The Positive Emotions that Facilitate the Fulfillment of Needs May Not Be Positive Emotions At All: The Role of Ambivalence

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According to some scholars, if individuals experience over three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions, they are more likely to thrive. We contend, however, that perhaps positive and negative emotions that overlap in time are likely to enhance wellbeing. Specifically, if positive and negative emotions are experienced simultaneously rather than separately-called ambivalent emotions-the fundamental needs of individuals are fulfilled more frequently.


Considerable evidence supports this perspective. First, many emotions that enhance wellbeing, although classified as positive, also coincide with negative feelings. Second, ambivalent emotions, rather than positive or negative emotions separately, facilitate creativity and resilience. Third, ambivalent emotions activate distinct cognitive systems that enable individuals to form attainable goals, refine their skills, and enhance their relationships.

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