Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics
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Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  148 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In 1958, while working at the Tavistock, John Bowlby introduced Laing to Gregory Bateson's double bind theory of schizophrenia. Intrigued, Laing engaged another Glaswegian, Dr. Aaron Esterson, in an intensive phenomenological study of more than 100 families of diagnosed schizophrenics in the London area. In 1962, Laing travelled to meet Bateson and his co-workers in Palo A...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 1st 1990 by Penguin (first published 1964)
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Erik Graff
Dec 22, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
After reading them in paperback, I purchased Laing's The Divided Self, Self and Others, and Sanity, Madness and the Family in hardcover. The investment seemed worth it because at the time the third book had had a great influence on my thinking.

Sanity, Madness and the Family addresses schizophrenia from the perspective of social conditioning, supposedly finding from an extensive empirical survey that a study of the families of schizophrenics will reveal causes for the psychosis sufficient to disc...more
Kari
Despite being written in the 1960s, the message that Laing puts across through these case studies is still as relevant today as it was at the time of writing. Mental health cannot be assessed out of context. Every action and trigger has a root in the environment of the patient and to separate them or neglect them completely is to me totally illogical. Humans do not live in isolation but have daily interactions and experiences that shape their lives and thoughts. To take mental health symptoms as...more
Enrique Valdivia
I read this in college for a course in feminist philosophy taught by Maria Lugones, who now teaches at SUNY-Binghamton. She was the teacher who most influenced my politics and critical thinking. An amazing person. Reading this book enabled me to look at my family in a new way. I hesitate to call what I found "truth". It was more like the beginning of a journey out of the my family's consensus about what was true. Laing's ideas are out of favor these days. But this is still an important book. As...more
Selina
The idea of a psychiatric wards back in the 60's probably strike some negative keys in most people's imaginations.... electro-shock therapy, insulin comas... we've all seen a movie or two that depict something nightmarish. This book certainly gives us a taste of how mental illness was seen back then. R.D Laing and his team go out to prove that schizophrenia as it was seen back in those days - basically as an "illness" that is non-sensical and non-intelligible - is in actual fact the opposite whe...more
Pippa
Very interesting, not least because parents in many of these case studies, to the modern sensibility, appear to have Aspergers Syndrome. I realise that there is a huge debate about how much parents/carers are to 'blame' for the development of mental illness, but these case studies tied in very precisely with a situation I have personal knowledge of, and it does seem sensible to me to look at potential triggers for 'mental illness'. Certain factors reappear consistently in the studies - talking o...more
Katja
This is a scary book. It contains eleven stories, all real, of eleven young schizophrenic women and their families. The point made in every story is basically the same: the bizarre beliefs and strange behavior become intelligible if one considers every woman in the context of her family. And those are all crazy families. For example, the Edens are the father, mother, aunt, uncle and cousin. So far so good. But the (later schizophrenic) daughter grew up knowing them as (in the same order) uncle,...more
Kirsten
Excellent, and also hugely effective in proving the authors' argument: in each of the case studies it is simply obvious that of all the female 'schizophrenics' interviewed - who are held in hospitals, given EST and medication, and given that this was in the 50s & 60s, sullied for life - are quite simply the natural outcome and product of messed-up families. Despite this being a formal medical text, it nevertheless provoked an emotional response in me, principally frustration at the situation...more
Panther
This book turns fifty this year. The authors' thesis is that schizophrenia is a confabulated diagnosis and that when patients are seen in the context of their families, symptoms are better understood as attempts to cope with dysfunctional or unbearable family dynamics. I did not come away at all convinced of this thesis in terms of what is today called schizophrenia, but I still loved the book. I think it showed powerfully that the 'diseased' person may be the one that is unable to cope within a...more
Becky
Whilst this is an old book now I still felt certain points being put forward held true and was interested to learn Laing's thoughts on the familial influence on schizophrenia. I enjoyed the case history style of the book and felt whilst dated now I still learnt a lot.
Rachel
I read this because I am obsessed with the idea that pathological conditions cannot be located within an individual. This book, though not without its problems, did not disappoint. Highly recommended to those interested in the history of madness.
Bigmakmotorbreath
every body can relate to these studies by dr. Laing.It's all about the narcissism of parents destroying lives. Alice Miller wrote a bit about that- really affirming stuff
Danielle
More often than not, a troubled person is a symptom of a whole family's imbalances... This book enlightened me on this.
Daniel Cecil
Nice as a character study, but not for those looking for anything really, really interesting.
Sunny
Sep 10, 2009 Sunny marked it as to-read
recommended from a buddhist monk
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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 Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness The Politics of Experience/The Bird of Paradise Knots Self and Others The Politics of the Family and Other Essays

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