambiwalencja
ambivalence in Russian: Амбивалентность
ambivalence in Slovak: Ambivalencia (psychológia)
ambivalence in Serbian: Амбиваленција
ambivalence in Finnish: Ambivalenssi
ambivalence in Ukrainian: Амбівалентність

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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