The anti-psychiatry movement
“You know you’ve all the freedom to go, dear; don’t worry if I start crying” from the novel Lie Down in Darkness, de W. Styron.
The studies on communication carried out by the Anti-psychiatry movement have offered an important and original contribution towards the understanding of power relations. Despite being available for over forty years, they have been largely ignored in Brazil.
The publication of Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia, written by Gregory Bateson and his team in Palo Alto, California represented a landmark work in psychology. They articulated a theory of schizophrenia as stemming from double bind ( a term they coined) situations, whereby the victim of double bind receives contradictory injunctions or emotional messages from the family at different levels of communication
Double bind is characterized by a double communication which produces conflicting double messages exchanged between addresser and addressee. Double bind would then occur if a person said both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to us at same time by sending contradictory verbal and non-verbal messages ; we might find someone showing hatred while professing love for us , displaying joy and sadness all that the same time. Face expressions may deny verbal content or vice-versa, or incoherent intonation patterns may contradict statements.
This far-reaching concept could be applied to human relations in general in hierarchical societies – and the double bind has indeed been used as an effective psychological tool for instilling discipline and establishing domination. The manipulation of the most powerful of all human feelings – love – through conflicting emotional messages which strengthen fears of physical violence, pain and death underlines the perverse mechanism of double bind. As Soma largely focuses on the understanding, at the micro-social level, of mechanisms of authoritarian power and domination, the Anti-psychiatry’s studies on double bind have been crucial to our approach.