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Gregory Bateson was born on May 9, 1904, in Grantchester, England. He studied at the Charterhouse School and went on to receive a bachelor’s in biology from St. John’s College. He remained at Cambridge, continuing his studies at St. John’s, and in 1929 took a position teaching linguistics in Australia at the University of Sydney. He returned to England before War World II and spent some time in the Pacific region exploring his fascination in anthropology. Soon after his marriage to Margaret Mead, Bateson moved to California. It was here, while practicing anthropology, that Bateson met Jay Haley and several other colleagues who joined him in his famous Bateson Project. The project became the springboard for Bateson’s double bind theory.
Bateson became an American Citizen in 1956 and remained in the United States for the rest of his life. He spent the remainder of his career lecturing, teaching, and researching. He worked at the Saybrook University, which was once the Humanistic Psychology Institute, in San Fancisco, and at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He was a member of several prestigious professional associations and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Contribution to Psychology
Double Bind is a paradox that was first identified by Gregory Bateson. A double bind occurs when an individual experiences conflicting emotional, verbal, or physical messages. Bateson and his colleagues discovered this particular dilemma while researching schizophrenia. They realized that these highly emotionally impaired individuals often suffered from an inability to process the internal and external communication they were receiving. For instance, if a person is told that they are loved and valued, but are then abused and told not to tell for fear they will no longer be loved, they are in a double bind. When someone tries to process contradictory signals, or is put in a situation when responding positively to one signal causes a negative reaction to a simultaneous signal, it is a double bind. When a person consciously uses double bind scenarios, it is done as a method of control through confusion. With no clear verbal communication, implications can be made through intonation, eye contact, physical gestures, or by other methods. For victims of double bind intimidation, they often feel trapped in a situation that requires they complete a specific task that may result directly in a positive outcome, and at the same time, indirectly in a negative one.
The double bind technique is used as a method of coercion and control in relationships of nearly every type. The authority figure, whether a parent, teacher, or intimate partner, uses the tactic to gain power over their victim in the relationship. The victim, unable to come to any resolution when confronted with the double bind experiences anxiety and fear. As hard as they may try, they are not able to satisfy all requirements of the double bind, as it is an impossible puzzle. This leaves them feeling powerless, intimidated, unfulfilled, and afraid of the consequences that will follow.
Quote by Gregory Bateson
Books by Gregory Bateson