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The theory of the double bond of Gregory Bateson

The theory of the double bond of Gregory Bateson

May 15, 2023

The theory of the double bond of Gregory Bateson it is framed in the systemic model, a conceptual framework focuses on the interrelation and interdependence between the members of a system, such as a family, rather than on the characteristics of the components themselves.

This theory was developed with the objective of explain the psychological causes of schizophrenia , which Bateson associated with inadequate family communication patterns.

Although the hypothesis of the double bond has become obsolete in this sense, it was determinant for the evolution of systemic therapy .

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Biography of Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) was an English anthropologist who made important contributions to fields as varied as linguistics, epistemology and the cybernetic sciences. This was due to its focus on systems theory, a multidisciplinary scientific framework.

His first wife was Margaret Mead , the famous anthropologist who contributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s through the study of gender roles in the indigenous tribes of the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Bateson belonged to the Palo Alto School during its initial stage. He and his collaborators, mainly Donald Jackson, Jay Haley and John Weakland, were pioneers in the development of family and systemic therapies .

In addition to the theory of the double bond, Bateson studied the evolution of organisms, the concept of homeostasis applied to psychology and anthropology and scientific methodology, among other topics.

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The theory of the double bond

Double bonds are communicative dilemmas due to the contradiction between two or more messages. This leads to that, answer as the receiver responds, he will always be making an error; In short, you are told that you have to do something but also that you can not do it.

In the double bond the messages are usually encoded in different levels of abstraction; well, there is a inconsistency between the digital level or content and the analog or relationship. The typical example is that of a mother who says "I love you" to her daughter or son, but whose body language transmits rejection.

This means that two simultaneous requests or orders are carried out, but it is impossible to fulfill one of them without disobeying the other. According to Bateson, many people in positions of authority use double bonds as a tool to control others.

If they occur continuously, as happens in some families, these paradoxes lead the person in a position of subordination to feel anguish regarding the relationship and insecurity about his own perspective of reality.

Bateson described five main characteristics that define the double bond. For this to occur these conditions must be fulfilled in a given communicative context.

1. Interaction between two people

Double bonds occur in verbal exchanges between two people. One of the individuals must feel respect for the other, which is usually defined as an authority figure.

Although normally there is talk of the double bond in relation to parents or primary caregivers of a child, can also occur in teachers, for example.

2. Recurring experience

The double bond should not be understood as a specific situation but rather as a recurring experience for the individual. For this to happen, most times it is enough for one of the parents to use the double bonds as usual.

3. Primary negative mandate

At the digital or content level of the message a primary negative command has a place; this means that the issuer refers to a punishment what will happen if the subject carries out (or does not perform) a certain behavior. In the family context this punishment usually implies the deprivation of affection or an expression of hatred and contempt.

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4. Secondary negative mandate

The secondary negative command occurs at the analog or relational level of communication . It consists of an abstract, possibly non-verbal, order that contradicts the primary negative command.

5. Tertiary negative mandate

Sometimes a third petition also appears that prevents the receiver from escaping the dilemma . The negative tertiary mandate implies that the subject can not metacommunicate, that is, talk about the incongruence between the primary and secondary mandates or the levels of content and relationship.

The causes of schizophrenia

Bateson developed the double bond theory to explain the psychological causes of schizophrenia . He believed that in his time the diagnosis of this disorder was made with excessive frequency and intended to delimit the specific patterns by which it developed.

According to this author, the alterations of thought and language that characterize schizophrenia are due to the adaptation of the person to a family context in which there are incongruent interactions. In such cases the contradictory logic of the double bond is internalized , leading the individual to escape reality through delirium.

Although Bateson's theory was very influential, the truth is that has never been confirmed by the investigations . At present, it is believed that the double bond can be considered as a type of stressor of the many that can cause the appearance of psychotic symptoms in biologically predisposed persons.

  • Related article: "The 6 types of schizophrenia and associated characteristics"

Your contribution to mental health

The current theories on the etiology of schizophrenia propose a combination of genetic and environmental factors . Psychotic symptoms have a high heritability, but an environmental component (such as substance abuse or family stress) is also necessary for schizophrenia to appear.

Despite its lack of robustness as a hypothesis about the development of schizophrenia, Bateson's double bind theory put it on the table the relevance of communicative and family patterns in mental health. It was also one of the first psychopathological explanations that were based on the general theory of systems.

Bateson's "double bind theory of schizophrenia" 1984 psychology of torture, narcisstic abuse (May 2023).

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