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Ronald David Laing (1927 – 1989)


Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness and particularly the experience of psychosis.
Ronald David Laing
Being the son of RD Laing was neither amazing nor enlightening …For most of the time it was a crock of shit.
Laing quotes
Existential phenomenology attempts to characterize the nature of a person's experience of his world and himself. It is not so much an attempt to describe particular objects of his experience as to set all particular experiences within the context of his whole being-in-his-world. The mad things said and done by the schizophrenic will remain essentially a closed book if one does not understand their existential context. In describing one way of going mad, I shall try to show that there is a comprehensible transition from the sane schizoid way of being-in-the-world to a psychotic way of being-in-the-world. Although retaining the terms schizoid and schizophrenic for the sane and psychotic positions respectively, I shall not, of course, be using these terms in their usual clinical psychiatric frame of reference, but phenomenologically and existentially.
Laing
I'm ridiculous to feel ridiculous when I'm not.
You must
       be laughing at me
for feeling you are laughing at me
       if you are not laughing at me.




Laing Ronald David quotes
Many things have changed since The Politics of Experience created such a sensation. The general public isn't as moved by the plight of these people as they were in Laing's day. And though Laing was far more effective with people like these than the average clinician in a one-on-one setting, he never developed a workable alternative to the conventional mental hospital. In the absence of such an alternative, people in distress are inclined to rely on the devil they know. Besides, really good psychotherapy is time and labor intensive. It requires a substantial emotional investment from the therapist as well as the patient. It is not cheap and not fast, and in the recent climate of fiscal restraint we want a quick fix: something clean and cost-effective, not messy and time consuming.
Laing Ronald David
The square root of nothing.
Ronald David Laing quotes
There is no such "condition" as "schizophrenia," but the label is a social fact and the social fact a political event.
Ronald David Laing
Even facts become fictions without adequate ways of seeing "the facts". We do not need theories so much as the experience that is the source of the theory. We are not satisfied with faith, in the sense of an implausible hypothesis irrationally held: we demand to experience the "evidence".
We can see other people's behaviour, but not their experience. This has led some people to insist that psychology has nothing to do with the other person's experience, but only with his behaviour.
The other person's behaviour is an experience of mine. My behaviour is an experience of the other. The task of social phenomenology is to relate my experience of the other's behaviour to the other's experience of my behaviour. Its study is the relation between experience and experience: its true field is inter-experience.
Laing Ronald David quotes
Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.
Laing
We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love. I am a specialist, God help me, in events in inner space and time, in experiences called thoughts, images, reveries, dreams, visions, hallucinations, dreams of memories, memories of dreams, memories of visions, dreams of hallucinations, refractions of refractions of refractions of that original Alpha and Omega of experience and reality, that Reality on whose repression, denial, splitting, projection, falsification, and general desecration and profanation our civilisation as much as anything is based.
Laing Ronald David
Laing argued that labeling the individual often has little to do with accurate assessment of the patient's real problems, and that the remedial interventions mandated by a specific diagnosis often serve complex social functions by equilibrating extant social-systems, i.e. maintaining the status quo. In short, clinicians frequently locate the cause of the disturbance in individuals to divert attention from the processes that actually engendered their disturbed behavior. If they did not, they would often construe the "signs and symptoms" of these diagnostic entities as intelligible responses to what Laing termed "unlivable situations" — ones which the patient can neither understand, nor tolerate, nor change effectively.
Ronald David Laing
Social phenomenology is the science of my own and of others' experience. It is concerned with the relation between my experience of you and your experience of me. That is, with inter-experience. It is concerned with your behaviour and my behaviour as I experience it, and your and my behaviour as you experience it.




Ronald David Laing quotes
Ronnie was brilliant, a complete original, but he desperately overdid the drugs and drink.
Ronald David Laing
His most original contribution, the source of his inspiration, what he wrote about and where he wrote from, was the time that he spent listening to mad people. Before Ronnie, few psychiatrists, if any, spoke with such a good ear for madness. There were others including Freud, Jung, Fromm-Reichman and Rosen, who attempted in some way to decode mad-speak, but Ronnie "hung out" with mad people. He was first of all a guy who, with people who were seen as mad, entered into a kind of a friendship; he created space that hadn't before opened up, between himself and the "mad." Also he was very plastic and mimetic, so he could imitate and get into other people's moods, thoughts, language, and world, including those of so-called "mad" people. And he was able to bring back and speak of what it was like to be "mad" (more or less). This gave "mad" people an enormous sense of relief. Someone heard them. They were not alone. Madness was not unreason, a total unintelligibility, a total difference between the sane and the insane. Ronnie showed that we're all in it together. There was not an unbridgeable gulf between sanity and madness: rather there is a continuum. Mad people felt that "this guy really understands what I'm going through." This proved extremely helpful for people who thought they were going mad, or who were told they were mad.
Laing quotes
There was a lot of violence when we were young — vicious, nasty stuff — and at times it certainly felt an unsafe place to be. It was an awful culture shock when my parents separated, leaving our schools and friends in London and arriving in Glasgow in the early 1960s, which then had a frightening reputation for gang violence. We had occasional visits from my father which always ended in rows. I felt hurt, angry and confused he couldn’t be there for us.
I have sat in on sessions with my father while he was working with clients and experienced his genius as a man who could relate to another human’s pain and suffering. There seems to me to be a huge void and contradiction between RD Laing the psychiatrist and Ronnie Laing the father. There was something he was constantly searching for within himself and it tortured him.
Laing Ronald David
We’ve got too many problems for him. … He can solve everybody else’s, but not ours.
Laing Ronald David quotes
The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
Ronald David Laing
We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.
Ronald David Laing quotes
We are all murderers and prostitutes — no matter to what culture, society, class, nation, we belong, no matter how normal, moral, or mature we take ourselves to be.
Humanity is estranged from its authentic possibilities. This basic vision prevents us from taking any unequivocal view of the sanity of common sense, or of the madness of the so-called madman. … Our alientation goes to the roots. The realisation of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life.
Ronald David Laing
Laing was profoundly disenchanted with most analysts' closed-minded and dogmatic world-views, and their derogatory attitude toward psychotics. The Freudians and Kleinians in London, for their part, did not trust Laing because he committed the cardinal sin of taking Jung's notion of metanoia seriously. This was not yet evident in 1960, when he published The Divided Self. But it was vividly apparent in The Politics of Experience, published in 1967.
Laing Ronald David
I see you, and you see me. I experience you, and you experience me. I see your behaviour. You see my behaviour. But I do not and never have and never will see your experience of me. Just as you cannot "see" my experience of you. My experience of you is not "inside" me. It is simply you, as I experience you. And I do not experience you as inside me. Similarly, I take it that you do not experience me as inside you.
"My experience of you" is just another form of words for "you-as-l-experience-you", and "your experience of me" equals "me-as-you-experience-me". Your experience of me is not inside you and my experience of you is not inside me, but your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you.


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