The Pattern of The Double-Bind in Mormonism

“Binders always punish with what they fear most … abandonment and independence. They are the ones who most need others … to feed them; it becomes a “life or death” matter for the Binder. For the Bound, if they have the courage to leave, it becomes possible for them to reclaim all the humanness that was stolen from them … to live freely in the Real World which is the true home of all possibilities for understanding and love.” (p. 113)

Back in 1996, when I was no longer a believer in Mormonism, but still very active in the church for family reasons I had a dream. Perhaps it was a daydream while I was in the shower. I don’t remember now. At the time Mormonism was constantly on my mind for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, the dream was somewhat gruesome and graphic. It consisted of numerous adults being connected via individual umbilical cords to a giant placenta. Perhaps placentas were also on my mind at the time having just witnessed the birth of my first child. I remember getting a wide-eyed view of not only the delivery of my son’s placenta but it sitting in a tray in the delivery room after the fact.

But back to the dream… The people that were all connected to this giant placenta appeared happy enough. They didn’t have to search for food much and they appeared to be receiving their nourishment from it. Most of those connected were at a fair distance from the placenta itself and not too curious about its behavior. On closer inspection, however, I found that they weren’t free to go beyond the tether of the cords that bound them. When I took a really close look at this giant placenta I found it to be most hideous. Not only was it not providing much nourishment, it was concealing its true behavior. Instead of providing food it was doing the feeding. It was sapping the life out of those it bound. They didn’t have the will or an easy way to sever the connection.

It was very creepy. Sort of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Screams would not have been heard in this twisted world.

I thought about this dream at the time, but haven’t thought of it much since until I read Marion’s book. I think my dream and Marion’s theory are hitting on the same theme, if not the same nail. The major difference being that I packed my dream away and didn’t go any further with it. Marion took her vision of the same and built an entire theory, website, and book out of it complete with numerous examples, analysis, and suggestions for becoming unbound.

If you are currently questioning whether or not you are hooked consciously or unconsciously to something like the placenta in my dream, something which takes but fails to give, something which pretends to give or promises and doesn’t deliver, then this book is for you. If you are suffering from depression of any magnitude but are unable to put your finger on the cause, or perhaps you have an idea of the cause but aren’t sure, then this book is for you. The placenta need not be Mormonism, an abusive spouse or parent, or a religion. It could be a career path, the company you work for, or a lifestyle that no longer or never really worked for you. Or it could be a host of other things.

If you have already discovered the placenta/”binder” and are beyond the initial stage of such realization but need help in breaking away, I strongly suggest you read Part IV, “How to Free Oneself from The Pattern” before reading anything else. Then go back to earlier portions of the book for further details and analysis.

So what is this book about and what is the pattern? The book is specifically about Mormonism. The pattern is a series of stages which, unfortunately, Mormonism, certain relationships, and other things more or less use. They need not follow all of the stages in all cases or use them sequentially. Nor are those using the pattern as “binders” or involved in the pattern as “bounders” aware of exactly what is happening. Rather, the pattern is an effective means of growing or retaining a movement which then takes on a life of its own unbeknowst to those involved. Some effective memes also fall into this category. Indeed, anyone interested in memetic theory should consider this book and Mormonism as examples to study.

The Pattern of The Double-Bind in Mormonism is sad in many ways. Marion uses the stories of former Mormons to illustrate the pattern. The compilation, by theme, of some key points made in the stories alone make it worthwhile. Marion’s comments after the excerpts are generally insightful even though I don’t completely agree with all of her commentary following the quotes. Occasionally, words are stretched a bit to fit the pattern or to try to make a point when the original author may not have meant exactly what the additional commentary makes it sound like. For instance, the “Strengthening the Members Committee” is confused with the church’s genealogical records on pages 120-1.

Even those who have always been Mormon, and never seriously questioned the church, will admit to some of the unwelcome truth pointed out here. A common example is how promises are made and then when not fulfilled the blame is placed on the member or investigator for not being faithful enough. I don’t think believers will stick around long enough to acknowledge any problems with the church the book might point out (which is unfortunate as problems can’t be corrected until the are seen). Still, if a Mormon is unhappy, and doesn’t know the cause, they may be willing to listen to this very wise mother of six.

