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Dealing with Double Binds

What is unique about this programme?

A "double bind" is a special type of conflict which creates a "no-win" situation; i.e., a situation in which one is "damned if you do, and damned if you don't." According to anthropologist Gregory Bateson, who originally defined the notion of the double bind, such conflicts are at the root of both creativity and psychosis. The difference is whether or not one is able to identify and transcend the bind in an appropriate way.

Double binds often have quality of circularity, making them into a type of "Catch-22," and leading to a sense of confusion and helplessness. A classic example would be that of the Salem witch trials, in which one of the tests to see if a person was a witch was to bind the person and cast her into the water. If the person floated and survived, then she was determined to be a witch, and was put to death. If the person sank and drowned, she was exonerated with respect to being a witch, but was, of course, also dead. Thus, the essential structure of a double bind is:

If you do not do A, you will not (survive, be safe, have fun, etc.). But if you do do A, you will not (survive, be safe, have fun, etc.).

The most emotionally intense double binds occur in the context of significant interpersonal relationships. They often involve what appears to be a power struggle in which one person is trying to "make the other person wrong." Such a struggle can also occur between the inner "parts" of a person.

These types of insolvable struggles are often at the root of both mental and physical illness. They can also arise during a person's attempts to heal, and thwart progress towards wellness. Yet, even though double binds can appear formidable, it is possible to get out of them, given the appropriate skills and conditions. Getting relief from a double bind situation essentially comes from recognizing and addressing the "conditions" which are required to produce the double bind. In his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson defines the essential 'ingredients' for a double bind. This presentation will cover ways to identify double binds, and the underlying conditions which create them, and some of the ways in which double binds can be resolved or transcended.

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  • Dates: TBA
  • Venue: Central London
  • Price: TBA

read article posted 21/10/03


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Upcoming Calendar of Events

The Ultimate NLP Master Practitioner

with Judith Lowe
Central London
07 Oct 2010

The Full 21 Day NLP Practitioner

with Judith Lowe
Central London
15 Jan 2011

Practice Group - Zen in the Art of the NLP Meta-Model

with Judith Lowe
University of London Union
01 Feb 2011

NLP Practitioner Part 2

with Judith Lowe
Central London
10 Feb 2011

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Central London
17 Feb 2011

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with Special Guest Robert Dilts
Central London
25 Feb 2011

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