BOOK: “Double Bind: The Foundation of the communicational approach to the family.” 1976, Gregory Bateson
HOW it WORKs (R = Receiver / S = Sender)
1. The D. Messages (DMs) <—> D. Binds (DBs) game is with 2 or more – a victim & someone the victim experiences as their ‘superior’.
a. When the DB is from government, media, religion….. for it to be effective – the target audience must be willing to ignore logical reasoning, want to be ‘taken care of’, & assumes the authority is benevolent (which the Ss always say they are), so that the Rs accept whatever is being promoted
b. On a one-to-one basis, Rs must be involved in an intense, personal & deeply needed relationship, where they feel it’s absolutely vital to clearly & accurately understand what the S wants / needs of them, in order to respond appropriately (keep the connection)
2. The game is a repeated experience, not a single event.
The R is therefore trapped with a S who continually gives two different ‘orders of message’, each of which cancels the other one out
> Yet both must be obeyed. Punishment is always a possibility, & can be : the cold-shoulder, withdrawal of affection, physical abuse, verbal attacks (hate & anger), physical neglect or outright abandonment…..
a. Primary Injunction is imposed on the victim:
> “Learn all your lessons, or I’ll punish you” – AND
> “Don’t act smart, or I’ll punish you”
b. Secondary Injunction, conflicting with the first, is at a more abstract level, & doesn’t have to be spoken
EXP: “You must do X (because I asked), but only because you want to (please me)”
c. Tertiary injunction – often added, to prevent escape. R registers these second-level demands hinted at by posture & tone, also enforced by indirect threats to Rs’ survival OR actual punishment.
They are META-messages = DO NOT:
◆ notice or comment on the discrepancy between how I present myself or my claim to be a good person AND the many ways I continually neglect or abuse you
◆ question my intentions NOR the unfairness of this situation
◆ object or try to evade my threats & punishments
◆ try to get away from or out of the bind I’ve put you in
EXP: Out loud, Mother says “I love you,” but body language says, “I don’t love you.” The boy responds by withdrawing. She then blames him for causing ‘rupturing’ their relationship. He can win! When often repeated:
= he learns to distrust his experience & thoughts, forced into a psychological split – the conviction that she’s all-good (believing her words) & he’s all-bad (S-H, based on her subliminal message + her accusation)
= it’s hard for him to understand what other people really mean, believe what they say, or communicate effectively
THEN: Once the META-messages become ingrained, the smallest signal will trigger the pre-set response from a R (like Pavlov’s dog), who will go to great lengths to be ‘good’ & not make the S angry.
The R may beg & cry, promising to do better or to do something ‘grand’ but impossible – like being perfect all the time. They dramatically change how they act, trying different styles of behavior, to see which will work to satisfy the perpetrator (S).
• The R may eventually withdraw, stop functioning at all or try to commit suicide, implying: “You disapprove of me the way I am. Maybe you’ll finally be satisfied when I’m dead!”
Actually, in very dysfunctional families, that’s one of the literal or hidden statements some parents make: “Why did I have to have a kid like you? I never wanted kids in the first place. You’ll be the death of me yet.”……
UNFORTUNATELY, none of the R’s tactics will ever make any difference. The game is designed for the R to fail – but to keep trying. No wonder so many ACoAs think they’re mentally imbalanced, AND wish they were dead!
♥ About ACoAs: DMs, Part 8a & b
NEXT: DMs – Purpose (Part 4)