Do you know the time when there is a quite stressful period at work and a friend tell you “Try to Relax“?
I love this phrase! It is so contradictory, and the perfect example of a double bind, because try and relax obviously do not go together.
And if you haven’t heard about it before, double-bind is a game with self-contradictory rules, it’s a situation where both your options trap you either way.
It seems kind of a trend now to read on the internet that we have to be ourselves, to express our opinion, while at the same time we are taught not to hurt anyone.
How can we guarantee that we will not hurt anyone when we express our opinion? I am not saying that one of the options is better or has a higher value than the other, I’m only saying that one contradicts the other.
You see, whatever we do, we are doomed – if we don’t want to hurt anyone, we cannot express our opinion, and if we want to express our opinion and be authentic, we may hurt someone.
And the one who imposes double bind situations to us the most is our society.
We live in societies because we value connection, because we feel safer and because it is easier – we don’t have to struggle in the middle of the rainforest to fight tigers completely alone, as we don’t need our own cows in our back yard to have our daily portion of milk.
The society provides us with all its benefits (and they are numerous), but there is a catch, especially in this modern way of living where we are bombarded with information.
And there is no better person to talk about the society’s double bind from Alan Watts – here is a passage from his book “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are“:
A double-bind game is a game with self-contradictory rules. The social double-bind game can be phrased in several ways:
The first rule of this game is that it is not a game.
Everyone must play.
You must love us.
You must go on living.
Be yourself, but play a consistent and acceptable role.
Control yourself and be natural.
Try to be sincere.
Essentially, this game is a demand for spontaneous behavior of certain kinds. Living, loving, being natural or sincere – all these are spontaneous forms of behavior: they happen “of themselves” like digesting food or growing hair.The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – by Alan Watts
Well, some behaviours cannot be forced, else they become unnatural. We cannot love someone on demand, and we cannot love ourselves if you don’t want to.
It’s the paradox
The main issue with the double bind situations is that we are not always able to define the paradox we are caught in. And this is very crucial, because not being able to identify where the contradiction leads us to passively accept our situation without further questioning.
And this is where a mentor or a coach comes in hand. A person who is not emotionally bound to your situation, can see things objectively and help you understand the paradox or the contradiction of your situation.
If you feel you are caught in a double bind game, whether it is imposed from society, your education, or even yourself, I want to reassure you that there is a way out.
I offer to you a free coaching session (more than 1 hour long), from which you will get clarity and tangible actions – contact me here.