R. D. LAING QUOTES

Scottish psychiatrist (1927-1989)

A child born today in the United Kingdom stands a ten times greater chance of being admitted to a mental hospital than to a university.... This can be taken as an indication that we are driving our children mad more effectively than we are genuinely educating them. Perhaps it is our way of educating them that is driving them mad.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience

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Our civilization represses not only "the instincts", not only sexuality, but any form of transcendence. Among one-dimensional men, it is not surprising that someone with an insistent experience of other dimensions, that he cannot entirely deny or forget, will run the risk either of being destroyed by the others, or of betraying what he knows.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

R. D. LAING, Knots

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The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.

R. D. LAING, attributed, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception

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Tags: thought


Attempts to wake before our time are often punished, especially by those who love us most. Because they, bless them, are asleep. They think anyone who wakes up, or who, still asleep, realizes that what is taken to be real is a "dream" is going crazy.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Family and Other Essays

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Tags: dreams


I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience

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Tags: experience


If I don't know I don't know
I think I know
If I don't know I know
I think I don't know

R. D. LAING, Knots

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Tags: knowledge


I started to try to see through the dense opacity of social events from the study of certain people who were labelled psychotic or neurotic, as seen in mental hospitals, psychiatric units and out-patient clinics. I began to see that I was involved in the study of situations and not simply of individuals. It seemed (and this still seems to be the case) that the study of such situations was arrested in three principal ways. In the first place the behaviour of such people was regarded as signs of a pathological process that was going on in them, and only secondarily of anything else. The whole subject was enclosed in a medical metaphor. In the second place this medical metaphor conditioned the conduct of all those who were enclosed by it, doctors and patients. Thirdly, through this metaphor the person who was the patient in the system, being isolated from the system, could no longer be seen as a person: as a corollary, it was also difficult for the doctor to behave as a person. A person does not exist without a social context. You cannot take a person out of his social context and still see him as a person, or act towards him as a person. If one does not act towards the other as a person, one depersonalizes oneself.

R. D. LAING, "The Obvious", Going Crazy: The Radical Therapy of R.D. Laing and Others

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The dynamics and structures found in those groups called families in our society may not be evident in those groups called families in other places and times.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of the Family and Other Essays

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Tags: family


In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not arisen.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Family and Other Essays

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Tags: ritual


Schizophrenic behaviour is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience

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The madman is ... confused. He muddles ego with self, inner with outer, natural and supernatural. Nevertheless, he often can be to us, even through his profound wretchedness and disintegration, the hierophant of the sacred. An exile from the scene of being as we know it, he is an alien, a stranger, signalling to us from the void in which he is foundering. This void may be peopled by presences that we do not even dream of. They used to be called demons and spirits, that were known and named. He has lost his sense of self, his feelings, his place in the world as we know it. He tells us he is dead. But we are distracted from our cozy security by this mad ghost that haunts us with his visions and voices that seem so senseless and of which we feel impelled to rid him, cleanse him, cure him.

R. D. LAING, "Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis", The Psychedelic Review, 1964

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Tags: madness


Philosophy does not exist. It is nothing but an hypostatized abstraction.

R. D. LAING, Reason and Violence

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Tags: philosophy


A psychiatrist who professes to be a healer of souls, but who keeps people asleep, treats them for waking up, and drugs them asleep again (increasingly effectively as this field of technology sharpens its weapons), helps to drive them crazy.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Family and Other Essays

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Freud was a hero. He descended to the "Underworld" and met there stark terrors. He carried with him his theory as a Medusa's head which turned these terrors to stone. We who follow Freud have the benefit of the knowledge he brought back with him and conveyed to us. He survived. We must see of we now can survive without using a theory that is in some measure an instrument of defence.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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Tags: Sigmund Freud


I am quite sure that a good number of "cures" of psychotics consist in the fact that the patient has decided, for one reason or other, once more to play at being sane.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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Tags: insanity


Conventions are convenient. It is inconvenient to say people are dead when they are alive, or alive when they have been buried, or that the world is crumbling when it is, as everyone can see, there as usual. If all A that does not fit B is ipso facto disqualified, we have to tailor A to shape and size to avoid serious trouble, and not all are equally gifted in this art.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Family and Other Essays

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Rule A: Don't. Rule A1: Rule A doesn't exist. Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or non-existence of Rules A, A1 or A2.

R. D. LAING, Knots

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Tags: rules


What is to be done? We who are still half alive, living in the often fibrillating heartland of a senescent capitalism -- can we do more than reflect the decay around and within us? Can we do more than sing our sad and bitter songs of disillusion and defeat?

R. D. LAING, introduction, The Politics of Experience

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Tags: capitalism


The schizophrenic may indeed be mad. He is mad. He is not ill. I have been told by people who have been through the mad experience how what was then revealed to them was veritable manna from Heaven. The person's whole life may be changed, but it is difficult not to doubt the validity of such vision. Also, not everyone comes back to us again.

R. D. LAING, "Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis", The Psychedelic Review, 1964

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