Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind
The lyrics from the above song aptly describe a stuck state of thinking I found myself in repeatedly over the last year. Interestingly, each time I thought I’d uncovered and cleared the issues that were creating the impasse, I’d find myself back where I started. I wasn’t just feeling stuck, I was frozen in place! It was like having my foot on the accelerator and brake at the same time. This is commonly referred to as learned helplessness.
There are many sayings in the english language which sum up this ‘circle in a spiral’ thinking pattern. You may recognise some of them: Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Whatever I do, I can’t win and my own personal example It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t have what I want! Each of these phrases and many more give the impression that there is no choice for us in that particular relational situation or level of thinking.
Einstein is renowned as saying “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Knowing what I now know and understand about the structure of our language, I can fully appreciate the deeper meaning of Einstein’s quote.
Our language is what informs our thinking and therefore our thinking informs our problem solving abilities. However, when the structure of thinking of the problem is the same as the thinking of the solution this creates a loop or potential double bind. In many cases employing the guidance of a coach can help to resolve this kind of issue more easily.
There are many definitions of what denotes a double bind from a technical perspective and so to keep things simple here is Wikipedia’s version:
A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.
Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion—the use of confusion makes them both difficult to respond to as well as to resist.
A double bind generally includes different levels of abstraction in the order of messages and these messages can either be stated explicitly or implicitly within the context of the situation, or they can be conveyed by tone of voice or body language. Further complications arise when frequent double binds are part of an ongoing relationship to which the person or group is committed.
Double binds have the following language structure:
- Stated at identity level using the verb to be. An example is I procrastinate, I’m unorganised, I failed
- Identified as behaviour to identity – unconsciously meaning (for the individual) that the behaviour is a reflection of who they are e.g. I failed so therefore I’m bad or wrong
- Represented as an either or structure
- Limiting beliefs – A belief of “I can’t impact the situation” this puts the ability to resolve the issue outside of the individual
One way to create a different level of thinking and resolve the double bind is to chunk out of the loop. The loop is a perception of thinking and so by asking ‘What have you perceived to be a problem, until now?’ or ‘How did you organise that perception in that way?’ changes the energy and level of thought. This allows the mind to think differently and resolve the issue in a new way.
These questions are profoundly transformative as they are processed at the conscious as well as the unconscious level.
Personally, these questions have finally unlocked my stop/go, thinking pattern and I’m now beginning to move forwards again.
So, if you find yourself in a bind, ask a question that changes the level of thinking and watch the magic unfold!