DEF: A ‘Sender’ (S) gives a ‘Receiver’(R) 2 opposing commands,  
            both of which must be obeyed - sometimes at the same time!
     DM are not only impossible to obey, but can often come in 1 direct  
     & 1 indirect way, making it even more confusing:
      - 2 opposing commands, but at 2 different times
      - say one thing (positive) but tone of voice is opposite (negative)
      - say a ‘nice’ thing but body language shows anger / rejection
      - give a hostile message, but with an endearment                     EXAMPLES
                                                                                                   BELOW  ⬇
   This is a transactional ‘game’ which is truly 
   CRAZY-MAKING! No matter what they R. does, 
   they can never win. 
   ✶  RESULT?  R. gradually become paralyzed, which
   is the purpose: the S. need to control the R. to
   such a degree that the R. will never leave them!  
   (from S’s intensity of S’s own FEAR of LOSS.)
                    HOW TO CHANGE                           
      Only when an ADULT can a  R. disengage.
   The GOAL is to regains / retain one’s SANITY!
   ✶ When possible, R. can calmly tell S. the DB 
   they’ve been put in - identify both rules, &  
   state that they won’t participate any more.
   Before picking an alternative, R. must carefully   
   consider which of the inevitable consequences 
   they’re able to stand  (expect some punishment)

 a. R. does less of what one is used to, in TRYING 
    to please the S. (it’s hopeless anyway!)
    At first this will be very uncomfortable.
 b.  OR, R. chooses one or the other of the 2   
    commands laid out - the one more bearable -
    & only follows it, always ignoring the other.
 c. OR R. does neither - choosing a third 
    alternative, whenever possible. 

    The consequences of refusing to ‘play’ can be 
    so unpleasant that the R. will have to sever 
    the relationship (or the S. will do it first!)

As long as one must deal with a S. (spouse, boss, parent..) one need to accept that punishment will  follow, no matter what!
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             THE WAY IT WORKS
    1. Sender can only do damage IF the R. is in a 
    special, intense relationship to S.  (parent & 
    child, wife & mother-in-law, employee & boss...   
    or any 2), which leads to putting the R. in a DB!

    2. It must be very important to the R. to 
    understand correctly what the S. is saying -  to       
    respond appropriately - & so to please the S!

    3. The S. gives 2 contradictory messages and 
    BOTH include the real threat of punishment     
    when  EITHER are disobeyed  (it’s inevitable) 

    4. R. is put in the position of victim by S. 
    because R. is given a definite (maybe indirect) 
    command FORBIDDING R. to
   • comment on OR ignore the 2 messages
   • withdraw from the frustrating situation

    5. The R. learns from experience that BOTH   
    commands must be obeyed and experiences  
    punishment for which ever one is broken! 

    6.  If this interaction between S. & R. is  always
    repeated, so R. comes to expect the DM from 
    that particular S. (child with parent), then later  
    R. will assume being in a DB is normal in all 
    relationships (continue to be attracted to friends, 
    lovers,  bosses... who will do the same to them)
                                          D. M. Torbico  2010

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                   DOUBLE MESSAGES given to  CoAs  (Children of Alcoholics) -

                                            putting them in DOUBLE BINDS



           DM: “You never do anything right!....Take care of me, you know what I need”

                 “You’ll never amount to anything...Stay home & do everything for us”

               As children, CoAs first get their MSW, & their Birth Certificate - later! Even the

               youngest learns to be psychologist, nurse, house keeper/ cook, substitute parent,

               researcher, confessor... but only for the parents, not for themselves

          DB : As adults , ACoAs never trust their own knowledge, intuition or experience - always

               waiting for others to find out they’re a ‘fraud’ - because they couldn’t FIX the family

               AND at the same time taking care of everyone else, personally &/or professionally,

               often with great skill & success. But this is not owned!


          DM: I love you, don’t bother me”  - (come here - go away)

                    “I love you when you play the piano, I hate you when you play the piano”

         DB : As adults ACoAs are attracted to any type of relationship in which they’re seduced

              (drawn in) then rejected / abused, because they equate love with being pushed away


         DM : “I’ll be there for you...next time (I promise)”

                  “I’ll take care of it for you...when I feel like it (if ever)”

              Alcoholic/ narcissistic parents want all the credit for their good intentions AND don’t

              want their neglect to count (be held against them/ nor held accountable).

         DB : As adults, ACoAs learn to not want/ expect anything ever, & deny their needs       

              OR expect too much all the time (can’t stand to be disappointed - again).   

             They find relationships with others who constantly promise & then let them down


        DM : “ Never lie, but only tell me what I want to hear”

                 “I never lie, I only say what’s convenient or to CMA (cover my a--)”

             Truth is just an ideal, a religious teaching, a childhood rule BUT lying is the reality 

             - for the child to not get punished & for the parents, to ‘get over’ or people-please

        DB : As adults ACoAs lie automatically, about themselves & about even the smallest

            unimportant fact (without guilt), don’t know what the truth is or who they really are


         DM : Verbally - child is told all is well & maybe made to look great to the ‘public’ BUT the

             inside atmosphere is one of anxiety, depression, rage & hopelessness. Nothing is alright -

             some complain all the time, some suffer in silence

         DB : As adults ACoAs suffer from distortions in seeing reality, believing they’re powerless

             over their life, often emotionally depressed & mentally confused OR adopt a pollyanna

             false self - where nothing is dangerous or out of their control (grandiosity &  counter-phobia)

‘GAMES PEOPLE PLAY’Games_People_Play.html

Adult-Children of alcoholics & other narcissists

HEAD GAMESHead_Games.html