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Ambivalent feelings in adolescents

Ambivalence is contradictory feelings about an object or situation. For example, a teenager can see something from both the positive and negative sides at the same time. Or when choosing in any situation, both options may seem equally attractive to him. Ambivalence always causes teenagers contradictions and confusion.

If you describe ambivalent feelings in words, it may sound something like this: “in a certain sense, I do not want what I want. At the same time I approve of what is happening and do not approve”.

The complexity of ambivalent experiences

Ambivalent experiences lead to a very complex way of thinking because they lead to conflicting assessments, desires, and opinions. People who are accustomed to the logic of thinking “either/or” do not cope well with ambivalent feelings. For example, people of different generations or political views tend to believe: “We are right, and they are not.” It’s easier to take one side than to see both.

There is no middle ground or compromise point of view in ambivalence. It takes a lot of effort to develop the ability to think ambivalently and see the situation from opposite points of view.

On the other hand, ambivalent experiences can lead to helplessness. A teenager may think, ” I just can’t make a decision!”For example, when doubting their relationship, a teenager may remember how it began:” When we were still in school, our relationship was so simple. We just wanted to be together. We still love each other now, but we know each other better. We know all the joys and complexities of our relationship. Such conflicting experiences make it difficult to make a decision about whether to continue our relationship or not.” In this case, indecision caused by ambivalence can destroy attachment.

Ambivalence in adolescents

Ambivalent experiences can interfere with the development of adolescents. For example, at the age of 15-18, when it comes time to go to University, teenagers may both want and do not want to study further. They have mixed feelings, literally torn between the desire to stay in the comfort zone (continue to live at home) and develop further (go to University, move away from their parents and start a more independent life).

The parents of the teenager may be impatient and control the teenager in that he applied to the University, preparing for entrance exams, etc. They can offer him their help or insist on their own point of view. And this makes the situation even worse. A teenager at the same time appreciates their help and resents her.

In early adolescence (9 to 13 years), ambivalence helps children communicate their conflicting feelings to their parents:

“No need to remind me anymore” / ” You never remind me, and so I forget»;

“You always meddle in my Affairs” / ” You never instruct me»;

“Leave me alone!”/”You never count me out»;

“I can do it myself” / “You never help me”.

After such phrases, parents are left wondering: what does their child really want? Which of the two parts of the message is correct? In fact, at a certain point, each of the parts is correct. Growing up requires the abandonment of childhood addictions, and from this a teenager can have a sense of loss. The new life experience causes him mixed feelings and seems to him contradictory. And he really is.

Growing ambivalence makes adolescence even more challenging. The teenager thinks, ” The older I get, the more contradictory the world becomes. In order to become more independent, I have to take more responsibility. In order to achieve something, I have to force myself. As a child, everything was much easier.” And it is true.

Ambivalence in a teenager’s relationship with his parents

A teenager has more ambivalent feelings in his relationship with his parents than a young child. The desire of a teenager for freedom of action and expression complicates the relationship with parents. At this age, adolescents have conflicts with their parents more often than before.

If earlier parents were inclined to idealize their child (“You are wonderful!”), then now relations with him become more tense (“with you it is difficult to find a common language”). If the teen and the parents can be more patient with each other’s ambivalent experiences, it will help resolve conflicts. Remember: this does not mean that the teenager begins to love the parents less, or the parents of the teenager.

Parents may be interested in changes in a teenager’s feelings. They may simply ask, ” Help me understand better how you are changing.”

It is worse if parents do not show patience to ambivalent experiences of the teenager. They criticize the teenager for changing: “you used to Be such a great kid! What happened to you?””no.” This could make the situation even worse.

Ambivalence and adolescent development

Ambivalence is part of adolescent development. However, it can have negative consequences for him. Consider some of them:

ambivalence can cloud a teenager’s attitude to life (for example, he may think “The older I am, the harder it becomes to be understood»);
ambivalence can cause indecision (“I do not know what path of life I choose»);
ambivalence can require mental effort from a teenager (“I need to weigh both sides»);
ambivalence can confuse a child (“I can’t understand it»);
ambivalence can lead a teenager to despair (“at any outcome there will be problems»);
ambivalence can confuse a teenager (“I constantly change my point of view and can’t choose»);
ambivalence can cause indecision (“I have to be completely sure»);
ambivalence can give a child a sense of imperfection (“everything in this world is a compromise»);
ambivalence can be too difficult for a teenager (“there are no Easy answers»);
ambivalence can cause anxiety (“I worry about bad consequences”).
The older a teenager gets, the more reasons for ambivalence appear in his life. This is partly due to the fact that the life experience of a teenager is becoming more complex and ambiguous. Along with the benefits come risks, achievements, losses, acquisitions – costs, certainty – uncertainty, choice consequences, advantages – disadvantages.

Ambivalent experiences should not discourage or stop a teenager. They must be accepted and used for good. Ambivalence teaches a teenager to consider the complexity of life in adult life situations in which he has to make choices.

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