The Puppy Choice; a lesson on ambivalence

There is no doubt that 2020 and now 2021 have created the space for massive increases in mental health concerns. In my practice, not only is my caseload expanding to the brink, but my patients also have less virtue than I’ve ever seen. Both client and therapist are distressed by the underlying factors of COVID and social unrest. And to these we add the stressors of daily lives.

Coping even brings it’s own stress as often this requires resources we simply do not have. Like a gazillion other animal lovers, last year I took on a new pet, only to find that while I love him dearly, dealing with the extra time, money, education, and everything else that comes with a ginormous puppy-has been intense. I’ve questioned numerous times if, by trying to resolve other stressors, I made a horrible choice that added more stress than it resolved. But then I look over at him and I melt because I love him.


Ambivalence: definition is – simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (such as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action.
(definition found online-click to view it.)

Ambivalence is tricky. While I regularly work with clients on the ideas of both/and, moving out of black and white thinking, etc., I myself with struggle with it too. Why do two opposing things being true at the same time cause such physical and emotional bleh…and ugh…and that tension that goes from toes to shoulders to-I swear I can actually feel it in my brain? The answer, is to accept.

The answer is almost always to accept no matter what the angst. How we do this is highly nuanced and takes us on a personal journey only we ourselves can walk but it begins with radical honesty and ends with radical compassion.

So, yes, getting a puppy when I knew my darling, love-of-my-life 9 year bulldog would hate it was a profoundly idiotic choice. Yes I was in conscious denial when I thought I’d get her to like him, even love him. Yes I was pretending when I thought my angst over her loneliness at home while I work all day, would be resolved by giving her something I-and only I wanted. AND it’s also true that I spoke to plenty of others whose older adult dog-who-hates-dogs, had grown to enjoy the company of new puppy. And it’s true I had an awesome opportunity to get the dog of my dreams. And it’s true that the little guy chose me and what the heck would any of you do if a cute puppy was gripping your arm and staring into your eyes and filling your heart and ego with massive amounts puppy amazingness? And it’s true I do have the money and time to care for him because my kids are grown and spending most of their time on their own. And it’s true that long-term, I am going to be very glad to have him.

Both are true. I made a ridiculous choice. I made a sensible choice.

Please God help me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *