Unthinkable? Rehabilitating R.D. Laing He’s been unfashionable for decades, but in an era of big-pharma and proliferating diagnoses, is it time to reassess? Guardian Editorial.
The trouble with great men or women who lead the kind of lives described as “colourful” is that they provide critics with a ready-made excuse to dismiss their work. At the same time, it’s doubtful that someone like Ronald Laing, whose name is still disdained 22 years after his death, would have broken as much ground were he not arrogant, angry and unconventional. A psychiatrist born into the age of doctor-knows-best, Laing’s questioning of every assumption about mental illness earned him derision, as well as a devoted following. His first book, The Divided Self, which presented schizophrenia as a rational response to intolerable experiences, was written at just 28. Sanity, Madness and the Family set out his most controversial idea: that family life plays an important part in the development of schizophrenia. This put him at loggerheads with an establishment that saw mental illness as a medical problem, not one that could to be explained by society or patients’ relationships. Laing may have alienated carers and relatives of schizophrenics, and been unrealistic about treatments. But he provoked scrutiny of psychiatric methods, and opened a rich seam of thinking about our civilisation’s discontents to boot. He’s been unfashionable for decades, but in an era of big-pharma and proliferating diagnoses, is time for a reassessment? Atheatre adaptation of his work, Knots, this summer suggests new minds are interested. They’d do best to forget the baggage and let his remarkable writing speak for itself.
This a really interesting video of RD Laing and his ideas which are a part of Recovery ideas today.