Essays by the renowned psychiatrist on that most central unit: the family. Focus on the breakdowns within families and between families and larger social networks.
As we listen to him describe his relations with the prominent philosophers, psychoanalysts, and critics of his day, his recounting of his emotional and spiritual development, and of his dashed hopes and unrealized dreams, we begin to get a sense of what it might have been like to be around Laing when he was alive.
Family as heaven, family as hell — mind-control and duty within the modern family.
The book is constructed of bits of journals, bits of lectures, memories, meditations–some impenetrably abstract and logically involuted, some embarrassingly speculative and poetic–among which one may wander at will. He relates odd things that have happened to his mind, and odd encounters with others, that hint at the vast mysteries lying iceberg-like beyond consciousness. The whole is informed by an implicit compassion that turns explicit in an attack on “”heartless”” science unaware of its own unconscious sadistic motives.
Laing attacks accepted assumptions about the nature of “normality” with a challenging view of the mental sickness built into our society.
Poems, most of them about love or relationships and peoples needs, neediness, or lack of true concrete feelings.
The voices of known demons rise from these pages: demons of guilt, demons of self-justification; demons of perverse will, demons of self-destruction. All the enemies of the human spirit are arrayed here as vividly, as warningly as in a medieval morality play. Those who believe that to unmask the enemy is a first step toward confounding him will find this a practical as well as a moral book.
1972 Self and Others
Laing “shows how Cartesian Dualism fails to address the real underlying problems at hand in interpersonal relationships.” In that, Laing is also a forerunner of current-day thinking, especially among the dualism-cracking, dialectical behaviorist crowd. His grasp of ambiguity and irresolvable confusion (at the common cultural level) between evidently conflicting demands and contradictory behavioral impulses is right down on the ground with DBT types like Thomas Marra. Laing’s work makes the downhill road to alcoholism, eating disorders, codependence, workaholism and sexual obsession =much= easier to understand and forgive oneself for.
The outsider, estranged from himself and society, cannot experience either himself or others as ‘real’. He invents a false self and with it he confronts both the outside world and his own despair. The disintegration of his real self keeps pace with the growing unreality of his false self until, in the extremes of schizophrenic breakdown, the whole personality disintegrates.
Phi Beta Iota: There are two bottom lines across this body of work. First, that modern science and modern psychoanalysis lacks analysis. The focus is on the verbalized torments, not the hidden inarticulated conflicts, not only within individuals and families, but across all elements of society. Second, sanity is in the minds and views of the majority, even when most of them are insane or “abnormal.”