Marion can be quite harsh and overgeneralize which may turn some thinking Mormons off. Although she is certainly correct when it comes to some Mormons, or the new brand of orthodox Mormonism in general, some other Mormons are able to compartmentalize their lives and/or not take everything said in church too seriously and still grow in spite of some of the dogma they are perpetually exposed to. For instance, on page 71, she states

Even though in years members of the Mormon church may be considered adults, in the growth toward maturity of mind they are kept as little children, totally dependent on a Doctor Jekyll-Shepherd to heal them of their chronic child-like inability to get things “right.” Mormonism causes the evils that it condemns and promises to heal. (emphasis and underlining in original)

As story #66 states,

how ironic it is that a church which begins by promising its members such joy and happiness actually causes them such worry and despair. (p. 128)

Mormonism is a long series of contradictions and Catch-22s. Marion calls this the “dual personality of the Binder.” (p. 138) Be dependent (obey, follow the prophet, have big families, be as a little child, etc.) but be independent (get out of debt, food storage, eternal progression, work out your own salvation, glory of god is intelligence, etc.). Have faith, but if you don’t then pray for it, but you need faith for your prayer to work, … Be honest but don’t look for true facts that may not be faith-promoting and lying for the Lord can be OK. The methods are faulty and the course is unclear. Purposes, plans, and meanings, though confusing and nonsensical much of the time, are served up on a silver platter rather than critically examined. Some say being a critic is simple, but being a sheep or a little child is far easier.

In all fairness, some personalities may enjoy participating (unknowingly) in a double-bind situation, not just as the binder (which can obviously have its rewards) but also as the bound. They, in a sense, thrive in an environment that others would consider limiting or immature. In the long-term, however, I can’t imagine many people thriving in such a situation. Most active, believing Mormons appear to be content–at least on the surface. There is no way to know for certain how many are experiencing grief related to their beliefs. A survey certainly wouldn’t turn up completely honest answers.

Which brings up my next point… In The Pattern of The Double-Bind in Mormonism the reader is only given a retrospective analysis of what former Mormons remember feeling like when they were believers. What would be interesting, and certainly more scientific as predictions could be tested statistically and ever-changing memories wouldn’t have to be relied upon, is if a survey was conducted among believing Mormons to see if they are also feeling the effects of the double-bind before wanting to break such binds. The questions would certainly have to be subtle and carefully written as Mormons are conditioned to not speak ill of any aspects of their faith–especially to potential converts. In addition, it would have to be completely anonymous which may hinder some of interesting findings which could be pinpointed (i.e., degree of “binding” by age, sex, years in the church, convert vs. lifer, etc.)

I have a correction to the comment regarding polygamy being OK (p. 79) before being outlawed by the U.S. Government. Polygamy was never legal when the church was practicing it. This includes the practice of it in Illinois, Canada, and Mexico. The latter two countries being places where church members were sent to avoid the U.S. laws even though it was illegal in both those other countries too.

The biggest problem with many Mormons, especially those who were born into the church or who converted long ago, is their lack of experience as a non-Mormon. If they could live in an un-bound condition for a reasonable length of time, choosing to become bound and a constant recipient of un-earned guilt again wouldn’t even enter their minds as a viable option.

A key point Marion makes, and to which I alluded to above in my comments about memes, is with regard to the Binder not even knowing he, she, or it is a Binder. Rather, the Binder is merely carrying on a tradition. A tradition which remains such due to its effectiveness in turning the Bound into future Binders. As stated on page 159,

we cannot totally blame the Binder, because he himself had previously been robbed of his own identity by another Binder leader. He does suffer greatly, but He denies the source of His suffering; this He projects to the Bound who is then punished for “punishing” Him!

There is also a hierarchy of Binders. Many certainly don’t want anything to do with being one, but the pattern remains a mystery to them so they unconsciously take on the role. They do more following of the Binders higher in the hierarchy than they do actively giving commands to the Bound.

To those about to become un-bound I say good luck. It involves more than luck though. You must work at it.

There are two ways to break the chain which creates this reversed view of the world. One is through education and the desire to know…; the other is through a personal crisis that forces some kind of action. (p. 161)

An awakening usually begins with a crisis of some kind, created by questioning values which were previously taken for granted. The act of questioning usually begins when the danger of questioning is no longer a threat, when one has time or is forced by a crisis to think… I was dying emotionally and intellectually. I didn’t know the exact cause of my deep depression; it was felt, rather than known, as a dark cloud over my mind, which was causing a general emotional/intellectual numbness…” (p. 149 emphasis in original)

From the publisher:
How does one summarize a convoluted pattern that defies common sense? Perhaps, that says it. The Pattern of The Double-Bind is a convoluted, insidious stratagem that turns our mental and emotional common sense world upside down. It is a circular pattern that ends in a vortex of depression and possible suicide.

This book is the culmination of a twenty-year odyssey, a personal quest for a solution to an unknown problem that had become emotionally and intellectually intolerable for the author. What she found through trial and error, following threads and connections, was a pattern of behavior that she finally identified and named The Pattern of The Double-Bind. She first discovered it in her Mormon marriage, and then in Mormonism itself.

Part I describes The Nature of The Pattern and The Double-Bind; it defines and gives examples of what The Pattern is, how it is used in different stages – and what results are incurred in each stage. Parts II and III present personal experiences of The Pattern in the lives of former members of the Mormon church. The last section, Part IV, gives a Summary of The Pattern and its antidote in How to Free Oneself from The Pattern.