Win-Win Double Bind –

Humor in treatment is often delivered in the context of a ‘win-win’ double bind. The ‘win-win’ double bind has the effect of cornering the client in a predicament. The nature of this predicament is that the client is unable to avoid or block out the presence of the clinician. Very often clients have developed (what they believe to be) elaborate defenses to keep authority figures at arms length. It is through their reliance on these defenses that they create an illusion of being isolated and safe. However, at the same time, these defensesperpetuate subconscious abandonment trauma. Through humor, the ‘win-win’ double bind cancels out these defenses and thereby mitigates unconscious efforts to perpetuate abandonment trauma.

So for example, for the person that habitually lies, rather than offering the usual and expected message of “Don’t lie!”, a paradoxical approach may ‘plan with the client’ -when, where, who- he will lie again! In this process, no matter which way the client turns, he is unable to escape the presence or ‘shadow’ of the clinician. In a non-threatening manner the client becomes aware that it is futile to try to distance himself.

 Often it is a single statement or innocent question that crystallizes the ‘win-win’ predicament. From the client’s perspective the ‘win-win double bind’ highlights that he is not alone, while conveying that his usual defense is actually of no use. Within the humorous context of the therapeutic interchange the client may become ‘charged up and motivated’to prove the clinician wrong. However, the underlying dynamic of the ‘win-win’ double bind is in truth not concerned as much with the behavioral outcome as it is with evaporating thestatus-quo assumptions based on abandonment trauma.   EPK Revised: 1-17-12