The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication

By William R. Cupach; Brian H. Spitzberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
PATTERNS OF. INTERACTIONAL PARADOXES

Carol Wilder Sue Collins San Francisco State University

In formal logic a contradiction is the sign of defeat: but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress towards victory.

-- Alfred North Whitehead, 1948

Although the best of all possible worlds may be free from contradiction and paradox, the highly probabilistic world of human behavior offers little such luxury. Long gone are the days when simple linear cause -- effect determinism offered the hope of guiding construction of an adequate view of human communication, behavior, and change. New metaphors are needed, new methods, new ways of seeing.

One alternative construct that has received increasing attention in recent years is that of "paradox," an idea that has charmed and challenged generations of philosophers. Whereas current interest in paradox as a term of description for human interaction can be traced largely to the work of Bateson and his 1950s research team which formulated the double-bind theory of schizophrenia ( Bateson, 1955; Bateson, Jackson, Haley, & Weakland, 1956), the concept has much richer roots and broader implications.

This chapter casts the net widely in exploring the idea of paradox in philosophy, logic, psychotherapy, and rhetoric with the end of laying some groundwork for the use of paradox as a form of description to illuminate a variety of communicational and interactional patterns. Far from positioning paradox on the "dark side" of interpersonal communication, we argue instead that paradoxical communication in the broadest sense is central to

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