You want and do not want, something excites you but at the same time is holding you back, you like it but it does not satisfy you completely… If sometime you experienced these feelings and commented them to someone asking him to help you untangle the emotional intricacy in your mind he would probably told you’re an indecisive person. And that this is not good.
However, science has some good news for you: opposing and contradictory feelings are not necessarily synonymous of indecision, but emotional complexity. People who have a rich emotional universe are also more likely to experience a wide range of feelings, sometimes opposed. In addition, these people manage better their emotions and have a lower risk of suffering from depression.
Mixed feelings show balance
Psychologists from the universities of Waterloo and Michigan realized several studies, including one that involved a sample of 1,396 people from 16 different cultures. These people had to indicate feelings and emotions they experienced in certain situations of their lives, for example, when they had a problem with a family member, when they got sick, found themselves overworked or stuck in a traffic jam.
So they found that in Western culture we tend to consider the conflicting emotions as something negative and undesirable, and we blame indecision. It was also found that those who have these mixed feelings are better in differentiating their emotional states and find more easily a balance in their lives.
Instead, usually those living in cultures excessively oriented towards the “ego” have a flatter emotional world, compared to cultures that give greater emphasis to family ties and social duties, because these people are able to understand and take on different perspectives, and this enriches their emotional health.
For example, not being overly focused on the ego they can feel a strong disappointment in case of losing a work project, but at the same time, they appreciate that this is an opportunity to spend more time with the family or try a new experience. A person concentrated into its “ego” would only see the negative side of the situation, and this would severely restrict its emotional universe.
Emotional Granularity: Experiencing different emotions is a sign of self-control and allows you to live a longer and healthier life
The emotional universe is rarely linear. It is likely that more than in one occasion you want something for a long period of time and when you finally get it, you don’t feel happy as hoped, or is likely that you even try some negative feelings. It usually happens when you finish studying, you feel happy but at the same time feel nostalgia and sadness for the period left behind, or fear and uncertainty about the new life that is beginning.
Even in a couple relationships or with children conflicting emotions are very common. A moment you love them with all your might and right after you would “kill” them all for something they did or said.
These feelings and emotions do not transform you into a worse person, on the contrary, are perfectly normal and can offer you some advantages. In fact, the amplitude of the affective sphere is known as “emotional granularity“, and is a characteristic of people who are able to experience different feelings and emotions together and differentiate them.
Interestingly, according to a study by the University of Kentucky, these people also have greater self-control and are less likely to react aggressively, even when they are very angry. In addition, researchers found that people who demonstrate emotional granularity tend to live a longer and healthier life, go rarely to the doctor, use less medication and spend less time in hospital when they get sick.
In fact, another very interesting study conducted with 92 women suffering from breast cancer, found that those who were able to identify, label and understand their emotions showed lower levels of inflammation, one of the basic processes of this disease and which is considered part of a negative prognosis.
Therefore, the next time you try the mixed emotions don’t despair and do not think that’s a bad thing or that is indicating indecision. Think that is your emotional universe expressing its complexity, something that eventually will get you benefits.
Grossmann, I. et. Al. (2016) Emotional complexity: Clarifying definitions and cultural correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 111(6): 895-916.
Pond, R. S. et. Al. (2012) Emotion differentiation moderates aggressive tendencies in angry people: A daily diary analysis. Emotion; 12(2):326-337.
Stanton, Annette L. et. Al. (2000) Emotionally expressive coping predicts psychological and physical adjustment to breast cancer. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology; 68(5): 875-882.