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The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness
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The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  2,567 ratings  ·  58 reviews
In The Divided Self (1960), Laing contrasted the experience of the "ontologically secure" person with that of a person who "cannot take the realness, aliveness, autonomy and identity of himself and others for granted" and who consequently contrives strategies to avoid "losing his self". Laing explains how we all exist in the world as beings, defined by others who carry a m ...more
Paperback, Penguin Psychology, 224 pages
Published August 30th 1965 by Penguin (first published 1960)
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Rachel
Me: OMG this book is diagnosing all my problems!!!!1!11
Husband: Then why is it so small?

He was being funny, but he was also making a valid point. The explanation is that this book gets at the root cause of so many things...

The psychology classes I took in college were such awkward mashups of psychoanalysis and behaviorism, at once oversimplifications and obfuscations. If I'd known psychology could be like this, I might have majored in it.

The philosophy classes I took in college were more about t
...more
Vaughn
After a second, or third read (I can't remember), I still consider this the best phenomenological psychology I've ever read.

The case studies showed a combination of empathy and rationality that I find rarely in any written works about people. His studies of Joan, and of Julie, which conclude the book, are tough for me to read without raising strong emotions.

Speaking as a student of philosophy, though, Laing's early work is best when he speculates, and phenomenological speculation may be one of t

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Jesse
One cannot go too long in this life without meeting people who have more or less lost their humanity (try saying "Hello!" to everyone you meet today on the street; you will invariably be met with not a few mute lips and stone-faced grimaces!). This is called alienation, and schizophrenia is the psychological term for it. I like to call it the Madonna-syndrome, because the primary symptom is not identifying with what one projects oneself to be. Hence, schizophrenics are everything in fantasy beca ...more
JJVid
From a foundation of ontological insecurity, in which the 'self' is divided from the body, the schizoid personality finds refuge within the safe haven of incomprehensibility. Never feeling secure within a monistic, holistic sense, the divided self fractures into semi-autonomous entities which serve to shield the person from an imagined external threat of annihilation. When your sense of being, of life and self-worth, are threatened by the very notion of becoming perceived it bodes you well to be ...more
Ben Loory
one of the best books i've ever read about the workings of the mind; right up there with Consciousness Explained, The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory, and The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. one of those books that presents the mind as a place and not just a bunch of terminology.

on the other hand it makes me want to check myself into a mental hospital ASAP. but hey. pros and cons.
Mat McNeil
R.D. Laing was only twenty-eight years old when he penned his magnum opus, which is a brilliant and visionary orientation to mental illness, informed by the masters of existential-phenomenology (Jaspers, Sartre, et al.), and a work which made him a counter-culture star. For Laing, as for Foucault, mental illness cannot be imputed to biological defect alone. Such a conception amounts to a scapegoat as it outright vindicates society-at-large (and other environmental dynamics) from the fundamental ...more
Daniel
The Divided Self is a fairly good and short phenomenological/existential description of schizoid/schizophrenic being-in-the-world. In other words, instead of trying to find a strictly biological or psychoanalytical causal explanation of madness, Laing, drawing from Binswanger, Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger, tries to describe how the schizoid/schizophrenic person sees and interprets her/his world. For this reason, the book deals much less with alleged causes of madness and more with the healthy an ...more
Kressel Housman
In keeping with my current excursion into the world of abnormal psych, I've just attempted 60 pages of this classic. I think R.D. Laing's main point - that madness is vastly misunderstood and therefore mistreated - is absolutely true, but I found that this book uses as much depersonalizing language as the psychiatrists the author criticizes. I found it very hard reading in spots, and my public library wouldn't let me renew it because it was so overdue. The real test of how dedicated I am to the ...more
Katrina
You always get the best insights from the people who have actually experienced the disorders. R D Laing has been on both sides of the therapist's couch, so to speak. This is one of the best, most insightful psychology books I have read, certainly the best account of what schizophrenia is actually like. I assume. I wouldn't really know, so I'm trusting Liang to know his stuff.

Anyway yeah, I'm excited to write my essay now because of this book. Still a little intimidated by the topic (how does on
...more
Canagoon Goon
Utterly amazing. Read this many years ago while at university and it helped change my perception of psychiatry and psychology. It changed my whole perception of what mental illness was and how it is such a thin Line between us 'normal' people and those with a diagnosis.
David
Mar 31, 2013 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: work
Giving it 4* rather than 5* may seem a tad harsh when you read what I'm going to say, but it makes sense to me when you consider the evolution of theory and practice since this was written, and the differences in language inherent of such changes. And I like to think I'd know something of this, working in the trade.

There have been some mind-melting sections, some mind-bending sections and then there have been some enlightening and well crafted sections.

