In earlier posts “Contradictions and Aggression” and “Don’t Think You Can Think” part 1 and part 2 we did some thinking about contradictions, dilemma’s and paradoxes. A special case of these are double binds.
A double bind exists when
- an impossible ultimatum is put forward (either/or, however, both alternatives are unacceptable)
- two directives are in conflict (be spontaneous)
- two conflicting messages (you are absolutely fantastic, but you have to change your behavior)
- double bind questions (do you still beat your wife?)
- conflict between words and actual behavior (yes, I drink too much)
Essentially, a double bind is a form of unconscious control or exerting tacit power.
Elizabeth Davids offers four strategies to reduce feelings of confusion and being trapped in a situation where you can only lose.
- Look at the bigger picture
- Don’t introvert
- This is not my game
- Look for a third option
Actually, she mentions a fifth strategy, the reverse double bind or counter paradox, which we will explore in another blog post.