Statements as Behavioral Cues
In this chapter, I will look at clinical case examples of how seemingly trivial verbalizations by one family system member can cue role behavior in another family member. I will also look at how information left out of a conversation can cue behavior. In these cases, the cued responses are usually automatic and reflexive; nonetheless, the responder always has at some level awareness of the process. The language involved serves as a signpost which triggers schemas (Horowitz, 1988)—mental models of the roles of the self, the other, and role-relationship transactions—in the listener’s mind. The schemas, in turn, trigger a well-rehearsed sequence of interpersonal interactions. However, because of the antithetical nature of both verbalized and implied statements, the behavior of the family member who is influenced is almost invariably subject to ambivalence. The individual who follows the cues is never quite sure that he or she is doing the right thing; such confusion leads to neuroticism, compromises, and innovative behavior that attempts to satisfy both ends of a double bind. Even when the responder’s behavior seems to solve an interpersonal problem, a feeling of powerlessness and low self-esteem is frequently the result of such situations.
KeywordsSexual Harassment Child Support Payment Double Bind Maternal Grandfather Family Breadwinner
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