R. D. Laing: one of the best-known psychiatrists of modern times, was bom in Glasgow in 1927 and graduated from Glasgow University as a doctor of medicine. In the 1960s he developed the argument that there may be a benefit in allowing acute mental and emotional turmoil in depth to go on and have its way, and that the outcome of such turmoil could have a positive value.
He was the first to put such a stand to the test by establishing, with others, residences where persons could live and be free to let happen what will w’hen the acute psychosis is given free rein, or where, at the very least, they receive no treatment they do not want.
This work with the Philadelphia Association since 1964, together with his focus on disturbed and disturbing types of interaction in institutions, groups and families, has been both influential and continually controversial.
The present book is a study of schizoid and schizophrenic persons; its basic purpose is to make madness, and the process of going mad, comprehensible. Readers will judge variously the success or failure of this aim. I would ask, however, that the book should not be judged in terms of what it does not attempt to do. Specifically, no attempt is made to present a comprehensive theory of schizophrenia. No attempt is made to explore constitutional and organic aspects. No attempt is made to describe my own relationship with these patients, or my own method of therapy.
A further purpose is to give in plain English an account, in existential terms, of some forms of madness. In this I believe it to be the first of its kind. Most readers will find a few terms strangely used in the first few chapters. I have, however, given careful thought to any such usage, and have not employed it unless I felt compelled by the sense to do so.
Here again, a brief statement about what I have not tried to do may avoid misunderstanding. The reader versed in existential and phenomenological literature will quickly see that this study is not a direct application of any established existential philosophy. There are important points of divergence from the work of Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Binswanger, and Tillich, for instance.
To discuss points of convergence and divergence in any detail would have taken me away from the immediate task. Such a discussion belongs to another place.