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A Child’s Predicament

A Child’s Predicament

The child’s double bind predicament

Not to be confused with the ‘double blind’. Double bind was a theory researched and defined by English Anthropologist Greogory Bateson and his colleagues in the 1950’s.

From Wikepedia:

A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.

And to quote from R.D Laing’s book ‘The divided self’, a book which articulately explores the process of madness:

[In a double bind situation] one person conveys to the other that he should do something, and at the same time conveys on another level that he should not, or that he should do something else incompatible with it. The situation is sealed off for the “victim” by a further injunction forbidding him or her to get out of the situation, or to dissolve it by commenting on it … the secondary injunction may, therefore , include a wide variety of forms: for example, “Do not see this as punishment”; “Do not see me as the punishing agent”…

The double bind from a child’s perspective

In many classrooms children are not only required for most of the day to sit at desks, without very much of a chance for a stretch, but they are not even allowed to to move around in their chairs. If they do, they are quickly criticized or chastised by the teacher.
This would be very effective punishment if meant as such. In fact, most adults would consider the long endurance that most children have to go through in school as a severe punishment.
But the child is forbidden to think of it as punishment, or to ask why he should have to submit to this inhuman treatment.
He is forbidden to think that these people who are doing these things to him are in anyway his enemies or that they dislike him.
He is told to believe that they care about him, that they do what they do for his sake, for his good.
It is made clear, that if he resists these orders not to speak or move around, or even to change his expressions on his face, or turn his head away from the teacher for a few seconds, that if he even resents or questions these things, he is somehow bad or problematic and needs ‘special’ treatment.
Psychiatrist R.D Laing uses the double bind to understand the process of madness for the schizoid personality but i
t seems to me that his book may have applied just as well if he were to have written about the life of many children.

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