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The Double Bind Theory:Still Crazy-MakingAfter All These YearsPAUL GIBNEY  With fifty years having passed since Gregory Ba...
minded consultant psychiatrist with           Some History and Context                 tribes of New Guinea and in Balines...
director, Dr. John J. Prusmack gave         other, the contradiction is not able to      children who often need the paren...
The Double Bind Theory:                         to locate ‘blame’ in the family or to             Bateson and his team’s o...
Tertiary injunction:                    cycle of sadness and fury. He started     Linda’s two children, Rachel, 8 years   ...
Kelvin into temporary care overnight      Linda to sign forms to say that they      badly in the past six weeks, as did hi...
withdraw from this confused and poorly        senior. Though the relationship was         elderly man (Charles, Steve), an...
experience of her relationship with         understanding of the emotional               and his research group still offe...
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  1. 1. The Double Bind Theory:Still Crazy-MakingAfter All These YearsPAUL GIBNEY With fifty years having passed since Gregory Bateson and his colleagues published their famous paper, ‘Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia’, it is an opportune time to review the theory and its clinical relevance today. Bateson’s team began with an interest in how the identity and functioning of self regulating systems was maintained through mechanisms of information, control and feedback. This work foreshadowed and gave momentum to the development of family therapy, with several members of the original research group later forming the initial schools of family therapy. Bateson, accompanied by Haley, Weakland and Jackson, formed a complex picture of the reciprocal complementariness and escalations that form family life. The ‘double bind hypothesis’ and ‘the schizophrenic dilemma’ were seen as part of a continuum of human experience of communication, that involved intense relationships and the necessity to discriminate between orders of message. Fifty years on, the double bind hypothesis of Gregory Bateson and his research group still offers ongoing insights, cause for reflection, an area and methodology of research, and proposes interventions that dismantle pathology and offer hope of new, more functional pathways.A requirement of the third year of my social work course was aninter-disciplinary subject offered by were our trusty supplies with which we faced the multiple choice examination at the end of the semester. with a schizophrenic member. The entry rounded out with the observation that theories of this type supported athe Department of Psychiatry. Every It was in that quirky handbook that psychosocial model of the etiology ofWednesday afternoon hundreds of I first saw mention of ‘The Double Bind schizophrenia, and thus a psychosocialaspiring social workers, occupational Theory of Schizophrenia’. Essentially, model of its treatment, and thentherapists, physiotherapists and the the entry said that in the mid-1950’s, duly noted that such understandingslike would squeeze into one of the Bateson and his colleagues put aided and abetted the anti-psychiatryUniversity of Queensland’s lecture forward a theory that schizophrenia movement of the 1960’s. (R.D. Laing,theatres to be given a basic overview was caused and/or promoted by David Cooper etc.) The handbookof the history of psychiatry, and irresolvable communicational then turned its attention to the anti-the constructs that organised the conundrums in families. It went on psychotic medication revolution andtaxonomy of mental illness. These to say that other later studies were the promising field of dopaminelectures, plus the handy roneoed more specific in identifying ‘ high e.e.’, research.double stapled handbook with a that is ‘expressed emotion’, as a key Occasionally, years later in wardsummary of each lecture and topic, communicational element in families rounds, the somewhat philosophically48 PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006
