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double bind

( double-bind )

The double bind is "a situation in which no matter what a person does, he can't 'win'" (Bateson, Jackson, Haley, & Weakland, 1956, p. 251). The concept is part of "a general communicational approach to the study of a wide range of human (and some animal) behavior, including schizophrenia as one major case" (Bateson, Jackson, Haley, & Weakland, 1962, p. 155).

In their original 1956 paper, Bateson et al. defined the necessary ingredients for a double-bind situation:

  1. Two or more persons....
  2. Repeated experience....
  3. A primary negative injunction....
  4. A secondary injunction conflicting with the first at a more abstract level, and like the first enforced by punishments or signals which threaten survival....
  5. A tertiary negative injunction prohibiting the victim from escaping from the field....
  6. Finally, the complete set of ingredients is no longer necessary when the victim has learned to perceive his universe in double bind patterns. (pp. 253-254)
    • Bateson, G., Jackson, D. D., Haley, J., & Weakland, J. H. Toward a theory of schizophrenia. Behavioral Science 1: 251-264, 1956./li>
    • Bateson, G., Jackson, D. D., Haley, J., & Weakland, J. H. A note on the double bind. Family Process 2: 154-161. 1962.

Definition extracted with permission from Simon, Fritz, et al, Family Process, Inc.: Language of Family Therapy: A Systemic Vocabulary and Source Book (Family Process Press Series)


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