Double MESSAGES – basics (Part 1)


Make up your mind – which do you want??

PREVIOUS: Rebuilding Trust (Part 2)

SITEs:  Types of ambiguity
The Double Bind: Intimate Tie Between Behavior & Communication”

Let’s start by looking at the basic way we process information.
CHART 1. is the Input-outgo loop everyone has. Our heredity, plus the type of beliefs, experiences, rules & personal preferences that are in each component part of us – determines how we understand & process incoming experiences, which then determines our responses.
info in - out

CHART 2. Normal communication process with others. Here each person is doing what is shown in Chart #1.2-way communication

DOUBLE MESSAGES, on the other hand, are not-normal (unhealthy /sadistic) ways to transmit ideas, which always end badly for the one trying to decode.
(‘How it works’ in Part 3)

Double Bind (DB) Theory was first described by Gregory Bateson & his colleagues in the mid-1950s, as a cause of schizophrenia. We know now that it is mainly a chemical brain disorder, but there are also contributing factors coming from the psychotic person’s family. However, Bateson’s basic outline is still valid – for everyone. It was developed partly out of his interest in paradoxes, from a discovery made by Bertrand Russell that paradoxes are the result of confusion in levels of analysis & orders of message: unclear sentence structure & its meaning, importance & value of a word or statement –  depending on the semantic level it’s coming from. (in DBs, Part 1)

— ‘Message’ – any communication we invest with a purpose, may depend on the medium in which it takes place (context or method), and can have implied (unspoken but understood) meaninglevels of meaning
— ‘Levels of AnalysisTheory says that there are first-order, second-order & higher-order logic meanings in communications. Self-reference must be ruled out to prevent paradoxes, so that a Class (group) is of a higher logic type than its members. In political studies, levels are: Systemic, State & Individual

— ‘Having Meaning’: a statement which is worthwhile, with the ability to produce / communicate ideas, thoughts, feelings or emotions
— ‘Orders of message’ confusion – such as when a person gives a command to be obeyed, along with a physical expression of fear/ insecurity – a hesitant or shaky voice, leaning slightly back, shifting feet.
General Semantics studies the ways in which meanings of words influence human behavior
— ‘Semantic confusion’ can lead to communication pathology, like DMs. It can also generate humor — Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?  A: Elephíno!

Double Messages (DM) are used by a controlling Sender (S) <—> to enslave a vulnerable Receiver (R), who is then caught in a Double Bind (DB). Enslave?? Yes, whether deliberate or not! BTW: a DM is not just repeating something twice!!, nor….getting differing opinions or answers from the same source…. or trying to figure out what someone wants or means when they don’t know themselves….
EXP of a DM
A: Damaged parent to child “(Of course) I love you”. Implied:
“See how much I do for you, aren’t I a good mother/father? I need you, so don’t ever leave me or be mad or expect me to…. right?”  – AND
B: Same Parent “(I’m trying to hide that) I don’t love you in a healthy way”. Implied by being continually judgmental & dissatisfied with child: “Don’t bother me, I’m always annoyed by you & your needs, you never do anything right /what I want / the way I want, you’re such a pain, get away from me!”)
C. ALSO – implied on the meta-level:
“If you point out or object to part B I’ll deny it, say you’re crazy or ungrateful & expect you to carry on as if you didn’t notice the contradiction. Keep trying to please me even tho I’ll never be satisfied, because you’ll sink (die) without me!”   OUCH!!opposite laws

● Many ACoAs grew up in an atmosphere of this DM – & others – created by our family (DMs Part 2 – Form 3), which left us with a deep sense of futility & powerlessness about most things, especially of ever getting our needs met. Now we live in a world of DBs, finding others who also do that to us, but even worse – it’s what we do to ourselves (most common one in DMs Part 5).

Double Messages create Double Binds, a ruthless way of forging invisible bondage based on fear of abandonment, which can only be completely effective when used against the immature & the already wounded.
DBs ultimately cause paralysis by trapping someone between the natural human wish to get away from bad things – like punishment, and go towards good things – like approval (aversion & desire). As shown in DMs Part 4 – Style 3, a threat delivered with a smile is still a threat, causing confusion. When confronted with a threat, we want to run away, but – if the threat is combined with a smile, even a mock-smile, we may not know what to do.  Deer in the headlights?

• The KEY to figuring out DMs is that the same subject matter is being presented from opposite sides, AS IF both are true, at the same time!key to DMs
NOTE: The main difference between DMs (from speaker) & DBs (in listener) is who holds all the power in this kind of relationship, which is always the Sender. Otherwise the descriptions & procedures are the same – it’s only a matter of perspective. Also – it’s not correct to say “A DB is a mixed message that….”. Instead, a DB is the result of a mixed message that puts someone in a no-win situation.

♥ About ACoAs: DMs, Part 8a & b

NEXT: Double Binds (Part 2)


5 thoughts on “Double MESSAGES – basics (Part 1)

  1. Interesting post, like so many others! 🙂 “Gas lighting” is troubling for me. It resonates in an all too familiar way and the phenomenon is frightening despite my age.

    On the bright side, my dislike of secretive/indirect behaviors have led me to live the opposite to the best of my ability.

    Happy Holidays!! Kira


    • Thanks Kira. Happy Holidays to you too. It’s always a testament to our True Self when we respond to our damage by living better than we were trained!


    • Thank you for writing. It’s wonderful that you care about helping your step-daughter,
      but I can’t answer your Q in a sentence or even a paragraph – I simply don’t have the info needed.
      Naturally the ASD has to be dealt with first, but just being there to listen any time the girl wants to talk is a start.


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