The conflicting message dilemma

The conflicting message dilemmaThe Conflicting Message Dilemma 5 minutes The most likely outcome of sending conflicting messages is that neither the sender nor the recipient feels satisfied. Keep reading to find out more about double clauses!

Have you ever wondered about the difference between what you do and what you say? Why would anyone make a statement that is the opposite of how they actually feel? Conflicting messages are confusing. Today’s article provides a psychological perspective on this.

What does the term “conflicting messages” mean? Read on to learn about some of the keys to understanding this type of communication, as well as some examples. You will also learn about some of the current research, in particular the research of sociologist Gregory Bateson.

“Typically, the language underlines just one page of each interaction.”

– Gregory Bateson-

What are the messages conflicting about?

Conflicting messages are messages that which convey conflicting information from the same source. Therefore, they are paradoxical. This was investigated:

  • psychoanalyst. Their work focuses on the logic of using the contradictory. They do this by examining statements that work antagonistically or ambivalently, some subconsciously, others are more obvious.
  • Palo Alto School. According to psychologist Watzlavik, the concept of double messaging was first developed at this school. They created it as a communication guide that creates specific behaviors in schizophrenia.
  • The psychoanalyst Anzier, who suggested that paradoxes can reinforce the recipient’s desire for self-destructive behavior. In addition to this, they promote distrust and undermine the sense of truth and motives for being, at least according to Dr. Miguel Cerro Aguerre.

Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and linguist, has worked extensively on conflicting messages. He focused mainly on the systematic model. He reviewed the double bond theory and emphasized the relationship between different parts of the system. In addition, he developed this concept to explain the psychological causes of schizophrenia, a condition associated with certain communication patterns.

Double bond is a communicative dilemma arising from the antagonism between the content of different messages from the same source. Thus, this is what creates confusion among those who receive these messages.

However, this theory has already been revised and expanded, which has expanded the boundaries of schizophrenia. They also used it in other contexts and suggested that double binding could, for example, be used by some as a way to control or manipulate.

Properties of conflicting messages

In the case of conflicting messages, the sender may say that it will lead to bad consequences if the recipient does not behave in a certain way. At the same time, the sender may give abstract instructions that contradict this statement. Here are some other features of this post type:

  • Interaction. This can happen through any type of communication.
  • Repeating patterns. It is not a visually clear pattern, but rather a repeating pattern.
  • One or more messages. There are usually two conflicting messages, but there may be more.
  • Power. In most cases, this is a situation between a person who represents an authoritarian power and a person who does not.
  • Confusion. A person receiving conflicting messages may feel confused or even blocked.
  • Link template. Both you and other people affect your health.

There are researchers who claim that they are also present at the beginning of certain pathologies. This does not mean that they are the cause, but rather one of the factors that stimulate or trigger them (catalysts).

Various studies are currently underway within this framework. For example, an article by Leonardo Gabriel and Paula Gabriela Rodriguez-Zoya, published in Palabra Clave (Swedish: keywords), shows how communication and social interaction processes can distort or interfere with social representations and social communication according to the double bond theory.

There are other types of polls. For example, there are those who focus on suggestions for intervention in double bond situations in teacher-student interactions. This idea is presented by García-Castro, Saneleuterio and García Ramos in Psicología y Educación: Presente y Futuro (in Swedish: Psychology and Education: Present and Future).


Anyone can receive purely toxic conflicting messages. In these cases, keep in mind that they can be repetitive and have implicit content that is confusing, blocking and can lead to:

  • sense of danger because they are confusing, which means the recipient can never be sure where they are found because they are split between two messages.
  • Feelings of guilt because the mantu thinks someone is doing the wrong thing.
  • Anxiety problems because the recipient does not know what to do and cannot predict the future.
  • a toxic relationship because you acted passively when faced with a person in power and did not realize that you were double-bailed.

The people who generate these types of messages also suffer because their wants or needs are being met. At the same time, for a double bond to occur, the bond must be significant. This is because the frustration with broken expectations deepens.

An example of such a message occurs when a mother expresses her love for her children while rejecting them in some other way. Another example is when a partner says to his partner something like: “Do what you want” or: “Of course, absolutely!” And even when you say that you trust the person, but at the same time remain vigilant all the time.


In short, the very requirement expressed in the message makes it impossible to know which way to go in such situations. Thus, a conflicting message causes discomfort to both parties, but especially to the sender of the messages. This is because it will be very difficult for them to get the reaction they want. The recipient just doesn’t know what to do.

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