We have all experienced situations in which our feelings were confused, since they went in one direction but also in another.
It is the mixed feelings . We are going to try to better understand what this phenomenon consists of, reviewing some examples and everyday situations. We will also learn some of the psychological mechanisms behind and also how to deal with them.
What are mixed feelings?
We speak of mixed feelings when a person experiences ambivalent emotions before a stimulus, be it a situation, a person, animal or object . Said element would be generating a multiple emotionality for that individual, therefore causing them to have feelings that seem to go in different directions and sometimes even seem totally opposite, such as love and hatred.
Faced with such a situation, the person feels confused, as the conflicting feelings generate instability, as the individual loses the guidance that emotions normally provide. In these cases, he stops knowing how to act based on the emotion they are feeling, since it is not just one, but there are two and sometimes even more or they are so diffuse that he is not able to identify them.
Experiencing mixed feelings is, therefore, going through an emotional labyrinth that tires the mind of the person who is experiencing it, since they have to live with very different sensations around some element of their life . Some of them urge you to approach while others order you to do the opposite. In such a situation, it is logical that the person feels that disorientation.
Why does this psychological phenomenon occur?
But, how can such a paradoxical situation occur, that of mixed feelings, in a rational being such as humans? The answer is simple. No matter how rational we are, we are still emotional beings as well. Reason is governed by logical laws, but emotions are not. Although we can modulate them (precisely through reason), sometimes it is very difficult to control the appearance of a specific emotion .
Life is extremely complex. There are so many variables that affect each stimulus that on many occasions it happens that some parts related to that specific element are pleasant to us and therefore drives us to get closer to it, while at the same time there are dimensions of that same stimulus that are unpleasant and even aversive for us, causing rejection.
What happens then? Is the person carried away by one emotion or the other? Generally, the strongest will win, unless reason has something to say about it . This is where our rational part comes into play. It is easier for this to happen the less force the emotion we are trying to "overcome" has, because if it increases so much intensity as to overwhelm us, even reason could be compromised.
Mixed feelings occur many more times than we think, but in most cases one of the emotions is substantially more intense than the other, so the weaker will be overshadowed and sometimes we will not even detect it.
What to do with mixed feelings
We have already seen what it means to have mixed feelings and the discomfort that they can sometimes generate in the person who experiences them. What could an individual who is in this situation do to be able to feel better? In the first place, it would be positive for the person to spend some time doing an introspection exercise that would allow them to identify all the emotions they are experiencing .
This is not the time to make judgments about whether each of these emotions is good or bad in and of itself. Once we have completed the list, we can repeat the exercise, this time thinking of a specific situation in which that stimulus has been present. Now is the time to further explore the mixed feelings and assess whether each of those emotions was triggered by the stimulus or by the situation itself.
We will continue to investigate to learn what exactly caused us to feel the way we have identified . To do this, we can write down in another column what we think was the origin of each of these sensations, in order to see exactly where it came from and verify that we have not automatically assigned any to the original stimulus.
At this point we can come to realize that a certain emotion that caused us discomfort did not actually come directly from the element we believed in, but had been generated by a contextual situation and we had automatically associated it with the stimulus.
In the case of people and the mixed feelings towards them, we can fall into the so-called transference process, which consists of assigning them emotions that are actually provoked by another person, simply because they remind us of them. In these cases, it is also useful to carry out that introspection we were talking about and check if the feelings are genuine by this individual or are actually generated by a third party.
After exploring the origins of the mixed feelings, it is time to try to find a solution . If we have identified an emotion that is unpleasant to us, we can go to the source to try to turn it into another that is more positive for us. For example, if a negative feeling comes from a specific comment that a person made to us at a given time, we can try to talk to that person about it.
Another good exercise is to hypothesize scenarios in which we explore the pros and cons of each solution that comes to mind. For example, we can evaluate the consequences of telling the person who offended us what they made us feel, the consequences of speaking it with a third party, the consequences of doing nothing, etc.
In this way we will have all the information on the table to be able to make an informed decision. So we can choose the route that convinces us the most, and we will even have the rest of the options ready in the event that the first choice does not prosper and we continue to have mixed feelings without solving.
Introspection work is very powerful and productive, but sometimes we may need the help of a person outside this whole situation to find new points of view that may be eluding us. That is why we should not rule out seeking the objectivity granted by an external individual if we believe that the work we are doing is not generating the good results that we would expect .
In cases where the situation is causing great discomfort and we are not able to find that improvement, the counselor we are looking for could be none other than a psychological therapist. Without a doubt, with the tools that this professional will provide, the person will find the relief they need.
The case for cognitive dissonance
We have made a tour on the different facets of the mixed feelings as well as the methodology to be able to solve them in the most satisfactory way possible. We are now going to know the case of cognitive dissonance, a phenomenon that, although it has different nuances, has a lot to do with mixed feelings, for which it deserves a separate mention.
Cognitive dissonance also implies discomfort in the individual, but in this case it is generated by the tension between two or more thoughts or beliefs that conflict with respect to a given situation or stimulus. We see, therefore, the similarity that it bears with the object of this article.
It is a concept coined by Leon Festinger and refers to the need for coherence that human beings have between what they feel, what they think and what they do, that is, between beliefs, thoughts and behaviors. When this coherence is compromised, for example because we are forced to perform a task that goes against what we think, that is when cognitive dissonance appears.
This dissonance can lead the person to try to deceive himself, making him believe that in reality the behavior he is doing seems correct , since his beliefs were wrong. He tries to fit the pieces together in order to see the discomfort he is suffering reduced, hence one of the ways he uses to do so is that of lies, through self-deception.
Therefore, cognitive dissonance would be an independent psychological phenomenon but that would be related to a certain relationship with the mixed feelings, although these would differ fundamentally in that, as their name dictates, they refer only to feelings or emotions.
Whatever the reasons, we can always accompany the person in their pain, staying by their side, sharing with them and respecting them.
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