  2. 2. minded consultant psychiatrist with Some History and Context tribes of New Guinea and in Balinesewhom I worked would be waxing Gregory Bateson’s original villages. Bateson sought to describelyrical to the medical students training was as an anthropologist. social and communicational patternsabout the theories of causation of Bateson’s grandfather, William, had within specific groupings, and wasschizophrenia. He would add, studied classics and mathematics at fascinated by mother/child interactions“. . . there was interesting work done in Cambridge. Bateson’s father, William and the construct of messages thatthe 1950’s by a scholar called Bateson Bateson (known as W.B.) studied defined certain activities as play. In the 1940’s, Bateson and his first wife, Margaret Mead, became involved in the growing intellectual The essential hypothesis of the double bind movement of cybernetics. Cybernetics was a discipline largely co-ordinated theory is that the ‘victim’—the person as a multi-disciplinary endeavour by theorists such as Norbert Weiner who becomes psychotically unwell—finds and Warren McCullough. The field concerned itself with self regulating him or herself in a communicational systems and how their identity and matrix, in which messages contradict each functioning was maintained through mechanisms of information, control other, the contradiction is not able to be and feedback. Bateson could see the discipline’s immediate applicability to communicated on and the unwell person is social interactions and the exploration and explanation of social systems. not able to leave the field of interaction. Whilst in a two year appointment at the University of California Medical School in the late 1940’s, Bateson began thinking and theorizing aboutthat suggested schizophrenia was zoology at Cambridge and notably the processes of psychiatry and itscaused by double binds in the family’s became Britain’s first geneticist. subject matter. He worked with thecommunication patterns. Paul, our William Bateson named that discipline Swiss psychiatrist Jurgen Rueschsocial worker, is a family therapist; he’ll ‘genetics’ and was responsible for to study human communication inexplain more of that to you if you want to introducing Mendel’s laws of genetic psychotherapy. Bateson was a visitingask him”. Mercifully, they were more inheritance into Western science. professor of anthropology at Stanfordinterested in dopamine and dosage. Gregory Bateson also studied and University and his central institutionalHowever, at that time, in the early graduated from Cambridge. He connection was to the local Veteran’s1980’s, I was consuming the family undertook field work amongst the Hospital at Menlo Park. The hospital’stherapy literature vigorously and there,in its archives, was this compellingand productive theory. It has been fifty years since GregoryBateson published ‘Towards a Theoryof Schizophrenia’, forever emblazonedin bibliographies and reference listsas—Bateson, G., D. Jackson, J. Haley,and J. Weakland, ‘Toward a Theory ofSchizophrenia’, Behavioural Science 1(1956), 251-254. It would seem to be an opportunetime and totally appropriate to reviewthe theory and its possible clinicalrelevance today. This paper covers afew brief historical notes, an outline ofthat famous theory, some illustrationsof ‘double binds’, some recent casehistories that demonstrate its relevancetoday and some discussion of itslimitations and its inestimable, andstill unexplored, value. Illustration: Savina Hopkins PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006 49
  3. 3. director, Dr. John J. Prusmack gave other, the contradiction is not able to children who often need the parentsBateson a research freedom to pursue be communicated on and the unwell for survival, this prohibition canareas of interest and he chose to person is not able to leave the field of often be seen in suicide threats,study the processes of psychotherapy interaction. dramatic reversals and promises toand alcoholism. In 1952, Bateson The critical components of the be better, and promises of hithertosuccessfully gained a research grant double bind situation, according to unavailable resources. Often seenfrom the Rockefeller Foundation to Bateson and his colleagues, were as in interactions described in maritalstudy Paradoxes of Abstraction in follows: therapy, for example:Communication. • Two or more persons, one of whom Primary Negative Injunction: He assembled a research team can be designated as the ‘victim’. ‘I’ll kill you if you stay.’ i.e. ‘Do notaround him that included John • Repeated experience. The situation stay.’Weakland, an engineer, Jay Haley, a is not a single trauma, rather a Secondary Negative Injunction: ‘I am used to people leaving me.’ i.e. ‘Do not abandon me.’ Tertiary Negative Injunction: Later attempts to locate ‘ blame’ in the ‘That’s right. It is so typical of you to piss off and leave me. No guts to face family or to suggest the hypothesis was your problems. I’m prepared to stick with this.’ i.e. ‘Do not leave the field.’ aimed at ‘ blaming families’ was the work • A partial arc—a snippet of that interaction—will induce the entire of less skilled theorists, given to dull and confused response in the ‘victim’. “Finally, the complete set of ingredients is reductive readings of complex work. no longer necessary when the victim has learned to perceive his universe in double bind patterns.” (Bateson, 1972, p.207).communication analyst, William Fry, repetitive activity that creates The research group felt thata psychiatrist, and later Don Jackson, an habitual expectation. this situation repeatedly led to anthe consultant psychiatrist. When the • A primary negative injunction. individual unable to discriminateRockefeller grant was discontinued, A prohibition that takes one of between the logical types that organiseBateson’s research group continued two forms, either (a) ‘Do not do how messages are meant to be taken.without pay. After some time elapsed, so and so, or I will punish you’, or The characteristics of that situationhe gained a grant from the Josiah (b) ‘If you do not do so and so, I are:Macy Jnr. Foundation and the project will punish you’. The context is a) the individual is involved in anbegan to address itself discreetly to the organised by the avoidance of intense relationship in whichproblem of schizophrenia. punishment which usually takes he or she feels they must get By the time the group disbanded the form of the withdrawal of love, the communication right;in 1962, they had published the expression of hate or anger b) the other party is expressingcollectively sixty-three papers. They and other manifestations of the two orders of messages, andhad studied schizophrenia, play, principal theme of abandonment. one denies the other;paradox, psychotherapy, humour and • A secondary injunction that c) the ‘victim is unable to comment onthe choreography of social familial conflicts with the first at a more the contradiction, i.e. he or she isinteractions. Bateson went on to work abstract level, and like the first, is unable to make ‘metacommunicativeas an ethnologist and several of the enforced by punishment or signals statements’ that might help toother members formed the initial that threaten survival. This is often resolve the mess. These situations,schools of family therapy theory and communicated by posture and endlessly replayed, result in anpractice. Their contribution to the tone and may include such ‘meta- individual unable to read accuratelytherapeutic field was enormous, but messages’ as: ‘Do not notice the the context of messages, andno one singular contribution captures contradiction between my claim to be unable to communicate effectivelythe essence of their project as well as a loving parent and my willingness to or coherently. In short, he or she‘Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia’. withdraw my love from you.’ will live in a world of disordered ‘Do not notice nor comment on the messages, where active andThe Double Bind Theory unfairness of this situation.’ appropriate deciphering will be The essential hypothesis of the ‘Do not question my love of experienced as dangerous, anddouble bind theory is that the which the primary prohibition possibly only known, as a nameless,‘victim’—the person who becomes is (or is not) an example.’ felt, perpetual angst.psychotically unwell—finds him or • A tertiary negative injunction that (Bateson, 1972, pp. 206–212.)herself in a communicational matrix, prohibits the victim from escapingin which messages contradict each the field. Unnecessary in cases of50 PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006
  4. 4. The Double Bind Theory: to locate ‘blame’ in the family or to Bateson and his team’s observationalSome Qualifying Points suggest the hypothesis was aimed at wisdom can be witnessed in any public A number of points need to be ‘blaming families’ was the work of or private health setting any day ofmade about the original 1956 paper. less skilled theorists, given to dull and the week, whether the ‘patient’ beIt was called ‘Toward a Theory of reductive readings of complex work. schizophrenic or otherwise.Schizophrenia’ indicating that it was on For example, a social workerthe way to becoming a theory or that The Double Bind interviews a young man withit might be a contribution to a broader Hypothesis Observed schizophrenia and his mother, aboutand more comprehensive theory. At no Later family therapists, such as his leaving home to go to a hostel. Inpoint is it claimed to be the sole truth Lynn Hoffman (1982) encouraged us the course of a conversation, it is notof how a person comes to suffer from to see that perhaps it is not that the uncommon to hear:schizophrenia. system causes the symptom, but rather a) ‘You are driving me mad, Nathan. I Second, Bateson and his colleagues that the symptom causes the system. can’t have you in the house anymore.’acknowledge that this is but one Applied to our current area of concern, Primary negative injunction:interaction, albeit a pivotal one, Hoffman’s point would