I've enjoyed reading every page - even the
...more
Robert
Though this writing is pushing 60 years, Laing's explanation of psychopathology and the impact of lost identity is tremendously insightful. Laing was railroaded in the pyschiatric community for his extreme humanisitic approach to the causes and treatment of the severely mentally ill, which is a pity since he approaches the schizoid person as a human being in search of regaining clarity and rejoining their true self, not just a medical oddity to be considered in cold and technical fashion of mode ...more
Kevin Hilke
"Psychotherapy is an activity in which that aspect of a patient's being, his relatedness to others, is used for therapeutic ends. The therapist acts on the principle that, since relatedness is potentially present in everyone, then he may not be wasting his time in sitting for hours with a silent catatonic who gives every evidence that he does not recognize his existence."
Bonita
As a student of psychology, it is perhaps easier to read the literature and be somewhat dispassionate about it. This book proves the exception to that rule! Probably the most insightful, provocative read into what could be termed "the inception of schizophrenia (hence the title), that anyone has yet recorded!
Incredible! Sometimes, painfully so!
BjR
Jeremy Osztreicher
Perfectly merges an exploration of common anxieties and underlying conflicts with a discussion of mental disorders making the schizophrenic seem not just more human but all too like ourselves - thus revealing our own insanity. Yet somehow the book is not troubling but cathartic. 5 stars.
Brendan
I am not a fan of psychology, but I felt that this was a very human and humane treatment of mental illness. Illuminating in its understanding and sensitivity.
Melsinyork
One of my all time favourite books. A wonderful and insightful alternative view of schizophrenia. Inspiring.
Natalie
if you really want to understand schizophrenia, this is one of the best books on the subject that i've read.
Rowan
Jul 07, 2008 Rowan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
This book blew my goddamn mind. Of course now I'm convinced I'm schizophrenic, but then again...
Photokitten
May 25, 2007 Photokitten rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those into exsistential psychology
I think this crazy Scottsman may be my fave pychiatrist that ever lived
Emily
Jun 14, 2008 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Emily by: Emma Rhoads
loved it. do not read if you think you may be schizophrenic!
Erik Graff
Dec 22, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wanna-be psychotherapists
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
My draft board office having been fortuitously immolated, I was able to return to Grinnell College in the fall of '72. The year out of school had been fruitful in that the time to read freely led to new interests in philosophy, psychology and religion--to, in other words, consideration of the inner life. I had left college as a history major. I returned to college wanting to major in psychology.

Grinnell's Psychology Department, however, did not offer much of what I was interested in. Their orien
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Andrew
The schizoid and schizophrenic experience is tracked in this existential text from 1959. The style is informal, and for the most part is a work of phenomenological theory that covers the dynamics of interpersonal exchange, the schizoid neurotic situation, and the sane but problematic developments of an autonomous "false self". Much of the theorising seems convoluted, tautological, and required the ideas of others for me to find structure and sense... however, the inclusion of the case studies of ...more
Michael
Having your cake and eating it too. Or should I just say, having your cake.

Although the author belatedly qualifies this effort in the preface as the work of a 28 year old, and though the close reader can see why he makes this statement, this book does seem worthy, in my opinion, to be read even all these years later. Of course I'll take cue and qualify that statement as being made by a nearly 35 year old that hasn't read too much contemporary psychology. I can certainly imagine someone having ta
...more
Nicholas
Though regarded as a classic,the academic prose from 1959 will probably stymie the efforts of all but the most ardent pop psychology readers of today,but the books treatment of the symptoms of the most prevalent of mental diseases is more relevant than ever,as the need to construct false-selves[which are the major cause of schizophrenia] to interact with external reality becomes more and more necessary.
The book contains several interesting case histories that illustrate the foundations of the
...more
Joel
Mar 15, 2010 Joel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joel by: Amanda Cosmos
Shelves: psych-et-c
I'm a big fan of Laing's earlier to mid-career works, and this book has grounded cases which allow an easier understanding than the almost purely abstract suppositions in other works of his (e.g. The Politics of Experience, Self and Others) on related topics.

Laing's willingness (and expressed need) to engage schizoid/schizophrenics on their own terms and without treating them as afflicted by an irreparable pathology was incredibly novel at time of publication, and seems still a terribly under-ut
...more
Vicky
Have finally made it through this after years of reading other people's interpretations of it. It's his earliest work on the subject of the development and existential meanings of psychosis so I need to read the later stuff too. I think some of it was pretty convoluted and touched by the mans own personal hurts and human issues. However, the first half of this book in particular, where Laing describes very plainly all the problems that medically based psychiatry has with establishing respectful ...more
Upsychled Yarns
Apr 04, 2014 Upsychled Yarns rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in schizophrenia or in existential psychotherapeutic processes,
This was my first dive into the mind of R D Laing since slightly falling in love with him whilst watching the 'Did you used to be R. D. Laing? documentary. I knew from the off that I was going to enjoy more time with Laing's direction of perception and this book proved me right. The only problem I had with it was that it was slightly above my intellectual capacities and required me to continually shovel coal onto the fires of my brain. This intellectual stretch may be apparent here and any corre ...more
Eric Cartier
Nov 26, 2007 Eric Cartier rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who has ever tried to say everything at once.
An important, readable psychological text concerning paranoid, schizoid and schizophrenic individuals. "Reality, as such, threatening engulfment or implosion, is the persecutor."
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Ronald David Laing was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the subjective experience of psychosis. Laing's views on the causes and treatment of serious mental dysfunction, greatly influenced by existential philosophy, ran counter to the psychiatric orthodoxy of the day by taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descrip ...more
More about R.D. Laing...
The Politics of Experience/The Bird of Paradise Knots Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics Self and Others The Politics of the Family and Other Essays

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“In a world full of danger, to be a potentially seeable object is to be constantly exposed to danger. Self-consciousness, then, may be the apprehensive awareness of oneself as potentially exposed to danger by the simple fact of being visible to others. The obvious defence against such a danger is to make oneself invisible in one way or another.” 36 likes
“There are good reasons for being obedient, but being unable to be disobedient is not one of the best reasons.” 4 likes
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