Mixed Emotions

Can we feel contradictory emotions towards one person? Often we are told to just LOVE our parents, our siblings, and our children. But can we feel just one emotion toward someone or something? Or do we usually experience mixed emotions?

A study conducted by Larsen, Jeff T and McGraw, A. Peter (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 100(6), Jun 2011, 1095-1110) argues that we can experience both positive and negative emotions toward the same thing at one time. So we can feel both love and anger toward a loved one. This fact is extremely important. For example, if we only allow ourselves to feel positive feelings towards our lover, then when we are frustrated toward our lover we may turn those negative feelings toward ourselves or displace those negative feelings toward a random person.

It is possible and common to both love someone and have negative feelings toward them. Giving ourselves permission to have mixed complex emotions can free us up when we relate to others. Especially during this holiday season, give yourself permission to embrace all the emotions- let them be the guests in your guest house.


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
 as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!
 Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
 who violently sweep your house
 empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
 He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
 meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
 as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

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