Double Bind

double bind

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.

  1. Look at the bigger picture
  2. Don’t introvert
  3. This is not my game
  4. 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.

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