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I was trying to describe the facial expression in this GIF and couldn't come up with a single word.

The GIF in question

On the surface, it looks like the feeling expressed by this character is indecisiveness, but it seems more conflicted. I actually found this GIF when it was a top response on a question on Reddit that was something like "How would you feel if the Westboro Baptist Church was attacked by terrorists?" It summed up the feeling of the entire thread perfectly (e.g. any sort of violence and terrorism is inexcuseable, but... it's one extreme group hit by another).

Is there a single word for this specific feeling?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For informal language, you can simply use conflicted, “Made uneasy by conflicting impulses,” but American Heritage notes that their Usage Panel overwhelmingly rejects this as jargon of pop psychology.

You can also use torn, “divided or undecided, as in preference.” See the song “Torn” for an extended example.

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I'd go with ambivalent:

simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action

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Not sure that ambivalent has the right connotation for the context. I would normally use it to express that I'm torn between liking and disliking something, but not for a dilemma. For this man's expression, vacillating might work instead. –  Bradd Szonye May 17 '13 at 20:41
    
I, too, like vacillating. How about double-minded? –  rhetorician May 18 '13 at 1:21
    
@BraddSzonye there is no dilemma in the OP. The definition of ambivalent I posted is pretty much how I would answer the question "How would you feel if the Westboro Baptist Church were attacked by terrorists?". Vacillating implies indecision with respect to the correct action to be carried out rather than an internal conflict of opinion. –  terdon May 19 '13 at 14:18
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Abashed is another word you could use although quite strong, it describes mental anguish, confusion and uneasiness in one word. Perplexed means confused and mixed up, but it just does not sound right here?

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