Films & Video

RD Laing Radio Series

Listening to RD Laing in 2012    

RD Laing, A three –part portrait on CBC Radio  (1988)     Written and Directed by Gary Marcuse

Comments on listening to the series in  October 2012  by Mariia Demianchuk, student at Master Program in Psychotherapy as a Science (modality Psychoanalysis) at Sigmund Freud University (Vienna, Austria)

‘Are we in the middle of the dream? Is this real?’

What struck me about this ‘wild man in a conservative profession’ is his unorthodox approach towards the concept of mental illness as a myth. While others were discussing whether he was nuts, his idea of allowing the fear to be your adviser in exploring the intellectual and spiritual limits of human existence is a bold and challenging way to introduce oneself to reality  more closely.

He dares to make fun about issues that society is so serious about like psychiatry or DSM, but nevertheless shows so much compassion for a hurt or vulnerable person.

He insists on one’s own right and business to acquire life experience the way he or she wants it to be gained (‘experiential anarchy’), even in some peculiar ways that might in classical terminology be classified as symptoms of mental disorder. Applying Laingian language, there is something ‘psychophobic’ in our society, something that stops us from tolerating peculiarities amongst each other. Probably it is due to a competition in the industrial jungle that we tend to keep somebody in psychiatric hospitals, in order to get a bigger slice of the pie for our own at the consumeristic feast. Or maybe we are only anxious, to witness or to be around people, explicitly showing those layers of psyche that we hide as supposedly more primitive, less politically correct, less appropriate for highly developed democratic society, in which we claim to live. As R.D. Laing put it: “We’re supposed to live in a homogenized, consensus reality where everyone sees, hears and perceives the same thing at the same time”. Disturbance in other stirs up latent disturbance in us.

It sometimes looks as if psychiatrists are trained to see the person as a problem, as a list of symptoms, but not as a person. Why? To put fewer efforts in thinking, I believe, as we live in an anti-mind society, with violent attacks on our brain functions. And therefore psychoanalysis as a method that uses thinking to expand one’s psyche and to let one be more integrated, and, thus, more healthy, is also under attack today. All through the history of mankind, a splitting of the mind, (skhizein in Greek) was seen as the opposite  to health.  R. D. Laing pointed out that “the words ‘health’ and ‘holy’ come from ‘heil’ and ’hale’. Health, holy, wholeness are very much related to each other”. One should never forget that analysis is just a good tool, in order to make the road for life experience wider by a synthesis and a deeper integration of inner and outer reality.  

20.10.2012 Mariia Demianchuk,Vienna