suggest that ‘Do not live with me. Grow up.’in the complex family interactions perhaps it is not that the family ‘double b) ‘I don’t see how you are going to live inorganised around a psychotic family binds’ the patient in such a way that it a hostel. You don’t look after yourselfmember. They write “This hypothesis causes the schizophrenia, (the system now and I’m there to help. Didhas not been statistically tested; it selects causing the symptom), but rather the you brush your teeth this morning?and emphasises a rather simple set of patient develops schizophrenia and Have you phoned your caseworker atinteractional phenomena and does not in attempts to communicate concern, Centrelink?’attempt to describe comprehensively the control, respect and some limits Secondary injunction:extraordinary complexity of a family (to someone who seemingly cannot ‘Do not grow up. You need me.’relationship” (Bateson, 1972, p. 212). contain themselves), the family ends c) ‘I know I have taken him home from Third, while the paper emphasises up contradicting itself inadvertently in three placements before. They justthe mother/child interaction in a way a series of competing communications weren’t looking after him properly.that might offend today’s sensibilities, (the symptom causes the system). And they were taking two thirds ofit included observations such as: This ‘chicken and egg’ argument his pension, weren’t they, Nathan? If “However, from our preliminary is important philosophically as it can you are going to give away money, youobservations we think it is likely that organise the attitude of the therapist might as well give it to me. Not thatthe fathers of schizophrenics are not and, depending on what position is I’d ask for it. He has his own room atsubstantial enough to lean on.” (Bateson, taken, that prevailing attitude can home, and no one to worry him since his1972, p. 215). either alienate the family or promote Dad died, and his brother and sister left This statement and others like it in therapeutic co-operation. Still, home. We are all each other has got.’the article suggest that the researcherswere already beginning to form acomplex picture of the reciprocalcomplementariness and escalationsthat form family life. Fourth, they saw the double bindhypothesis and the schizophrenicdilemma as part of a continuum ofhuman experience of communication,that involve intense relationships andnecessity of discriminating betweenorders of message. “Such situationsinclude play, humour, ritual, poetry, andfiction” (Bateson, 1972, p. 222). Thus located it is ‘depathologised’by its inclusion in a communicationalarena, as opposed to ‘pathologised’ byits uniqueness. Fifth, the hypothesis does not‘blame’ the family nor the parents,nor does it imply malicious, deliberateintent to those involved in thecommunicational maze. Rather, itdescribes a partial aspect of an overallobservable pattern. Later attempts Milton Erickson and Gregory Bateson: Photo courtesy of the Milton Erickson Foundation PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006 51
  5. 5. Tertiary injunction: cycle of sadness and fury. He started Linda’s two children, Rachel, 8 years ‘Do not leave this relationship crying and his wife Linda reached old and Liam, 4 years old. After a and do not expect to get away, across to hold his hand. His ten year few months, Gareth had contacted because I’ll come and get you.’ old step-daughter Stacey arose from his father and asked if he could come This pattern often repeated several her chair and walked across the room and live with him and his new family.times in the course of an interview can to hug John. Gareth said that he had grown tired ofthen be stimulated, as the researchers John’s perplexed and painful states his mother’s abuse and her see-sawing,point out, by what we might call a can be attributed to his inadvertent erratic moods. Joan regularly told allholographic snippet of the process. participation in a process, that can her children to leave and would addFor example, later on in the interview: only be adequately construed, in my when they showed some enthusiasma) ‘Of course I respect that Nathan opinion, by the Double Bind Hypothesis. for her suggestion, that it would leave is an adult and needs his privacy. His first marriage to Joan ended her free to kill herself. Gareth said, at I’d like some time to myself too. I’d like to join the bowls club.’b) ‘Mind you, if I went bowling I wouldn’t be able to relax. I’d be worried sick. He’d burn the house And in clinical observations, in those down with the way he smokes.’ The endless invocation of the blinding moments of recognition in whichpattern is matched by the client’sinability to comment on the tangles fifty years collapse and physical distancegiven that most of them occur ‘withprotective intent’ in the context of an disappears, it can be witnessed that in someintense relationship. families, double binds in communication are Similarly, any clinician who hasever debated with a genuinely caring still crazy-making, after all these years.family as to why their anorexicdaughter’s goal weight has to be 45kgs, as opposed to the 38 kgs that sheand they would be more comfortablewith, will recognise the double five years ago. John and Joan had a an earlier point, it had been easier tobinding effect of the conundrum: ‘We long and unhappy marriage and not discontinue contact with his father,want you better. Grow up. But not too surprisingly it culminated in a long rather than cop the abuse that Joanbig. Being skinny is good.’ and unhappy separation and divorce. delivered to them, upon their return The three children, Jessica 12, Gareth from contact visits.Case Example One 10 and Kelvin 8, were in a very Within a few months, Kelvin began Bateson assured us that the double disrupted state. Joan often withheld intermittently phoning and asking tobind problem—the difficulty in them from their week-ends with their come and live with them, and thendiscriminating between levels of father, claimed that he had abused within a day, phoning to say that hemessages and the inability to comment her in phone calls and would take did not want to come. One Januaryon that process—was not the exclusive out domestic violence orders against night, his mother pulled up outside ofterritory of those involved in psychotic him. These orders were all promptly John and Linda’s house, pushed Kelvinphenomena. dismissed by magistrates. The family out of the car and threw his bags on Twice in the one week I had seen law court proceedings were protracted the front lawn. She remarked thatJohn Gibson in a state where he was as Joan and her solicitors insisted on now she was free to do what she hadunable to talk due to the emotion he numerous independent family court to do. Fearful that she meant that shewas experiencing. The first time he reports. Finally, the children agreed intended to kill herself, Kelvin triedwas in a family group meeting run to stay with their mother and said to get back into the car. She refused toby the local Department that deals that they no longer wished to see their let him. She opened the door hard andwith Child Protection matters. John father. knocked him onto the driveway. Sheappeared stuck between incredulity John reported that he was drove off and Kelvin ran after her intoand rage and his lips quivered with devastated and became seriously the night. She phoned John and saiddistress, as he struggled to say depressed. His work as an engineer that she never wanted to see Kelvin orsomething. The second time he was suffered and he had to take time Gareth and she hoped they all died.at his family’s regular family therapy off. A year later he met Linda, who Linda and John located Kelvin threesession on a Thursday night. As he had also left an unhappy marriage. hours later at a train station. Fearfultried to explain what had happened Another year on, John, then aged of the legal antics of the past, theyin the previous meeting, he became 41, and Linda, aged 32, married and phoned the Department and told theminarticulate, and seemed caught in a formed their own small family with of the situation. The Department took52 PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006
  6. 6. Kelvin into temporary care overnight Linda to sign forms to say that they badly in the past six weeks, as did hisand returned him to John and Linda voluntarily requested the Department individual therapist and his youththe next day. John said that he wanted to take Kelvin into extended care. worker. All agreed that he was morethe Department’s involvement and The couple refused, saying that they productive and more settled when hemonitoring of his involvement with had no desire for Kelvin to be in care was with John and Linda. John askedKelvin, as he and Linda did not wish and that he was welcome to return repeatedly in the meeting for theto be accused of kidnapping Kelvin home. The workers said that if the details of the Department’s concerns.and the like, by Joan, at a later date. couple did not voluntarily sign him No such question was met with a clearThe Department took a temporary in, the Department would go to court answer. John and Linda asked aboutsupervision order over Kelvin for six to prove that they had grounds for the various changes in staff dealingmonths and they referred the family their action. Linda and John invited with them, and why Bob was not atto family therapy, so that they could them to proceed thus, and began to the meeting. The