"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever" (Sigmund Freud - about the Irish)There were various reactions expressed by others when the above quote first appeared in my printed list of Irish songs for St. Patrick’s Day – some were outraged, while others laughed their heads off.
Possibly either reaction is understandable, or perhaps one person could entertain both reactions at the same time. In fact, I’ve often thought that the ability to tolerate seemingly conflicting ideas at the same time was a peculiarly Irish phenomenon.
Professor Freud has also been quoted as saying that
“Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.”
I don’t believe Freud was using “ambiguity” in a conventional American way, i.e., as a synonym for vagueness or uncertainty; but rather more in the sense of “the quality of having more than one meaning,” or “capable of being understood in more than one sense.” (New Lexicon, 1988).
That understanding of ambiguity is closer to how I mean to refer to ambivalence, i.e., as a state where one has disparate feelings (which may or may not be conflicting) at the same time.
In this respect, I am also proceeding from the belief that much of life, or of our human structure, involves ambivalence.
Observably, people may seem to be functioning adequately and yet be unaware of their ambivalence. Those feelings may instead be repressed, or subsumed in our unconscious processes; though this does not rob them of the capacity to affect our actions, thoughts, perceptions and emotional resiliency.
According to Daniel Siegel:
“Excessive rigidity in a state of mind leads to an inability to try new configurations and to adapt flexibly to changes in the environment.… Homeostasis is achieved at the expense of the connections with others and with primary emotional states of the self.” (1999, p. 237).
In this sense it might even be said that recognition and acceptance of ambivalence is a good thing; or as Publius Terentius said, "I am a man: I hold that nothing human is alien to me."
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