cannot be understood without
"Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world."
“Everyone is more or less mad on one point.”
“We’re all MAD here”
2006 Karrie aka KateTheShrew
A story of the
Scottish Psychiatrist,R.D Laing. His life story and his extraordinary work with his patient, Mary Barnes.
“Laing was invited by some doctors to examine a young girl diagnosed as schizophrenic. The girl was locked into
a padded cell in a special hospital, and sat there naked. She usually spent the whole day rocking to and fro. The doctors
asked Laing for his opinion. What would he do about her? Unexpectedly, Laing stripped off naked himself and entered her cell.
There he sat with her, rocking in time to her rhythm. After about twenty minutes she started speaking, something she had not
done for several months. The doctors were amazed. 'Did it never occur to you to do that?' Laing commented to them later, with
R.D.Laing (Ronald David), Scottish Psychiatrist (1927-1989)
'The requirement of the present, the failure of the past, is the
to provide a thoroughly self-conscious and self-critical human
account of man.'
The Politics of Experience
Ronald David Laing, one of the most controversial figures of 20th Century psychology and philosophy.
His writings - a beguiling mix of psychoanalysis, mysticism, existentialism and left-wing politics - make for powerful and
often disturbing reading; disturbing because they so clearly demonstrate the extent to which the average human being is entrapped
by the pressures of social conformity.
His first book, The Divided Self, was an attempt to explain schizophrenia by using existentialist
philosophy to vividly portray the inner world of a schizophrenic, which Laing presented as an attempt to live in an unlivable
situation. His later books, such as Self and Others and The Politics of Experience, expand upon this to show how contemporary
culture conspires to rob us of our individuality.
Laing remains a highly enigmatic figure. His work tends to be dismissed by most psychiatrists;
however, droves of mentally ill people insist that this was a man who truly understood how they felt. Laing always insisted
that psychotherapists should act as shamans, exorcising the illness through a process of mutual catharsis. This is particularly
apt, since, like the archetypal shaman, Laing did not appear to so much preach a doctrine as live it. His self-destructive
tendencies and mood swings are well documented. In 1989 he died of a heart attack at the age of 62, his health ruined by years
of depression and alcoholism.
Since Laing refused to view mental illness in biomedical/clinical terms, he has often been labeled
as part of the so-called 'antipsychiatry' movement, alongside figures such as David Cooper, Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault.
However, Laing vehemently rejected this label. He never tried to deny that mentally ill people are in need of help - he simply
did not believe that conventional psychiatry provided the answer.
He was especially opposed to the use of lobotomies, ECT (ElectroConvulsive Therapy – “Shock
and the dehumanizing effects of incarceration in psychiatric hospitals.
Schizophrenia (in Greek, “split mind") is a severe mental illness
characterized by a variety of symptoms including but not limited to:
of contact with reality
hallucinations "hearing voices"
contact with reality
to total social withdrawal.
Schizophrenia afflicts approximately one percent of the world's population, making it the
most common psychosis. Schizophrenia is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Fundamental symptoms include thought disturbance, withdrawal, and difficulties managing effect. Secondary
symptoms include perception disorders such as hallucinations and grandiosity. Symptoms may also be non-schizophrenic
in nature, including anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic symptoms.
of Psychosocial Problems Among Physicians
Limited information is available that describes rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse, marital problems, and
other emotional problems among physicians. Most of the research done to evaluate physician suicide rates is at least 10 years
old. In addition, many findings are contradictory, making interpretations difficult. Methodologic problems, such
as the use of only American Medical Association (AMA) data in early research on physician suicide, have also limited conclusions
that can be drawn.
The overall physician suicide rate cited by most studies has been between 28 and 40 per 100,000, compared with the
overall rate in the general population of 12.3 per 100,000. Overall, then, physicians are more than twice as likely
as the general population to kill themselves. Each year, it would take the equivalent of 1 to 2 average-sized graduating classes
of medical school to replace the number of physicians who kill themselves. This rate appears higher than among other professionals.
This phenomenon has been explored since the 1960s. Blachly et al gathered data on 249 physicians listed in JAMA
obituary columns and made extrapolations to determine which specialties had the highest risk. They interpreted their data
to show that psychiatrists had the highest suicide rate and pediatricians had the lowest rate. Further support for the notion
that psychiatrists might be at higher risk is found in the work of Rich and Pitts, who found that psychiatrists committed
suicide at twice the expected rate.
Depression has been noted to be a common occurrence during medical training. Rates of clinical depression among interns
have been reported to be 27% and 30%, and 25% of interns have been reported to have suicidal ideation. A review of the literature
on stress during residencies documented that depression and increased anger were important problems during training. Among
practicing physicians, depression has been studied more in female physicians than in male physicians. Welner et a published
a study in which female professionals were interviewed and evaluated for a lifetime history of depression according to the
Feighner criteria. They found that 51% of female physicians and 32% of female PhDs they selected from the general community
had a history of depression. Among physicians, psychiatrists had the highest rates, with 73% reporting a history of depression
compared with 46% of other female physicians. A more recent study assessed the lifetime prevalence of self-identified depression
and suicide attempts among 4,501 US women physicians who responded to the Women Physicians'
Health Study, a nationally distributed questionnaire. In this study, 19.5% of female physicians reported a history of depression,
and 1.5% reported a history of suicide attempts. The latter study suggests that prevalence rates of depression among female
physicians may be similar to those in the general population. The contradiction in these findings suggests the need for further
study of depression in female physicians. Depression among male physicians also warrants further study.