facilitator warneddiscuss how they could accommodate campaign for their own rights in the that if he was going to be hostileKelvin into the family, given that matter. When seen in therapy that the meeting would be discontinued.he had a history of poor school week, they, plus the children, were sad Linda’s request met with a similarattendance, and regular suspension. and incensed by Kelvin’s removal. John response. John sat in tearful silent The family attended therapy and Linda had phoned the team leader frustration. He did so again at thewithout any missed appointments and Bob numerous times without response. family therapy session the next week.worked hard in each session. Kelvin’s They left frustrated messages. When The dynamic in play seemed to be:performance and attendance at school they went down to the Department Primary Negative Injunction:steadily improved. While he was at office and asked for a meeting with the ‘Do not question our practices. We caretimes unimpressed with the fact that manager, they were told that they were about your child’s welfare, you do not.’John and Linda insisted that he study inappropriately aggressive, and that Secondary Negative Injunction:and do chores, and talk about his they were ‘hostile clients’. ‘Do not passionately advocate for yourfrustrations, rather than hit people, Two of the family therapy team rights to parent your child. This will beKelvin agreed that they were fair in attended a family group meeting taken as evidence of your insightlessness,their treatment of him. organised by the Department a and of your failure to understand how About four months into the therapy month later. Kelvin had now been damaging you are to your child.’the family came, without Kelvin, to in a foster placement for six weeks. Tertiary Negative Injunction: ‘share this unusual tale. Linda and The school’s headmaster confirmed Do not not relate to us, no matter howJohn had taken Kelvin to a final that his behaviour had deteriorated rude or obfuscating we are. If youinterview with the Department. Theaim was to review his progress andto discharge him from his temporaryprotection order. Apparently, whenasked by the interviewer if he likedliving with Dad and Linda, Kelvinsaid he felt that they had unrealisticexpectations of him and that somemonths ago, John had held him downtwice for somewhere between two andfive minutes (this was in response toKelvin breaking up furniture when hewas angry). Without consulting Johnor Linda, the interviewer Graham andhis team leader Bob offered Kelvinrespite for the night. Kelvin wastaken to another placement overnightand the parental couple were toldafter the event, over the phone, thatDepartmental workers would cometo interview them tomorrow aboutKelvin’s treatment. Five days went by (which includeda weekend) and two totally differentworkers—different from Graham andBob, and from any staff the couplehad ever dealt with—arrived at thecouple’s house, and asked John and PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006 53
  7. 7. withdraw from this confused and poorly senior. Though the relationship was elderly man (Charles, Steve), and theorganised process, it will be seen as proof never consummated, it was both alternating counterscript message b)that you did not care about your child.’ emotional and sexual in nature. It have unsuccessful forays into the world John wept with good reason. The was an exceptionally maddening, soul of similar aged relationships (Bill).fact that the ‘damned if you do, destroying experience for Andrea. Her One could argue that her relationshipdamned if you don’t’ format reinforced estimation was that it had almost with Steve might also follow the scripthis previous experiences of Joan’s ‘sent her crazy’. message at some level: always playnegotiations around the children, only Some understanding of Andrea’s alternative but non-victorious partnerincreased his emotional pain. Linda, relationship with Charles is gained by to the suffering wife.Gareth, and we’d like to think the understanding her family-of-origin However, while all of the abovefamily therapy team, provided other history. Her mother was often bed may in some way be ‘true’, the ‘crazyreference points in this painful process. ridden with depression and migraine. making’ quality of the interactions Uneventfully, one month When well, she demonstrated very with Charles might best be understoodlater Kelvin returned home. The little interest in Andrea. Andrea, an by Bateson’s double bind hypothesis.Department withdrew their only child, was her Dad’s constant Charles is a barrister, Andrea was aapplication rather than go to court, companion and something of a son legal secretary. The relationship waswith what they were advised was to him. She