Inventing and trapping people in double-binds are specialist tactics of dominant and criminal groups. They have the power and absence of scruples to design situations where they can’t lose and their victim can’t win. Perhaps this similarity in mind-set is why rulers co-operate with criminals so readily. They are on the same wave-length. They are the predators and we the prey.
My learning that the world we live in is not as presented to me by my intelligent, moral, law-abiding parents has taken a lifetime, and the process has barely started. Like my parents I believed we lived in a rational, rule-of-law society, where our “superiors ” had as much dedication to carrying out their employment in an honest and professional manner as we required of ourselves. It did not occur to us we were being ruled by charlatans and crooks. Of course we accepted there would be “bad apples” but we had no conception of “the poisoned tree”.
A double-bind situation is a trap. It is designed in such a way that the victim cannot resolve the problems they definitely do face except by doing something ” wrong”. The wrong may be breaking the law, which then defines them as a criminal and therefore entitled to punishment. The wrong may be remaining in the situation, passively accepting it and continuing to be damaged. The wrong may entail being self-destructive or the wrong may involve engaging in immoral behaviour. Whatever the victim does is “wrong” and as a result they get the blame, but the blame, and often punishment, does not fall on the person who is really guilty – the person who designed the situation. The victim is blamed.
When you are in a double-bind there is no right way to resolve your difficulty.
Double binds exploit and heighten another’s vulnerability. Women as a class have always been major victims of double-bind situations. Their sexual vulnerability could be balanced by sensible laws and social customs which counter their vulnerability, but the practice has generally been to heighten, extend and exploit rather than help and reduce.
Women’s reproductive biology is their greatest enemy. It could be argued they are the slaves of their body (which encourages everyone else to pile on the bandwagon). They could do with some help, but who cares? If you are not a woman it ” is not your problem”.
The double-bind for women is this. They are not, without the help of artificial means, in control of their fertility. Societies instead of facing and accepting this reality and accommodating to the situation adopt the short-cut solution of holding women responsible for something they are not responsible for. “No” does not make rapists drop dead. “No” does not make seducers infertile. The woman is left “carrying the baby” and unilaterally suffering the consequences. In some societies the woman isn’t even allowed to say “no”. She is married while still a child herself regardless, and if abused, even if in theory she could leave, her society may deny her earning power outside of prostitution and she, not the perpetrator, will suffer the stigma for being abused while the abuser gets off scott-free.
Females reproductive apparatus is a major trouble-magnet, fertility, pregnancy, marriage, prostitution. Expected to meet impossible standards while the people around you are not held accountable for any of theirs, neither individually nor collectively. A woman’s place is in the wrong.
Akin to women’s situation, so easy to turn into double-binds, is that of slaves. Here it is clear the first stage of any double-bind situation is to deny the prospective victim rights, autonomy, the freedom of self-determination and making their own decisions. Once these rights are stripped away the victim can be manoeuvred into a situation where they are helpless and their easiest option is to comply with the demands of their “owner”.
Double-binds require the victim to be vulnerable or someone who can be made vulnerable. Or a helpless person who is easy to exploit. The person’s original weakness is seized on and enhanced. Double-binds are all about exploitation.
For women, cracking out of their many double-bind situations has been assisted in Western democracies by the availability of contraception, a legal age of consent, equalisation of status with men, and availability of work paying a living wage. Just as in the saying there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant” double-bind situations are best avoided by not entering them in the first place.
Likewise slavery is criminalised and it’s close relative bonded-labour does not exist. People have rights. No-one has the right to force another to work for them without that persons consent. No-one has the right to imprison nor torture another to force compliance.
The West has taken action to prevent the abuses that huge differentials in individuals power brings. But those rights are always under attack. Would-be exploiters don’t just disappear in a puff of legislation. They work hard to bring-back the situation that they previously, profitably, exploited.
Working class women up to the 1950’s were frequently trapped in the matrix of their own bodies, poverty, unavailability of work paying a living wage, unavailability of contraception, and huge social stigma attached to pregnancy. Many were trapped into prostitution as a result. With contraception, education and decently paid work, they rejected bad marriages and prostitution. 60 years on the status quo is being recreated in trafficking poor women from abroad into prostitution. This does not just happen. It is a major international criminal industry, with deliberate methods employed to trick and force vulnerable women under the control of the pimps often with the cooperation of the police in the countries of origin.
Human traffickers also effectively enslave their human imports.
Dissolving national borders has provided a huge bounty for criminals. Cheap labour undermines the local labour market increasing the vulnerability and exploitability of the local populace. As poverty increases so too does the potential for creating double-bind situations.
What can anyone do if they can’t get a job paying a living wage? What must they do to pay the rent?
Dealing with double-bind situations.
Anticipate where double-bind situations can be created and act to prevent their creation. That is, anticipate trouble in advance and head it off. Become political and fight your corner. It is important.
If you have a weakness, get rid of it.
If trapped in a double-bind situation, you need to study the situation carefully. There may be a legitimate way out that you hadn’t noticed. If you find you really are in a situation where whatever you do is ” wrong” consider carefully the consequences of each course of action. A “wrong” action may lead to right options at a later date. Some consequences are worse than others so opt for the least damage. And put yourself first. The fact that someone has put you in a double-bind indicates they totally disrespect you – so you owe them, and everyone else who hasn’t helped – nothing.
Stop feeling guilty. The situation is somebody else’s invention, not yours. Adopt the view, if there is no right thing to do, there is no wrong thing to do.
Among your choices also prioritise those that cause the greatest damage to the people responsible for creating the double bind. Even if it seems you have nothing to lose, because you have already lost, they have plenty to lose. That is why it is said, attack is the best defence.