Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own. –Erica Jong
STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin
We’ve all been there. Caught between yes or no, stay or go, do this or do that. Wafting between sensing and knowing. Between listening to the voice within or the calling from the outer world. Some say this is ambivalence, what the dictionary defines as “simultaneous conflicting feelings.” The origin of the word ambivalence comes from Latin: ambi- “both” + valentia “strength.” What if both yes/no or stay/go is where we find our strength? Not in the polarities, but in the third aspect that draws the two together? This is the core teaching of The Anam Cara Journey whose pathway is the Triple Spiral. For example…
A mentoring client once came to me confused and distraught over a long-time relationship. She was caught in the tug of push-pull. Push him away or pull him closer? Is this relationship right or wrong? The ultimate question was: stay or go? Her ambivalence was intoxicating, fueling the monkey mind to keep spinning a story of confusion. No wonder she didn’t know which way to turn. I felt dizzy just witnessing her inner turmoil. This is where the Triple Spiral became the teacher.
For this exercise, I asked her imagine a triangle. One point represented go, one represented stay, and the third represented ambivalence. I gave her 3 tissues with the instruction to place on the floor, one at each of the 3 points. Then I asked her to identify which point was which—go, stay, ambivalence. From a distance, we observed the dynamic that was spinning in her head. But what shifted the spinning was when I asked her to stand at each of the 3 points. To step into her monkey mind.
GO – Stand in that place and look at Stay and Ambivalence.
STAY – Stand in that place and look at Go and Ambivalence.
AMBIVALENCE – Stand in that place and look at Go and Stay.
She did this, at first in a jerky kind of way, almost marching between points, scowling the whole time. But soon her face softened. The movements between became a dance of sorts. Eventually jerky eased into flow as her frown softened into a smile. It was a joy to witness, reminding me of my own monkey mind when I’m dwelling in ambivalence. We are not caught or held hostage by any of the 3 points. So why not bring them together? Invite ambivalence into the dance. Do this with curiosity and wonder, letting go of any outcome.
We purposely didn’t process what happened. I wanted her to embrace the dynamics of the experience. To integrate what just happened. No one spiral holds the power. It is the three spirals together that hold the power which will ultimately lead to an informed decision.
A few months later she did leave the relationship. She believes the Triple Spiral exercise helped her come to that conclusion. Both parties flourished after the breakup. “Why didn’t I leave sooner?” she wondered. Haven’t we all asked that question, whether about a relationship, a job or a move?
So today, on the New Moon, I ask–Why didn’t she leave sooner? Why didn’t you leave sooner? Why didn’t I leave sooner? Perhaps because we find an odd comfort in ambivalence, “…simultaneous conflicting feelings,” because it’s known. By making a decision, stepping out of ambivalence, we make ourselves vulnerable. And remember this. We cannot flourish without being vulnerable. Love, of the other and/or self, requires vulnerability. What supports us is being rooted in our Truth, and living from that place of knowing. We all know what we want and don’t want. What step are you willing to take today?
Check out this short YouTube video of one of my favorite songs from childhood. Do you see the three trees, and how lassie and laddie roamed? Crazy!!!
Did You Ever See a Lassie? | Song for Kids by Little Fox