Do You Know What “Double Binds” Are and How to Handle Them?

When you feel angry or anxious and don’t know why, look for a double bind.

A double bind happens when a choice between two options puts you in a conflict you cannot resolve because neither option seems right. You feel that whichever choice you make will cause loss or pain.

It honors the old saying that talks about being between a rock and a hard place.

A common double bind is: Give up your separate identity and you will be accepted because if you Assert yourself you will be rejected. Either way you lose. On the one hand, if you give up being your own person you undermine your identity and self-trust. On the other hand, if you refuse to abandon yourself and try to set healthy boundaries, you must forfeit love and approval.

Double binds distort reality and cause confusion because so much of what drives them is hidden. Caught in a double bind, we cannot, or do not, allow ourselves to see the full truth. Double binds are powerful enemies of reality. It’s easy to get stuck in them.

 A double bind makes us choose between two alternatives that put us in conflict:

  • I want to help you, but I don’t have the time./But I feel guilty if I don’t help.

  • If I tell the truth, s/he will be mad./But if I lie, I will feel guilty.

  • They will love me if I do everything they want./But if I do, I will lose my identity.

  • I must always act strong and deny my needs./But then I never get my needs met.

  • I am supposed to be successful./But if I am, she will resent me.

 So, how do you handle such situations? How do you deal with a double bind?

You handle it by taking responsibility for your feelings. Get in touch with reality, and then, in the light of truth and compassion, you can find the solution.

You have 2 choices:

Look at these two examples so that you can clearly visualize your options in a given situation:



Copyright Dr. Beth Blevins Cujé 2009       

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