Ambivalence occurs when a person experiences simultaneous and contradictory feelings about someone or something. Experiencing conflicting feelings or perspectives about something can leave a person unable to choose between two opposing courses of action. Now, we often experience smaller levels of ambivalence on a daily basis (for example, “should I have tacos or pasta for dinner?”) and ambivalence isn’t a big deal when dealing with an every day decision like, “do I want tacos for dinner?” However, experiencing ambivalence about larger life decisions can feel overwhelming to the point that it begins to create persistent anxiety or indecision.
This blog post takes a further look at reproductive ambivalence and indecision, a type of ambivalence that occurs when one is facing difficult or unanticipated reproductive choices that do not have a clear “right” answer.
Whether we make them consciously or not, women face reproductive decisions that begin as early as puberty when they make choices about whether or not to use birth control or when to become sexually active. For many women, reproductive choices will become more apparent when they begin to consider the concept of parenthood and whether or not it is right for them. Some will face difficult decisions about their pregnancies, treating difficult diagnoses, pursing fertility treatments, considering alternative pathways to building their families.
Ambivalence is so prevalent in reproductive decision making because reproductive health decisions are incredibly complex and unique to each person. No one can tell a woman when or if she should become a mother. There isn’t a “right” way to build a family or one “perfect” way to solve fertility concerns. There can’t be a one size fits all approach to these decisions, and in part that’s why it can be so hard to make them. Not understanding how you want to move forward can leave space for ambivalence to linger, turning into self-doubt, anxiety, and indecision.
The consequences of unacknowledged ambivalence are significant. Unacknowledged ambivalence can quickly become a place of “stuck” indecisiveness. It can create fears of making the wrong choice, ending up with regret and disappointing others. Women may find that they attempt to cope by creating excuses for their lack of decisions, looking for the “right” answer, seeking validation from others, or hoping the choice is made for you. Oftentimes, ambivalence feeds into personal, relational, and societal narratives that already cause women to doubt their choices. Overtime those messages add up and it can be easy to blur the line between what others say you should do and what you actually want for yourself.
Want to learn more? Click to read about “Creating Conscious Choices on your Reproductive Journey”.
Moving past ambivalence means that you’re making a conscious choice to begin sorting through the expectations, emotions, and experiences that are keeping you “stuck”. It is a process of reconnecting with yourself and building clarity about what you want for your future. We often avoid ambivalence because there is so much underneath it. It can feel overwhelming to begin sorting through such conflicting feelings on your own.
But what if I told you ambivalence could also hold answers?
Acknowledging ambivalence can bring new reflections and insights that allow you to more fully explore the complex dynamics that influence your reproductive indecision. Perhaps acknowledging your fears and anxieties allows you to understand the impacts of your decision and build the awareness you need to make informed choices about your next steps. Perhaps ambivalence holds the key to challenging narratives that have created worry and uncertainty so that you can can move forward with confidence and clarity.
Therapy provides you with a supportive space where you are able to have empowered, authentic conversations about your reproductive experiences. As a therapist I am passionate about helping individuals build trust their decisions and consciously engage in reproductive experiences. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by reproductive indecision, consider contacting me for a free 15-minute consultation so that we can talk more about if it’s time for you to consider therapy.