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 ‘rules’ 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, which conflicts 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 the 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 (stiffness if hugged) says, “I don’t love you.” The boy responds by withdrawing. She then blames him for causing a ‘rupture’ in their relationship. He can’t 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 for withdrawing (S-H, based on her subliminal message + her accusation)
= it’s hard for him to communicate effectively, nor understand what other people really mean or believe what they say
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 rigged – 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)
2 thoughts on “Double MESSAGES – Procedure (Part 3)”
Thank you. This is comforting – to understand what happened to me. Shana
Thanks for letting me know. Be well.