Posts Tagged ‘communication theory’

Where does the double-bind take us when examining damaging cults?

April 29, 2010

The “double bind” e-book at is a useful application of an idea to Mormonism, but I think a person would do well to learn more about the double bind by reading The Pragmatics of Human Communication or any of this guy’s work on learning and communication, especially any of his stuff on learning to learn. He’s largely responsible for developing the underlying theory. So one goes to the source!

The idea that there are paradoxical injunctions (phobias basically) that keep people in line with the church gets really interesting to me when thinking about family therapy, viewing the family as a system, and the problems of change in individuals and families.

How does one escape predatory organizations? Bob McCue said he views the church as a wolf or bear that one basically stays the he!! away from. Having been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed convert, who eventually woke up and decided the church didn’t make him happy, and how that opened up a big can of WHAMMY!, I have to agree.

(Problem: Brief therapy recognizes that a therapist has a brief amount of time to make crucial interventions into a person’s behavior or a family to elicit change. Over time the therapist becomes more enmeshed in the same communicational problems that he or she is observing, and as a result is less able to find the best strategies of intervention (see the work of Milton Erickson.) But everyone leaving the church who wants to bring their families along is told to go slow during the detox. Maybe it’s just an insider/outsider vantage: the therapist has to act fast, while the family insider does not have that luxury–he or she is already so enmeshed that the process is more akin to getting honey off of one hand with the other–not too easy without outside aid, without soap, water and towel. How do you get the honey off without outside help? Careful, pressured scraping off. Time. Air. Activity. Sunlight. The elements. Dust and dirt. AND STAYING AWAY FROM THE SOURCE OF THE HONEY!)

The double-bind was put together when an anthropologist looked at the behaviors of schizophrenics and then saw the same behaviors in the context of a given schizo’s family. Tell me that the church doesn’t create a variety of socially induced schizophrenia in individuals–the idea of splitting from oneself, of splitting off from the wider culture, of trained ignorance or trained perceptual blindspots. (Cf. experiment of mothers and children with cameras in room: schizo moms pretend camera isn’t there; child left to doubt their own perceptions; healthy moms note to child the existence of the camera, why it is there, and then get on with assigned task.)

One of the keys to shifting out of double-binding communication is to stay focused on the context. What is the wider context of the communication? E.g., when the mishies come to the door or when the initial courtship of a promising investigator occurs, what’s the context? Each party wants something. There’s an exchange. To me the wider context looks like making a recruit. There’s a large organization attempting to mentally fondle someone into submitting to its view of reality. Why replicate the recruiters? What do the recruiters need? Hands, money, and more recruiters to add to the total of hands, money, and recruiters. And so on ad infinitum.


Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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