Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Double Bind, Liberal Chicks, and Holden Caulfield

The Liberal Chicks inspire me to recollect issues of the 'double bind.' This is noted in a medical students first textbook in psychiatry, The Person. 'The child's trust in verbal communication depends on whether the words of the person who are essential to him help solve problems or confuse... Difficulty can arise when parents' words contradict their nonverbal signals, as, for example, when the mother's words of affection are accompanied by irritable and hostile handling... The value of words is also negated when erroneous solutions are habitually imposed, as when the child who cries because he wants attention is told he is hungry and is fed... Persistent denial of the correctness of the child's perceptions and understanding of what transpires about him or her can have a particularly malignant influence in promoting distrust of language and fostering distortions of meanings. The child is repeatedly placed in a "bind" because the obvious is negated, and he is threatened with loss of approval or love if he does not see things the way his parents need to have him or her see them. A mother keeps telling a little boy that he must love his Father as she does, that Father is very good to them; but Father comes home drunk, beats his wife and gives his son a whack.'

The vignettes of The Liberal Chicks are dissections in serious and humorous veins of what is presented as a true identity complicated by subsequent actions which 'bind' the observer who is left to seem to be expected to respond to the original (true) identity but faced now with really a different one.

Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye found himself overwhelmed in a similar situation. Psychoanalytically, he was unable to accept the flags of convenience that people flew under. He took an aspect of their 'good' presentation as a given identity and was overwhelmed when he 'bound' to that and was sheared, as it were, by finding in them a different reality. Thus, hypothetically, he was overwhelmed by the struggle over childhood double binds being too much the template for present relationships. In his first experiences, he had to find himself a person, in Lidz' phrase, but was, in those experiences, not finding himself an entity, having thus too strongly to have to recapitulate the attempt as a young adult. He solved this in reverie, in part, imagining a role as the catcher in the rye, saving lost children and turning his passive wish into an active role.

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