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October 🤔: A Lesson in Ambivalence

From our Remote Works Monthly Newsletter. Sign-up today here.

Change is in the air, leaves are changing color, and the warmth is disappearing into sweater weather. This year, Tam has had a big change as well. After a 16-year hiatus, she is back in school. She’s a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis (MIP), learning all about Freud and beyond.

This week, they discussed the concept of “ambivalence,” which does not mean mixed feelings or indifference in the Freudian world. Instead, it means opposing feelings or contradictory attitudes that cancel each other out. Think of it more like hitting the gas pedal and the break simultaneously rather than cruising along lackadaisically at the speed limit.

What does this have to do with remote work? Well, fundamentally, work is a human activity and a human construct. It’s a key part of our identity and involves decisions that impact not only our lives but those of our families, co-workers, and friends.

Questions like: Should you stay or leave your current job? Should you go for a promotion? Are you burnt out at work? How can you incorporate more play into your daily routine? How can you resolve conflict on your team?

Luckily, the answer already lies inside. It’s just sometimes hard to get at. That’s where Tam’s other class comes in. Using a third object, like an image, your unconscious is finally free to speak. What you see on a card is a reflection of you, a projection of your unconscious.

Brave enough to give it a try? Okay… let’s go!

Look at the collection of images and choose the one you feel drawn to. Then, focused on your chosen image, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do you see on the card?

  2. How does the image you see on the card relate to your work life?

  3. Using visual metaphors of the card, describe yourself (e.g., I feel fragile/delicate/brittle/fractured/new/potent as an egg…)

Reflection Questions:

  1. What’s one thing that you feel ambivalent about at work?

  2. What might be the two conflicting attitudes that have you at a standstill?

  3. What image represents your work life right now? What insight can carry you through the next week?


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