Monthly Archives: May, 2020

The sting in the Rose Garden – how Dominic Cummings used a double bind to suspend reason

The sting in the Rose Garden

How Dominic Cummings changed the rules of debate while his oblivious audience nodded along

Mark McKergow

In all the analysis and discussion of Dominic Cummings’ Rose Garden statement, one curious sentence has so far gone unremarked, even in the filleting of the wordsmithing by legal commentator David Allen Green. Towards the end, Cummings says this: “I accept, of course, that there is room for reasonable disagreement about this.”

This looks like a generous admission of uncertainty, an acknowledgement of conflicting demands, and an olive branch towards critics. He adds “of course” to make it sound even more like an innocent and everyday acceptance of the difficulties of his position.

It is nothing of the kind.  Cummings has pulled what therapists call a ‘double bind’ on us all.  Once we accept this statement, as has everyone did on the day and in subsequent debate (including Nick Robinson interviewing Health Sectretary Matt Hancock on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (2:18:31), there is no way out.  Cummings’ position is unchallengeable.

It works like this.  We have agreed that there is room for reasonable disagreement.  Therefore any ‘reasonable’ disagreement cannot be decisive, as there is room for it without changing position. Any ‘unreasonable’ disagreement, however, is as unimpressive as it always was.  The only other options are to agree or to say nothing – both of which accept Cummings’ position.

So no amount of disagreement, reasonable or not, can change the situation as offered by Cummings.  What he has achieved, in relation to his own position, is to dismiss reason (and presumably its trusty sidekick logic) from the field of play.

The double-bind communication paradox was first noticed by anthropologist and systems thinking pioneer Gregory Bateson and his colleagues at the Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto California in the 1950s.  It has been employed for decades in strategic and systemic therapies as a way of looking at stuck situations and a means of producing new responses in those suffering mental ill-health.

I had no idea on Sunday afternoon that Dominic Cummings was about to employ it to hoodwink us all into suspending logic and reason from interfering with his family adventures. I hope that by shining a light onto his sleight of hand I can make journalists, interviewers, commentators and citizens more aware of what is being done, and how, in our name.

Mark McKergow is an author, speaker and consultant. He is currently working on a book about the development of Gregory Bateson’s ideas in the therapy world for Routledge.

Thursday 28 May 2020

Mark McKergow’s ‘Greatest Hits’

The McKergow MatrixI have been asked to collect up all the various models and frameworks I’ve developed over the years, alone and with others, for quick and easy reference. Here they are!  Enjoy browsing this little slice of history.

The ‘McKergow Matrix’ – Progress or explanation focused? (see pic on the right) 

The Albert Model (aka the Solutions Focus model) (with Paul Z Jackson)

OSKAR coaching  (with Paul Z Jackson)

Six Solutions Tools (with Paul Z Jackson)

Host Leadership (original paper) 

Host Leadership: Six Roles (with Helen Bailey)

Solutions Focus 2.0

Solution Focused work as Focused Description Development (with Chris Iveson)

Narrative Emergence (with Gale Miller)

Users Guide To The Future (with Helen Bailey and also Peter Roehrig)

The art of Platform Building (with Jenny Clarke)

Nine Keys to Accelerated Learning (with Paul Z Jackson)

Stretching The World: a friendly explanation of Solution Focused practice

IFlow – time management you’ve got time for (Roy Marriott with Mark McKergow)

PARTNER – SF and conflict management (Antoinette Oglethorpe with Mark McKergow)

MAGIC negotiation (Roy  Marriott with Mark McKergow)

Rutenso – the art of working with constant change 

Solution Focused Reflecting Team (John Henden, Harry Norman and the Bristol Solutions Group) 

 

I am aware there are other things I’ve developed but that aren’t (yet) written up properly – what else would you like to know about?

 

%d bloggers like this: