Leaning Into Ambivalence

Person smiling in nature with one earbud in their ear and looking at their phone. Picture is by Zen Chung on Pexels.com

My business allowed me to have a phone upgrade where all I have to do is pay the taxes and activation.  They call it “free”, but it’s so not free in so many ways.  It scares the crap out of me to have this more upgraded phone.  You might be wondering why did I go for a supposedly “free” upgraded phone that’s like six versions newer than my current phone and still a few versions older than the latest phone.  To be honest I’m thinking of going to a flip phone next, but first let me tell you about my ambivalence.  

Did you know being on our phones (playing games, looking at the news or TikToks, etc.) give us more dopamine than alcohol or fast food?  I was in a hormone workshop with a good friend of mine and found this info about being on our phones worse than I’d imagined and helpful at the same time by the way this workshop is called The Role of Hormones in Mental Health by Dr. Maureen Schwehr (on March 23, 2023).  Like we all knew these little phones are addictive, sure, but more than my beloved french fries?! 

Dr. Schwehr went on to explain that when we go on walks or talk with people we actually have anxiety.  Our brains trip out to figure out what we’re doing without all those dopamine hits.  Again, we knew this stuff, these little metal and glass phones were powerful, but this powerful, whew!  I never knew it impairs us from doing everyday stuff to this degree!  So you’re meaning to tell me conversations, walks, MAYBE even sex or chocolate are less interesting to people than phones?!  I’m bummed, but here I am getting ready to activate this little device that connects me to my business and people, but somehow disconnects me to people at the same time.  

I get it.  I’m like literally ten years behind with this stuff.  But am I?  Or did we all become more into our phones now than we were just over three years ago?  How can we not be addicted to these little glassy, metaly love bugs when that’s how we stay connected and entertained or distracted?  For many people, myself included, a lecture here about getting outdoors or adding in other pleasurable activities isn’t helpful here.  I’m just amazed by the fact that this is as pleasurable as some highly addictive stuff and simply knowing that can be so helpful.  When they say knowledge is power, I get it.  

We in psychology provide something that is called psychoeducation.  We teach people about something like sleep, mood disorders, or something relevant to their concerns their bringing in.  Simply learning psychoeducation can be a huge part of a person’s progress to intervene or interrupt on our day to day activities.  If I never knew how much my phone is making me tired, making walks less fun, and making it harder to be attuned to and interested in engagement with people then I wouldn’t have had some more clarity on how much this effects us.  I will be implementing more days away from my phone, but for now I’m going to stick with the status quo of having a smartphone for work and fun in hopes that this psychoeducation can help me notice and spot when I’m way too into it with the phone.  I wonder if this will help anyone out there simply notice their phone use.  I also wonder if we can invite in what we’d rather be focusing our dopamine on.  I know I’d rather be getting my dopamine from connections with people (for the most part;).  

That reminds me of when I tell my clients it’s okay to have ambivalence.  They’ll see I’m struggling with feeling anger toward my loved one, but I want to help them so much.  We use a tool of holding space for both of their feelings.  We can feel both drawn to doing something AND feel anger at the same time.  If you too feel you struggle with holding space for one feeling and another at the same time toward someone or something you are not alone.  Most of us did not grow up with being allowed to feel much of anything, and probably not to have mixed feelings all at once.  I think more times than not there are a couple of feelings and experiences going on at once.  

You may have a part of you that is sad at your job and wonders, “is this it?”  You may have another part of you feeling pressured to stay with it and be able to pay the bills.  Or you may be so angry that your partner doesn’t help with the baby and you may see her suffering from depression and just want to help her at the same time.  We can feel two things at once.  You heard my little rant (no jk) about feeling like I want a phone for work and for fun to be honest and feeling scared about the power of phones at the same time.  Making space for different parts of me to be heard, within, is what allows me to not have prickly stuff come out when I didn’t expect it to.  I believe that you too can have space for all your parts and feelings.  It’s not as hard as you might think.  In this moment, just notice if you have different sensations or feelings right here and now.  You can notice and give airtime to each of these parts of you.  It’s not about writing a pros and cons list.  It’s about creating a sustainable channel between you and all parts of you that arise.  I hope that you’ll give some airtime to the different feelings within so that all parts of you can be witnessed by you.  Leaning into ambivalence is something I love rocking with clients and would love to help you with too!  Reach out to get started today!

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