R. D. LAING QUOTES II

Scottish psychiatrist (1927-1989)

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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The study of social events presents an almost insurmountable difficulty, in that their visibility, as one might say, is very low. In social space one's direct immediate capacity to see what is happening does not extend any further than one's own senses extend. Beyond that one has to make inferences based on hearsay evidence, reports of one kind or another of what other human beings are able to see within their equally limited field of observation. As in space, so in time. Our capacity to probe back into history is extraordinarily limited. Even in the most detailed investigations of small fragments of micro-history, in studies of families, one finds it difficult to get past two or three generations. Beyond that, how things have come to be as they are disappears into mist.

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

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The fountain has not played itself out, the Flame still shines, the River still flows, the Spring still bubbles forth, the Light has not faded. But between us and It, there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete. Deus absconditus. Or we have absconded.

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

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Psychiatry could be, and some psychiatrists are, on the side of transcendence, of genuine freedom, and of true human growth. But psychiatry can so easily be a technique of brainwashing, of inducing behaviour that is adjusted, by (preferably) non-injurious torture. In the best places, where straitjackets are abolished, doors are unlocked, leucotomies largely forgone, these can be replaced by more subtle lobotomies and tranquilizers that place the bars of Bedlam and the locked doors inside the patient. Thus I would wish to emphasize that our "normal" "adjusted" state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities, that many of us are only too successful in acquiring a false self to adapt to false realities.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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No one has the answer: we are answer and question.

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

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Tags: questions


There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.

R. D. LAING, attributed, The Quotable Quote Book

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Our social realities are so ugly if seen in the light of exiled truth, and beauty is almost no longer possible if it is not a lie.

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

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No one has schizophrenia, like having a cold. The patient has not "got" schizophrenia. He is schizophrenic.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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We must remember that we are living in an age in which the ground is shifting and the foundations are shaking. I cannot answer for other times and places. Perhaps it has always been so. We know it is true today.

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

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Where can you scream? It's a serious question: where can you go in society and scream?

R. D. LAING, attributed, Mad to be Normal: Conversations with R. D. Laing

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To mystify, in the active sense, is to befuddle, cloud, obscure, mask whatever is going on, whether this be experience, action, or process, or whatever is "the issue." It induces confusion in the sense that there is failure to see what is "really" being experienced, or being done, or going on, and failure to distinguish or discriminate the actual issues. This entails the substitution of false for true constructions of what is being experienced, being done (praxis), or going on (process), and the substitution of false issues for the actual issues.

R. D. LAING, "Mystification, Confusion & Conflict", Intensive Family Therapy, 1965

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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.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience

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Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.

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

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Tags: madness


As we begin from micro-situations and work up to macro-situations we find that the apparent irrationality of behaviour on a small scale takes on a certain form of intelligibility when one sees it in context. One moves, for example, from the apparent irrationality of the single "psychotic" individual to the intelligibility of that irrationality within the context of the family. The irrationality of the family in its turn must be placed within the context of its encompassing networks. These further networks must be seen within the context of yet larger organizations and institutions. These larger contexts do not exist out there on some periphery of social space: they pervade the interstices of all that is comprised by them.

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

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The brotherhood of man is evoked by particular men according to their circumstances. But it seldom extends to all men. In the name of our freedom and our brotherhood we are prepared to blow up the other half of mankind and to be blown up in our turn.

R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience

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I am not merely spinning senseless paradoxes when I say that we, the sane ones, are out of our minds. The mind is what the ego is unconscious of. We are unconscious of our minds. Our minds are not unconscious. Our minds are conscious of us. Ask yourself who and what it is that dreams our dreams. Our unconscious minds? The Dreamer who dreams our dreams knows far more of us than we know of it. It is only from a remarkable position of alienation that the source of life, the Fountain of Life, is experienced as the It. The mind of which we are unaware, is aware of us. It is we who are out of our minds. We need not be unaware of the inner world.

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

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The human mind has to ask "Who, what, whence, whither, why am I?" And it is very doubtful if the human mind can answer any of these questions.

R. D. LAING, Wisdom, Madness and Folly: The Making of a Psychiatrist

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Since the self, in maintaining its isolation and detachment does not commit itself to a creative relationship with the other and is preoccupied with the figures of phantasies, thought, memories, etc. (imagos), which cannot be directly observable by or directly expressed to others, anything (in a sense) is possible. Whatever failures or successes come the way of the false-self system, the self is able to remain uncommitted and undefined. In phantasy, the self can be anyone, anywhere, do anything, have everything. It is thus omnipotent and completely free -- but only in phantasy. Once it commits itself to any real project it suffers the agonies of humiliation -- not necessarily for any failure, but simply because it has to subject itself to necessity and contingency. It is omnipotent and free only in phantasy.

R. D. LAING, The Divided Self

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From the alienated starting point of our pseudo-sanity, everything is equivocal. Our sanity is not "true" sanity. Their madness is not "true" madness. The madness of our patients is an artifact of the destruction wreaked on them by us, and by them on themselves.

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

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Tags: sanity