The rich inner world of a human being is far more complex than either/or. You can love and hate, want to go and want to stay, feel both joy and sadness. Psychologist William Miller—one of the world’s leading experts on the science of change—offers a fresh perspective on ambivalence and its transformative potential in this revealing book. Rather than trying to overcome indecision by force of will, Dr. Miller explores what happens when people allow opposing arguments from their “inner committee members” to converse freely with each other. Learning to tolerate and even welcome feelings of ambivalence can help you get unstuck from unwanted habits, clarify your desires and values, explore the pros and cons of tough decisions, and open doorways to change. Vivid examples from everyday life, literature, and history illustrate why we are so often “of two minds,” and how to work through it.


  • I. The Nature of Ambivalence
  • 1. I Want It and I Don’t
  • 2. Four Flavours of Ambivalence
  • 3. The Language of Ambivalence
  • II. How It Works
  • 4. Sources of Ambivalence
  • 5. Social Influences
  • 6. Out of the Depths
  • 7. Consequences of Ambivalence
  • 8. Individual Differences
  • 9. Responding to Ambivalence
  • III. Working Through Ambivalence
  • 10. Getting Clear on Your Values
  • 11. Getting the Big Picture
  • 12. Getting Out of the Woods
  • 13. Embracing Ambivalence
  • Notes
  • Index

Author Bio:

William R. Miller, PhD, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico. Fundamentally interested in the psychology of change, he is a cofounder of motivational interviewing and has focused particularly on developing and testing more effective treatments for people with alcohol and drug problems. Dr. Miller has published over 400 scientific articles and chapters and 50 books, including the ground-breaking work for professionals Motivational Interviewing, Third Edition. He is a recipient of the international Jellinek Memorial Award, two career achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, and an Innovators in Combating Substance Abuse Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among many other honours. The Institute for Scientific Information has listed him as one of the world’s most highly cited researchers.


“Dr. Miller skillfully integrates psychological knowledge about ambivalence with delightful examples from literature, theatre, history, business, and more. This book offers evidence-based tools for how to examine ambivalence, whether your own or someone else’s. Dr. Miller demystifies ambivalence in order to help you make decisions aligned with your values and interests, and move forward with desired changes in your life.” – Naomi B. Rothman, PhD, Department of Management, Lehigh University.

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