A couple years ago I started talking about “stuck” places in my life and I found the words both/and instead of either/or helped. Part of this happened while praying with someone about what the Nichols book calls a double bind. I wasn’t aware of the concept of a double bind then, I just knew I was stuck and every choice felt like it came with punishment or a negative injunction. Praying using the words both/and helped somehow. Listing the double binds and what I felt I needed in each of them with "ands" even though they were contradictory. It gave my prayers and my heart a more spacious and grounded quality.
So when I read what a double bind was in our readings this week I was grateful to have this concept named and articulated so clearly.
Pg 20. double bind – Where escape isn’t feasible and response is necessary. If he or she receives two related but contradictory messages on different levels. But finds it difficult to detect or comment on the inconsistency that person is in a double bind…. A double bind includes:The hardest part of a double bind for me is the second injunction at a more abstract level that conflicts with the first. I have not ever experienced a double bind that is at the level of what some people face (It's a main characteristic in psychotic patents and their family communication) but, I am aware that so much of the world is full of conflicting messages. And we bring them into ourselves.
1. Two or more persons in an important relationship
2. Repeated experience.
3. A primary negative injunction, such as “Don’t do X or I will punish you.”
4. A second injunction at a more abstract level conflicting with the first, also enforced by punishment or perceived threat.
5. A tertiary negative injunction prohibiting escape and demanding a response. With out this restriction the victim won’t feel bound.
I found it interesting that we read about double binds one week and internal family system therapy the next because I think that internal family system therapy is a wonderful both/and way to address double bind situations.
Just as there are double bind messages between family members there are also double bind messages inside ourselves. Managers, exiles, and firefighters parts (or schema's if you like that word better) all saying contradictory things inside us. Speak! No don't speak. Hide. Show yourself. If you say who you are you won't have anything left. This has been a huge part of my battle to come out. I choose hide for so long and in the process of coming out the parts of me that are terrified also are what caused me to self hate and punish myself whenever I wanted to share who I was. It's taken a TON of reflection to stop these manager parts in myself from running to punishment. I felt a part self-punish for being silent and I felt terror and dread which are a punishment when I thought about telling. It's felt like a lose-lose double bind situation.
Ultimately these parts are not the core of me. Spiritually God is center. But from this internal family system perspective I also have a core self. The best analogy I've heard wasn't in our readings. It's the analogy of the self as a bus full of people. The adult core self is the driver of the bus and trouble happens when someone lets a manager, exile, or firefighter drive the bus.
And to you blog readers who thing this sounds like multiple personalities it's not. Most humans talk in terms of parts of themselves. A part of me wants to go on a diet but I also really really want that ice cream!
I'll leave you with a quote from my reading that explains how this feels for me as well:
Upon separating some parts, one client of therapist John Carney (1996) exclaimed, “I can’t describe what an experience this is for me… All of the sudden I feel like I have a solid place to stand. It’s like I am the center of the May-pole and all these parts and problems revolve around me… but they are not me… me, who I am deep down. I feel like “I” can deal with these problems now and not feel like I am the problems. P226 Walsh