There can be conflicts between psychological systems (in our example, between the system of sexual needs, the system of rational planning, and the system of evaluating what is and isn’t appropriate and right). And there can be conflicts within a single system. A simple example of a conflict within a system would be a person ordering at an Italian restaurant who has a desire for spaghetti and a desire for a pizza and who can’t decide. A deeper and more serious problem can arise when a person has strong feelings of warmth, say for a father, and, at the exact same time, strong angry feelings.
In their practices, psychologists and other therapists see example after example of people who are tortured by ambivalence. This often comes out in an inability to decide. People often are torn between different options: They see both sides and weigh arguments for and against each side, and they still can’t decide; finally they find themselves acting one way or the other or, perhaps, they flip a coin or consult a psychic or follow the advice of a friend or teacher. Or an ambivalent person can move in one direction and then hesitate and then move in another direction and then hesitate and so on to the point where he or she is caught in a kind of paralysis.