Substance abuse probably has received more attention than suicide or depression as a problem within medicine, and reported
prevalence rates vary widely. Recent data suggest that the prevalence of alcoholism and illicit drug abuse by physicians is
similar to that among the general population, but physicians may be at increased risk for prescription drug abuse. Special
substance abuse programs for physicians, such as those of the Talbott-Marsh Clinic in Atlanta and Caduceus Clubs, have been
developed all over the United States and Canada.
The availability of addictive agents may play a role in the increased rates of drug addiction among physicians. Physicians
also have the opportunity to self-medicate and otherwise treat themselves rather than entrust their care to others, and this
may have terrible consequences. Also, physicians are more knowledgeable about the lethal doses of various medications, so
this may play a role in the increased rates of successful suicide.
As mentioned earlier, there is a strong link between suicide and both substance abuse and depression. It has been estimated
that 40% of physician suicides are associated with alcoholism, and 20% with drug abuse. An association between mood disorders,
substance abuse, and suicide among physicians has been described.
Divorce rates among physicians have been reported to be 10% to 20% higher than those in the general population. Furthermore,
those couples that include a physician who remain married reported marriages that are more unhappy. Much has been written
about the "medical marriage," and some problems have been reported as widespread among physicians' marriages. For many years
in pre-med college, medical school, and residency, physicians focus on getting through the next hurdle. They may postpone
the pleasures of life that others enjoy. It has been hypothesized that this psychology of postponement may be related to compulsive
traits. In particular, the compulsive personality traits that are widely heralded as being key ingredients in professional
success may have the unwanted consequence of leading to more distant relationships. Many physicians place work above all else,
and it has been speculated that this may serve the purpose for them of helping to avoid intimacy, thus placing strain on intimate
Psychiatrists are not invincible
"I have learned not to think little of anyone's belief, no matter how strange it may be.
I have tried to keep an open mind, and it is not the ordinary things of life that could close it, but the strange things,
the extraordinary things,
the things that make one doubt if they
be mad or sane."
1986 - Los Angeles - My brother
Each day the voices were growing louder...
He threw himself
at the oncoming car with such force
that his body smashed into the windshield
and bounced down the highway like a ragdoll...
Goin' Out Of My Head
"There is a wisdom that is woe;
but there is a woe that is madness."
We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the
spiritual and material world— mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt.
What we call 'normal' is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection
and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being. The more one sees
this, the more senseless it is to continue with generalized descriptions of supposedly specifically schizoid, schizophrenic,
There are forms of alienation that are relatively strange to statistically 'normal' forms of
alienation. The 'normally' alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken
to be sane. Other forms of alienation that are out of step with the prevailing state of alienation are those that are labeled
by the 'formal' majority as bad.
Ronnie Laing formulated the view that madness was an attempt by
the person to spontaneously cure themselves of the maddening situations in which they had to live, and that as such it was
a natural healing process which ought to be facilitated to run its course rather than be arrested, blocked and forever suspended
by forcibly feeding psycho-pharmacological concoctions to such people and locking them up in ‘mental hospitals’
in a process of degradation.
The Philadelphia Association has run therapeutic communities sine 1965, the first being Kingsley
Hall in London’s East End. This was set up in a context
where psychiatric treatment was relatively crude and often enforced with little thought for the rights and dignity of the
patient. The social debate around psychiatric treatment that was sparked by the critique put forward by R D Laing, a founding
figure of PA, and others, has wrought many changes and psychiatric practice has changed considerably.
Hall - A Community Settlement is Founded
1912. Doris and Muriel
Lester start a Nursery School at No.58 and 60 Bruce Road. Children are fed, clothed and cared
for at fivepence a day. When mothers can't afford fees, children are sponsored by a network of wealthier supporters. The service
is soon expanded to include activities for older groups with the aim to provide for the development of the whole person -
the mind, body and spirit - in an environment which brought people together regardless of class, race and religion.
1965. R.D. Laing and his
colleagues ask the Lesters for use of the Hall as a community for themselves and a few people in a state of psychosis. As
a result, Kingsley Hall, became home to one of the most radical experiments in psychology of the time.
The aim of the experiment,
known as the Philadelphia Association, was to create a model for non-restraining, non-drug therapies for
seriously affected schizophrenics.
Based on the notion that
psychosis, a state of reality akin to living in awaking dream, is not an illness simply to be eliminated through the electric
shocks favored in the Western tradition of the time but, as in other cultures, a state of trance which could even be valued
as mystical or Shamanistic, it sought to allow schizophrenic people the space to explore their madness and internal chaos.
One notable resident of
this experiment was Mary Barnes. Along with resident psychiatrist Joseph Berke, Mary later went on to write "Two Accounts
of a Journey Through Madness", describing her stay at Kingsley Hall and use of her mental condition as a vehicle for painting
and creative expression. Her account became famous in the 1970s when it was used as the basis for a well-received theatre
The experience and behavior that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person
invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.
From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were,
I have not seen as others saw;
I could not bring my passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken my sorrow;
I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
In my childhood,
in the dawn of a most stormy life,
was drawn from every depth of good and ill.
The mystery that binds me still;
From the torrent or fountain,
from the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
in its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
as it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and storm,
and the cloud that took the form,
When the rest of Heaven was blue,
of a Demon in my view.
Edgar Allan Poe
"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."
Edgar Allan Poe