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September 1971

Ambiguity for Individuation: A Critique and Reformation of Double-Bind Theory

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(3):232-239. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750150040006

Clinical observations suggest a link between dissociative experiences in adult patients and underexposure to ambiguous communications during certain developmental phases. Formal characteristics of ambiguous and paradoxical communications are examined in detail. A theory is proposed which connects parental fear and intolerance of ambiguity with the offspring's inability to integrate paradoxical aspects of reality. This theory is contrasted with the double-bind theory which states that an abundance of certain paradoxical communications is schizophrenogenic. The "therapeutic doublebind" is seen as a "replacement" of essential paradoxical communications which were scarce and inadequate rather than overabundant during crucial developmental phases.