joined him in outdoor very intense and included patternsflippant and inconsequential ‘evidence’. pursuits, enjoyed his interest in her of passionate involvement and cruelGraham left his job, with the competitive swimming and school withdrawal, that not only infuriatedsuggestion being that he had been work, and she especially enjoyed the Andrea but saw her more entangledoverwhelmed by all his cases and somewhat philosophical discussions with every cycle of the pattern. Somehad been incompetent in a variety of that they shared about current affairs of the pattern’s form was:ways. Bob still never returned calls. and life issues. At adolescence, Andrea a) Charles would see Andrea chattingNo apologies were forthcoming. The found her father distancing himself warmly to other barristers. Hefamily, including Kelvin, went back from her, and she felt bewildered would then ignore her and not talkto working with the family therapy and saddened by his absence. She to her for up to a week (despite theteam on their ongoing issues. The four remembers him actively discouraging fact that she was his secretary).month disruption had been provided any of her attempts to engage in the Primary Injunction:by a ‘parental’ dynamic, characterised grooming activities typical of teenage ‘Do not relate warmly to otherby powerfully contradicting messages, girls; her father scoffed at her attempts men. Relate only to me.’that had increased the family’s sense of in these areas. b) When that would resolve each time,powerlessness. Her later relationship with Charles a period of shared lunches, cuddling can be seen as a recapitulation of and some sexual expressionCase Example Two her relationship with her father. would ensure. This would stop Andrea is a forty-year old woman The Oedipal problem (Electra when Charles would announcewho presented to therapy in a crisis. problem if you prefer to be gender that it had to stop, he wanted toShe had left her husband Steve, aged specific) was that she had a symbolic be faithful to his wife and thatfifty-five, to pursue a relationship victory over her mother—she was he could offer Andrea nothing.with, Bill aged thirty-nine. She had her father’s companion. Due to her Secondary Negative Injunction:been involved in an affair with Bill for father’s decency and their mutual ‘Do not expect anything of me.’six months before leaving Steve. It was appropriateness, she did not have a c) Andrea would be very hurt andbecoming apparent that Bill would literal victory (and, paradoxically, nor would make up her mind not tonot leave his wife and two children a literal developmental defeat)—she be involved anymore in the illicitto move in with Andrea and she was was not her father’s sexual partner. relationship and to re-establish thewondering whether she should go back Many years later, she replayed this relationship within professionalto Steve. Steve, who had now been with Charles, who was her father’s age. protocols. Charles would respond byinformed of the Bill situation, had She gained his fascinated attention pursuing her, buying flowers for hersaid that “ infidelity has always been a and took his attention away from and seeking her company.part of their relationship” and he would his wife (Charles and his wife had Tertiary Negative Injunction:welcome Andrea back. no children)—a symbolic victory, ‘Do not leave me.’ Andrea had experienced some and again did not become his sexual This pattern caused Andrea sevenother problematic relationships partner (the literal defined, and this years of unresolved misery that wasduring the course of their fifteen time a sort of developmental impasse only discontinued when she left thatyear marriage, with her relationship reconfirmed). workplace. The double bind of thewith Charles, aged sixty, being of Yet another explanation might Charles-Andrea scenario can alsointerest to our current hypothesis. come from the realms of transactional be seen as a transformation of theIn her early thirties, Andrea had a analysis. Andrea’s behaviour could be binds that Andrea-Mum-Dad foundseven year relationship with Charles explained by a basic script message: themselves in. Andrea finds the doublewho was some thirty years her a) be the non-sexual partner of an bind theory of the crazy-making54 PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006
