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10 Examples of a Double Bind

A double bind is a contradictory double imperative. In other words, a statement that contains two commands that conflict each other. A double bind tends to give people an uneasy feeling as they sense an inconsistency often without being able to define exactly what is inconsistent. The following are illustrative examples:
You must be free!
This is a demand that you enjoy freedom. This is inconsistent because if you are free you need not heed the demands of others.
You must go to sleep!
You can't force yourself into a state of sleep with effort. That is to say, if you try too hard to sleep, it is typically harder to fall asleep. As such this is a double bind.
You must be motivated!
Like sleep, motivation is a complex mental process and you can't simply command yourself or someone else to be motivated.
Be creative or fail!
Putting yourself under intensive pressure to be creative may make you less creative as creativity requires free thought and imagination.
You are going to soccer practice and you're going to enjoy it!
People can't enjoy something on command. In fact, joy is associated with freedom.
Be spontaneous!
Something isn't spontaneous if you have been commanded to do it.
Show Grandma how you play!
Play may be considered spontaneous such that being commanded to do it feels artificial.
Don't be scared!
Fear can't typically be commanded away.
Boys don't cry!
A command to fill a role based on the premise that this role would come naturally to you. If something doesn't indeed come naturally to a person, it need not be commanded to them.
Never accept failure!
Accepting that you have failed may reduce the cost of failure so that you preserve the resources required to try again. Commanding yourself not to accept failure is unlikely to reduce your chance of failure but will likely increase the magnitude of your failure. Failing big can make it impossible to try again.


It should be noted that the examples above are examined strictly and literally without context. In practice, this would be overthinking things. For example, if someone says "you must go to sleep!" they probably mean that you must try to sleep. A statement such as "boys don't cry" most likely refers to a social norm that may be important to acceptance into a particular culture, society or group.
Overview: Double Bind
Definition (1)
A contradictory double imperative.
Definition (2)
Multiple commands or demands that conflict with each other as a set.
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