Recently I mentioned that Freud did NOT discover the unconscious.

This week I am going to disclose that Freud did NOT, despite me thinking he did, discover the concept of ambivalence.

He learned both of these ideas from his colleagues and then explored them further and added his own spin.



I like knowing these facts because it makes me consider what would have happened if Freud wouldn’t have been so stubborn.  

While he didn’t start his journey with something totally new, he kept writing and arguing with other scientists and eventually created psychoanalysis.

I think what made this possible was his ability to stay in contact with ambivalence!



It is difficult to stay in ambivalence – it can be a place of not knowing.



One of the main gifts I have received from psychoanalysis is the concept of ambivalence.  

I used to think that things were either right or wrong, good or bad. Now I’ve learned the importance

of being ambivalent.

If you are ambivalent, you have the capacity to feel conflicting feelings about one thing.




I don’t know how my memoir about my experience in Freudian psychoanalysis is going to turn out.

Some days I feel a bit of ambivalence about all the work I am investing in this project. But I want to

tell the world the benefits I have reaped from a decade in analysis so I am going to be stubborn like Freud.

I want the world to know that there are options for gaining self-understanding and self-love.




Being quarantined because of COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to experience many ambivalent feelings.

One day, I feel so relieved that I don’t have to venture into the world and can stay home and write.  

But the next day, after a few weeks without interactions with others outside of my house, I am feeling lonely.



Nicholas Kristof* writes that in the industrialized world, in addition to the corona virus pandemic, we also face a loneliness pandemic.

Some researchers believe that loneliness is more lethal than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.



I’m wondering if we were taught early on that it is normal to feel conflicting feelings, if we would feel so lonely?

I don’t know how being lonely and ambivalent go together but I’m thinking they may. Let me know what you think. 



As I type this, if I switch to my Zoom screen, I see twenty other writers, each in a tiny square.

We are all working together separately! Jennifer Louden, creator of The Writer’s Oasis is the organizer.

You can find her at: This helps me with the loneliness.



Let me know what you are doing to deal with loneliness and ambivalence. We can help each other.

Scroll down and leave a comment.



CLUE: I feel fresh out of clues for better living this week. I’m standing on one foot while brushing my teeth, thinking 

of my hilarious brother who said he was working on his balance too while brushing his teeth but when he was balanced on his left hand,

it was difficult to get his right leg in the air.


IMAGE: Received in Colorado many years ago.




17 Responses

  1. Oooooh! When you described Freud’s determination to think past other people’s certainty it reminded me of Frederick Buechner’s quote, “Doubt is the ants-in-the-pants of faith.” It occurred to me that doubt added to certainty creates faith which has to be fed by the determination to not become certain. I guess that’s a spiritual journey. Maybe it’s a labyrinth!

    I got off of that and watched “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Freud is in that movie. “The Frude dude.” My kids loved that movie when they were teens.
    It seems much easier to have a companion to ignore except at meals than to be single during isolation. I hope the singles out there get out occasionally and wave to neighbors and have all kinds of ways to cope. We’ll be better for this, won’t we? Peace, Jeanne

    • Hi Jean!
      So good to hear from you today. I think it is easier to have a companion around even if, as you suggested,
      we ignore them except for meals. That’s pretty much the way it is around here – we eat together and watch
      a show for an hour or so – but the rest of the time we are doing our own thing. I’m not ambivalent at all
      about having my husband here!

      The part of your message that struck me as the most interesting and hard to do is, “fed by the determination
      to not become certain.” Did anybody tell you that early in your life? I sure didn’t hear it and I still find
      it hard to practice. Thanks for your thoughts and ants-in-the-pants quote.

      Stay well and in touch!

    • Hi Nolan – I’d say if you haven’t fallen down, you are improving!
      Thanks for being with me!
      Love to you and Mary

      • I find this idea amazing. I thought ambivalence was bad and that one should determine a position and be prepared to defend it. I have always seen ambivalence and run for the hills! I must seriously think about this. And yes, I a very rigid person – until I’m not!

        • Shirley – I love your openness to new ways of thinking! I think ambivalence has often been seen as “bad”so don’t
          feel alone. The ability to stay in the uncertainty life offers without rushing to determine a position is a really
          difficult thing for most of us to do. I know it is for me. To be with the uncertainty that we are in now with the
          pandemic is very hard – it is much easier to blame someone or become cynical.
          Thanks so much for reading and commenting – I really appreciate your effort.

    • Hi Vicki,

      Thanks for the message. I have not thought of non duality in that way – but it makes sense.
      I always have trouble being comfortable without certainty but it is an aspiration and it is
      being tested now every day.

      Glad you are sharing with us Buddhist wisdom. Thank you.

  2. Ambivalence is, I think, as old as the human race. Maybe it just acquired a name via F and others. The basic primal one was fight or flight? Many, perhaps most, situations require a choice and action. More internal situations give more space for reflection. You’re right getting rid of the good/bad dichotomy!
    All sorts of feelings can co-exist. Then choices. Women have been programmed over millennia to put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. Learning to balance that is crucial. Other ambivalences don’t need action. I can hold my own comfort here with no responsibilities to anyone else along with deep concern for front-line people. And excitement at the regeneration of the planet with deep sorrow at the disruptions and pain and deaths the virus is causing. A counselling from my training: Imagine two doorways, one leading to each option. Stand in the thresholds in turn – what can you see? feel? what body sensations are there? Then walk a little way through each and repeat.
    But ultimately life is an experiment, often with best guess on current information, knowing there’s more

    • Hi Trish!
      I like thinking of ambivalence being as old as fight or flight – very interesting.
      You also make some good points about staying balanced and discerning whether ambivalence
      needs action or not.

      Excitement at the regeneration of the planet along with deep sorrow for the disruptions and pain and deaths
      is where many of us are now. Thanks for stating it so beautifully.

  3. In response to your ambivalence and uncertainty question….
    They are not the same to me. I think uncertainty implies a right or wrong, one is not unsure which X is. Ambivalence, to me says there is NO right or wrong. It could be either…. or both. It seems to me X may be some blue, some yellow or even with a bit of red in it. What do you think?

    • Hi Viivi,
      I appreciate you reading and sharing with us an interesting view of ambivalence and uncertainty – that
      in your opinion, they are not the same. I can see what you are thinking. That if I am uncertain about
      something, it may because I don’t know what is right or wrong and if I’m ambivalent it can be just because
      I don’t care much either way.

      I hope others will let us know what they think!

  4. I LOVE certainty. Starting working with Pema Chodron’s book Comfortable with Uncertainty years ago and it is still a struggle. But I’m making progress. One thing I’ve picked up is saying to myself: “You don’t know what other people are thinking”. Because I have a tendency to think I do and it’s never good.


    • Hi Margaret!
      So good to hear from you. I hear you about loving certainty! Great that you are working with Pema, she is so wise.

      It sounds wise that you tell yourself you don’t know what other’s are thinking and that you are aware that you have
      the tendency to make it negative. It is a struggle for me too – if that helps.

      Take care of yourself and stay in touch!

  5. I love your question–“I’m wondering if we were taught early on that it is normal to feel conflicting feelings, if we would feel so lonely?” I wonder that too! I think many adults tried to protect us from ambivalence, but it really is nothing to fear. As I get older, I realize this. And all the “certainties” I’ve carried through my life have not particularly served me. Ambivalence leaves space for growth and new learning, and the freedom of not knowing. I kinda like it!

    • Oh Diane – I’m thinking of all the “certainties” I’ve carried with me – certain they were
      the truth – that now I see differently.

      I like your idea that adults try and protect kids from ambivalence! So wise!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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