  8. 8. experience of her relationship with understanding of the emotional and his research group still offersCharles a compelling one. She reflects process. us ongoing insights and causes forupon it to find a new pathway to Fifth, the double bind theory reflection. It offers us an area andsatisfaction in her resumed life with introduces the concept of methodology of research. Clinically, itSteve. ‘power’, albeit covertly, into the proposes interventions that dismantle psychotherapeutic realm. The double pathology and offer the hope of new,The Value of the Theory binds ‘work’ because someone has more functional pathways. And in From the hindsight of fifty years on, power over someone else, or at very clinical observations, in those blindingthe double bind hypothesis can be seen least (and hardly ‘least’), someone has moments of recognition in which fiftyto be valuable both historically and the right to define the operant context years collapse and physical distancetheoretically. for another person. The concept disappears, it can be startlingly First, it observed and named of power became a pivotal debate witnessed that in some families, doublea difficult interaction, and in so for the research group, particularly binds in communication are still crazy-doing, it introduced an interactional between Bateson and Haley. The making, after all these years.perspective to psychotherapy. What issue of power in psychotherapy waswas happening intra-psychically could embraced actively by the strategic Principal Referencebe seen to be mirrored, confirmed and therapists, conveniently ignored and Bateson, G., D. Jackson, J. Haley,held in place by external interactions. under-theorised by the psychoanalysts, and J. Weakland, ‘Toward a Theory of Second, in naming a pathological alarmingly protested by the anti- Schizophrenia’, Behavioural Scienceinteraction that had the capacity to psychiatrists, and intellectual critiqued 1 (1956), pp251-254. In Bateson, G.invoke illness in one of the involved by the feminists and post-modernists. 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind:parties, it foreshadowed and gave But it is not going away. Bateson’s a Revolutionary Approach to Man’s Understanding of Himself. New York:momentum to the development of pithy and gritty descriptions and Ballantine Books.family therapy. If interactions could be concepts make it the very seeableproblematic and pathology producing, shadow in most distressing humanthen they also might have the capacity interactions. Further Recommendedto be organised interventively and to Reading on the Subjectbecome health producing. Conclusion Third, the clarity of Bateson’s The world of psychotherapy, like Haley, J. (1963). Strategiesdescription offered an example of most worlds, is driven by that strange of Psychotherapy, New York:what the anti-psychiatrists called ‘de- triumphiate of commercialism, Grune and Stratton.mystification’. They hypothesised that research and prestige. Somehow thatpatients and their families suffered combination organises what’s in and Hoffman, L. (1981). Foundations of Family Therapy. A Conceptual Framework forfrom unsolvable communicational and what’s out, what is researchable and Systems Change. New York: Basic Books.existential knots (some of which were what isn’t, what can and cannot beiatrogenic) and that they had become noticed, and what does and does not Lipset, D. (1980). Gregory Bateson. The Legacy of a Scientist. Boston: Beaconmystified as to the nature of the binds, sell. Sadly often the old is eschewed Press.and were unable and prohibited from in favour of the new. Often the moreseeing the machinations of those complex and profound is discarded for Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J.H. and Jackson, D.D. (1967). Pragmatics of Humanprocesses. De-mystification, a clear the easily grasped and the glib. Communication. A Study of Interactionalspelling out of the pathologising Fifty years on, the double bind Patterns, Patholosgies and Paradoxes.process, was required as a first step. hypothesis of Gregory Bateson New York. W.W. Norton & Co.The double bind hypothesis is such ade-mystification, par excellence. Fourth, the double bind hypothesisoffered substance and furtherperspective to such psychoanalyticconcepts as denial, splitting, projection(some of the primitive or primarydefences) and the complex process ofprojective identification. How one AUTHOR NOTESparty gets another party to carrytheir own damaged and damaging PAUL GIBNEY, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and family therapist in privatefeelings can seem like a mystery, and practice in Brisbane. He is a well known author and presenter in the areasits description, at times, can seem like of psychotherapy theory and practice. He is the author of The Pragmatics ofpsychic hocus pocus. The double bind Therapeutic Practice (2003), and his second text Exploring the Therapeutic Domaintheory adds the communicational and will be published in late 2006.interactional evidence and perspectivethat allows a more clear and valid PSYCHOTHERAPY IN AUSTRALIA • VOL 12 NO 3 • MAY 2006 55

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