“Be Spontaneous, please” (Can you see my mask?)

“I’m taking a picture of you. Please smile. Nooo not like that! A big, natural, spontaneous smile”.

Everyone understands this example, right? When someone asks you to act… spontaneously, you’re stuck in an awkward grey nauseous mood. It’s called “the be spontaneous paradox”. It can happen anywhere, in a couple, a family, at work : one person requests something that can only be given spontaneously – love, interest, appreciation, desire, tenderness… You’re now stuck in a Double Bind.

Here’s a good dialog from the 2006 movie “The Break-Up” :

  • I busted my ass all day cleaning this house and then cooking that meal! And I worked today. It would be nice if you said “thank you” and helped me with the dishes.
  • Fine. I’ll help you do the damn dishes.
  • That’s not what I want.
  • You just said that you want me to help you do the dishes!
  • I want you to want to do the dishes.
  • Why would I want to do dishes?
  • Why? See, that’s my whole point.
  • Let me see if I’m following this, okay? Are you telling me that you’re upset
    because I don’t have a strong desire to clean dishes?
  • No. I’m upset because you don’t have a strong desire to offer to do the dishes.
  • I just did.
  • After I asked you!


Imagine a club, a private club with big mellow armchairs. The boss enters the room and solemnly criticize the atmosphere, and then asks everyone to be a little more gay and happy, “a few more laughs would be perfect!” – Imagine the disaster!… (I saw this one day from a web forum administrator. I tried to explain him, but without any effect).

Tool 1 : Learn how to detect when someone asks you to “act spontaneously”. And beware of this when it’s meant but unsaid, perversely implicit : it’s worse ! Your answer can be multiple.

  • If you try, you just have to put a mask. But it’s not you, it’s theater. Maybe you will have to wear it!
  • You can just say no, of course.
  • Go meta-communication : talk about this, explain the paradox and that you will not stay stuck into this.

Tool 2 : Do you do it? Putting other people into these “Please change and act spontaneously like this and like that“? If you did, can you detect the desperate unease and awkwardness you put in the other’s brain? Can you see the mask?

I will always remember this example I got from Watzlawick, a father punishing his kid telling him “Go to your room, and come back when you smile”. Horror!


#seed #wing

Beware of Double Binds!

OK I ask Wiki :

A Double Bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.

I always have in mind the story of a wife, telling her husband he’s a ass, because he never offers her flowers. This is a perfect double bind. Because :

  • If he offers her flower the day after, what’s the point, you silly?
  • If he doesn’t, he stays a donkey.

Well, see?, it’s a good concept to explore. I extended it in the simplest way : a double bind is :

Whatever you choose between A or B, you’re fucked

Here are four examples I stole on the web :

  • A man who is bored and stagnant in his job may be too afraid to make a change. If he stays, he suffers; if he leaves, he believes he’ll suffer. So he feels stuck.
  • A woman wants to end her guilty affair but fears she’ll remain unfulfilled in her marriage if she does.
  • A person heartily wishes to be slimmer but at the same time craves fattening ‘comfort’ foods.
  • A man wants to have sex but fears he will be ‘unable to perform’ and so avoids all sexual contact.

I’m building a Toolbox, so what’s the point? The point is : what is the solution?

Tool : First you have to detect you struggle because of a double bind. Then, you have to think and reconfigure something (your life? your head?). Finally, find a way to be at peace. It can be choosing one and killing the other. It can be getting the “WTF” option and playing with both options (life is short). It can be chopping BOTH options and go away. It can be a dolphin dance between one and two, because both are great. Or you wanna fight both. Whatever : all this is good because you feel alive, you have rushes, you have to move and to think. You go!

#intothewoods #decision