Monday, 25 January 2010

The Double Bind

An inescapable mind knot that can lead to schizophrenia.

On the surface the double bind seems a simple idea. It's a bit like a reef knot. Two twists and when you pull on one it tightens on itself ensuring a strong bind.

The term "Double Bind" was first coined in the field of psychology by Gregory Bateson in the mid 1950's. It is an important concept and Gregory proposed that it was the cause of schizophrenia. The double bind involves two contradictory demands in a context where questioning the contradiction is impossible or implicitly prohibited.So, for example, a teacher asking why you are late, expects an answer to the assumed situation that you are late. If, however, you point out that you are not late you get told off for being rude. The contradiction exists in the implication that a solution exists in the answering of the question. However, answering the question only asserts that you are late. So if you don't answer the question you are evidently in the wrong and if you do answer the question then you are confirming that you are wrong. To question the question is simply not allowed. Stuffed!The above example is very simple and easy to see. But the double bind is a severe problem when it is deep in the culture and communicated to very young children by the people they depend on for survival. When the parents have learned to survive in a world of double binds they will transmit these complex paradoxes even in their body language.What makes this situation serious is that the child learns how to survive by satisfying the demands and expectations of the parents. It becomes a mechanism of perception. That is to say that the child grows up actually seeing the world in terms of these contradictions. So they actually see a child contradicting a teacher as "rude". They are ensnared by the contradictions and, unless they are fortunate enough to have managed to resolve this dilemma themselves they will behave in a way to support and perpetrate this problem.

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