What Are Mixed Messages?

In psychological terms mixed messages are called “double binds” and they were discussed extensively way back by Gregory Bateson (http://www.anecologyofmind.com/). Analytical people will enjoy Bateson. Let’s look at Mary Lou, who delivers mixed messages. We met her in an earlier post. She may have had an ulterior motive to doing so and she may not even be consciously aware of it. Ulterior Motives for Mixed Messages Let’s look at the ulterior motive possibility. Mary Lou knows very well that something is wrong. She asks her husband to ”be honest” with her although she actually is too frightened and fragile to handle honest feedback. If she’s unable to handle painful feedback, why does she ask for it? The answer is because when she admits—to herself—that she could be hurt by some kinds of feedback, she becomes frightened. In other words, Mary Lou can’t handle the feedback and the act of admitting she can’t handle it hurts and frightens her as much as the feedback itself. Family History of People Who Give Mixed Messages Mary Lou grew up in a family with high standards. You had to excel. Her sense of her own identity was tied up with excelling. Her parents were so disappointed when she didn’t measure up to their expectations, that she would feel crushed. Because they were kind and loving parents, she certainly wanted to please them. And I would expect that in holding such high standards, Mary Lou’s parents thought they were doing something positive for her. Maybe they thought that they were bringing out the best in her that way. Mary Lou was a person who...
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