Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ambivalence

What does this mean? The way to define it is having two contradictory emotions at the same time. Your spouse may be recognized at work for a his/her accomplishments and while you feel happy you may also feel sad and question your own value. That is an example of ambivalence. Survivors who have ambivalent thinking need to understand that this is caused by the sexual abuse they endured. That is where it all begins.



These confusing feelings develop when a child is being abused. The abuse may be frightening yet there is pleasure (sexually) by what is being done. When you factor in other emotions that go along with the abuse such as: betrayal, being over powered and made to feel dirty there is bound to be damage done to our way of thinking. We then began to assume false responsibility for the abuse. We thought that somehow we deserved or caused the abuse. We may have made excuses for our abuser because we somehow turned them on. Let me give you a personal example: When I was 16 I was staying at my Grandmothers house for the weekend. I was on the couch preparing to go to sleep. I knew my uncle ___ would be home any time. I was feeling depressed and lonely because my boyfriend had broke up with me. I knew that if I gave a signal to my uncle he would molest me. So, I moved the blanket off of me and hiked up my night gown. My back was toward the door he would enter when coming in. Sure enough, when he came home I felt him touching my butt and kissing my neck. I turned over and he got startled and I said "No, it's okay. I want you to." I then led him into the bedroom and he laid on the bed and I got on top of him and began to have sex with him. Within minutes I began to feel pleasure, yet I was also scared, sad, confused and dirty. I stopped and said "we can't do this" and left the room. Instead of being angry with him I was angry with myself. I put the total blame on me. I seduced him. I brought him into the bedroom. Rational thinking tells me now that the responsibility was all his. A healthy family member would have walked through the door and kept going or pull the blankets up over me. If I would have been completely nude and said "I want to have sex" the appropriate response should have been "No" or "Put your clothes back on. My ambivalent thinking distorted the truth of what happened.


Ambivalence can damage your relationships with people. You may get close to someone and then leave them. You crave companionship yet when you have it ,it is scary or uncomfortable. You may have a love for someone one minute and the next feel as if you hate them. That is ambivalence rearing it's ugly head. This ultimately leads to unfulfillment, resentment and great loneliness. People in your life may grow tired of your mixed messages and confusing actions. That in turn leaves you feeling humiliated, ashamed and bitter.


Another aspect of deep rooted ambivalence is when it comes to pleasure and sex. Some people get excited when they see a movie and a woman is being raped or can only have orgasms if they fantasize about violence or their abuser. Sexual problems can arise because of the distorted thinking developed during the abusive acts. Another personal example to help you understand: When I was 13 my father was performing oral sex on me. I began to respond and was about to have my first orgasm. My father stopped what he was doing and said "Do you like this? Are you getting excited?" Immediately my response changed. The pleasurable feelings were replaced with fear, shame and embarrassment. When I became sexually active I was not able to have an orgasm I would feel as if I was going to and immediately I would feel ashamed and I would lose it. Then I decided to have my sexual partners hurt me while having sex. I'd tell them to pull my hair, slap me, call me names and worse. Once I started doing that the orgasms came easily. It took me a long time to realize that this was not healthy. I had to retrain my mind in such a way that when orgasms approach I focus on the sensations and do healthy imagery, like visualizing the contractions.


What is the price to pay for being ambivalent? Internally, it causes a person to feel shame, isolated, confused and full of contempt. You may ask yourself "How can I feel pleasure but feel hateful at the same time?" or "Why does the thought of rape get me excited?" This confusion may lead you to feel contempt for yourself or direct it towards others. You may become promiscuous as a way to validate the idea that the abuse really was your fault. This becomes a vicious cycle which only deepens the inner wounds. Ambivalence keeps people from experiencing the beauty of healthy relationships that offer love, support and affirmation.


The consequences of feeling ambivalence are fear of pleasure, a greater chance of being victimized again, compulsive behavior, anxiety, self hatred and more. Ambivalent thinking can make pleasure of any kind seem suspicious and dangerous. When attempting to do something that you want to succeed at may destroyed by the feeling that you aren't smart enough or you will fail. You may feel hatred towards intimacy and pleasure yet long for it. You may find yourself in violent relationships that cause you to feel worthless yet you are convinced that you deserve it and find false hope in the situation improving. You may act out compulsively and have addictions that control you. Your distorted thinking leads you to believe this behavior brings you happiness, even if it's temporary.


People with ambivalent thinking begin to find contempt with oneself starting with having doubts about ones abilities, intelligence and worth. That is a result of feeling powerless over the abuse. Next, questions about whether or not they are desirable to others, sexually attractive and distorted body thinking come in to play. This is a result of having ones innocence betrayed and taken away. Lastly, one begins to feel worthless, cheap, ugly or disgusting. The seeds of ambivalence were planted the first time the abuse occurred and slowly grew into weeds that become over grown in the emotional garden.


What can one do with ambivalent thinking? How do you change the distorted views? To quote a poem that my alter Mary wrote:


The emotional garden grows many weeds
That strangles our hopes and smothers our needs.
We must pull the weeds in order to grow
Working with caution, pulling them slow.
One day the garden will flourish and thrive
by what we have done to help it survive.


Interpretation of this poems tells us that this is not an over night process. There are years of ambivalent weeds growing and we need to pull them out slow and re plant them with healthy bouquets of thinking. When negative or confusing thought enter in take a moment to analyze what the thoughts are. Do they make sense? Ask yourself to think of alternative ways to feel. Have inner conversations with yourself (I know you can do that if you are a multiple!) and play out scenarios and different ways you can respond to them. Don't get frustrated! It takes time to change a behavior. Practice daily affirmations! Tell yourself several times a day something positive about yourself, even if you don't believe it. It takes 21 days to develop a habit. Just think how you will feel when you get in the habit of liking yourself! It really does work! And once you believe it and situations arise that cause you to have ambivalent thinking you can reflect on your affirmations and will find that the situation will improve.

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