Blog des AK Psychiatriekritik der NFJ Berlin

Kategorie: Ronald Laing

The Divided Laing, Arcola Theatre

New RD Laing drama is a surreal tribute to a great 20th-century thinker and radical

RD (“Ronnie”) Laing was a typically eccentric 1960s guru. A Scottish psychiatrist who was one of the leading lights of the anti-psychiatry movement, his 1960 classic The Divided Self helped a whole generation to a deeper understanding of mental illness and especially the experience of psychosis. This new drama, by theatre writer and critic Patrick Marmion, is an exploration of an imaginary episode in his life, and is staged on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Philadelphia Association, a therapeutic collective which Laing co-founded, and of his experimental asylum at Kingsley Hall in London’s Bromley-by-Bow.



Living in One of R. D. Laing’s Post-Kingsley Hall Households

Kingsley Hall was the first of Laing’s household communities that served as a place where you could live through madness until you could get it together and live independently. It was conceived as an “asylum” from forms of treatment — psychiatric or otherwise — that many were convinced were not helpful, and even contributed to their difficulties. Laing and his colleagues, including David Cooper and Aaron Esterson, leased the building from a London charity and occupied it from 1965 to 1970. The house was of historic significance, having been the residence of Mahatma Gandhi when he was negotiating India’s independence from British rule. Muriel Lester, the principal trustee of Kingsley Hall, agreed that Laing’s vision for its use was faithful to its long-established humanitarian purpose. Kingsley Hall was leased to his organization — the Philadelphia Association — for the sum of one British Pound per annum.


R.D. Laing & Anti-Psychopathology: The Myth of Mental Illness Redux

I would like to share with you some thoughts I have about R. D. Laing’s conception of psychopathology. This is not an easy topic to explore, in part because Laing was somewhat ambivalent about the concept and avoided even using this term. In The Politics of Experience, for example, Laing famously questioned whether schizophrenia, the form of psychopathology he is most identified with, even exists! Yet many of the people Laing saw in therapy suffered terribly and saw him in therapy in the hope that he could help them relieve their anguish. But what, precisely, was it that Laing was helping them be relieved of, if not a psychopathological condition? Surely, if there is a bona fide thing such as “therapy,” then there must be some condition or state, however we regard or label it, that the process of therapy presumes to relieve. What else is the one person, the patient, paying the other person, the therapist, for?


Kingsley Hall: RD Laing’s Experiment in Anti-psychiatry

In 1965, the psychiatrist opened a residential treatment centre that aimed to revolutionize the treatment of mental illness. Five decades on, those who lived and spent time there look back on an era of drama and discoveryThe maverick psychiatrist RD Laing once described insanity as “a perfectly rational response to an insane world”. In 1965, having served as a doctor in the British army and then trained in psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic in London, Laing formed the Philadelphia Association with a group of like-minded colleagues. Their aim was to bring about a revolution in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

“We aim to change the way the ‘facts’ of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ are seen,” a later report-come-manifesto explained. “This is more than a new hypothesis inserted into an existing field of research and therapy; it is a proposal to change the model.”

From 1965 until 1970, as radical ideas and hippie ideals blossomed then died in cities across the globe, a former community centre in Powis Road in the East End of London became the unlikely setting for Laing’s most radical experiment in what came to be known as anti-psychiatry. “We have got Kingsley Hall and I have moved into it,” Laing wrote to his colleague, Joe Berke, when he was granted an initial two-year lease. “Others will be moving in in the next two or three weeks… I take it you will pass the word around to relevant people. THIS IS IT.”


Adrian Laing: ‚I feel bitter and sweet about Dad’

The son of RD Laing has written a novel poking fun at his radical therapies

‚At university, I used to play hooker in the rugby team. Being ‚rebirthed’ by my dad was a bit like being back in the scrum, only there was no referee present.” Adrian Laing, dressed smartly in black and grey as befits a respectable media lawyer in his mid-fifties, is remembering the day, 35 years ago, when his father, the radical psychiatrist RD Laing, decided to try out on his son one of his most controversial therapies.