Human communication – the system of interacting and connecting with the outside world, in general or with a group of people in particular – can be functional, effective and therefore able to convey a message, in which case communication is a real balanced exchange of concepts, thoughts and ideas that enrich anyone, both those who express them and those who receive them. On the contrary, it is defined as pathological communication which is deficient in its inter-relational system, inadequate, or ineffective, and which does not create connection or an active and productive exchange, nor does it create a fair intellectual and communicative exchange.
Palo Alto scholars also analyzed pathological communication contexts, in particular, Bateson et al. (1956) argued that dysfunctional and paradoxical family communication was involved in the genesis of schizophrenia. In particular, the authors theorized the concept of “double bind”, that is a message composed of two different stances, one opposite of the other, where, for example, the oral content is contradicted by non-verbal language. A double bind occurs when an individual experiences conflicting emotional, verbal or physical messages.
During the double bind, the communication recipient is paralyzed when faced with the message’s incongruity and therefore his reaction of not responding to the message will also result paradoxical and incongruent. Bateson et al. (1956) give the example of a mother who sees her son after having been hospitalized for a long time: the son tries to hug the mother, she stiffens causing him to withdraw and the mother then comments “you don’t have to be afraid to express your feelings”. In this sense, the message that the mother expresses verbally does not correspond to the message conveyed by her non-verbal behavior. Thus, the child finds himself immersed in a contradiction that involves affection and rejection at the same time.
The effect of the double bind will lead the individual to be unable to discriminate between modes of communication and therefore to the inability to correctly interpret the message communicated to him/her. The double bind thus becomes a sort of unsolvable puzzle that leads the individual, unable to reach a resolution, to experience anxiety and fear and feel powerless and intimidated.
The knowledge and understanding of pathological communication have greatly influenced the theorization of the CQ: Communication Quotient™ Integrated Model of Communication and the CQ: The Communication Loop™. The insights provided by Palo Alto scholars have shed light on the detrimental effects of dysfunctional communication patterns on individuals' cognitive and emotional well-being.
By recognizing the paradoxical nature of the double bind, the CQ: Communication Quotient™ Integrated Model acknowledges the importance of establishing balanced and effective communication processes. The model emphasizes the need for clear and consistent messages that align both verbal and non verbal aspect of communication.
The CQ: Communication Loop™, as an integral part of the model, highlights the interactive and reciprocal nature of communication, where the behavior of the effector influences and is influenced by the behaviour of the recipient in a circular causality perspective.
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