We are filling in as interim newsletter writers until the new Assertive Engagement Coordinator is hired. The position previously held by tash shatz, our County colleague and friend. We are still holding ambivalence about their departure. On one hand, we miss them because they are no longer in close proximity to us. On the other hand, we are happy for them and about their new work and the learning opportunities they will have there.
Late Autumn Ambivalence
Autumn Daybreak by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Cold wind of autumn, blowing loud
At dawn, a fortnight overdue,
Jostling the doors, and tearing through
My bedroom to rejoin the cloud,
I know-for I can hear the hiss
And scrape of leaves along the floor-
How may boughs, lashed bare by this,
Will rake the cluttered sky once more.
Tardy, and somewhat south of east,
The sun will rise at length, made known
More by the meagre light increased
Than by a disk in splendour shown;
When, having but to turn my head,
Through the stripped maple I shall see,
Bleak and remembered, patched with red,
The hill all summer hid from me.
Mind Your Ambivalence
Have you ever felt conflicted (simultaneously held positive and negative thoughts or feelings) about a person or issue that is important to you? Have you ever felt discomfort after you realized that have not acted in ways that live up to your deeply held beliefs? If so, you were experiencing ambivalence, and you are not alone. Ambivalence was once thought of as a rare and undesirable character flaw, but many researchers now think that ambivalence is a useful tool to work through internal feelings of contradictions and conflicts. Also, it turns out that there are many types of ambivalence and most of us feel ambivalent about many things and quite often.
You Got Attitude: It's all about the ABCs
Attitude is a learned way of thinking or feeling about an object (issue, event, group, etc.). Attitude is comprised of Affect (emotions and feelings); Behavior (actions); and Cognition (thinking, reason, decision-making, and interpretation) about objects. Our attitudes, whether we actively think about them or not, don't just spring up out of our heads; they come from our external world and our place in it. Sometimes, when our real attitude doesn't align with our ideal attitude, this can cause cognitive dissonance and ambivalence. It turns out the ABCs aren't so easy after all!
"I don't have all day to read this; can you give a super simple example?" So, let's say, that I absolutely love coffee. I love the warmth and smell of it as it brews (all affects), and I believe drinking coffee makes me smarter (cognition). I try to schedule all of my meetings in coffee shops (behavior). Despite my positive feelings about coffee, I know I should stop drinking coffee because it keeps me up at night (ambivalence). My attitude about coffee is conflicted because I also value and need sleep.
Could You Hold My Ambivalence For Me?
So, I come and tell you about my coffee dilemma. You say, "Okay, since you know coffee keeps you up at night, stop drinking it". Or that's what you may be thinking, but you understand AE and the importance of holding ambivalence. You're aware of personal biases you may hold about coffee drinkers and suspend your judgements. Instead, you acknowledge my ambivalence, and then you seek to understand where my ambivalence is coming from.
You ask open-ended and clarifying questions, which allow me the space to think about the spectrum of positive and negative feelings that come with my love for coffee and how this love interferes with my need for sleep. You also learn that I do want and value sleep, but I'm worried about headaches that may come with caffeine withdrawals. In addition, I worry that I might not be as alert without my coffee. In this place of ambivalence, I am able to think about whether I want to modify my behaviors (coffee drinking or sleeping), and, if so, what behaviors do I want to modify and how (change talk).
Instead of trying to fix the problem, you notice and stay with me in that place of exploring my ambivalence. You realize that my ambivalence is a powerful way for me to evaluate my values; assess whether I currently have the tools I need to follow through with my values; strategize how I might be able to get support if I don't.
Embrace Your Ambivalence?
Ambivalence about a person, issue, etc. can be an alarm that lets you know when things are not in balance, and it may help you challenge your current assumptions or knowledge about them. Ambivalence may help you think through your ideals versus the reality of your behaviors, and to find ways that you can work towards your goals. Of course, you don't want to be ambivalent about everything all the time, and I am hopeful that you are now less ambivalent about ambivalence.
The AE Team