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Monday, July 11, 2005

From The Divided Science


Laing's problem is especially difficult. On the one hand he is opposed to treating man as an object or thing, while at the same time he is dealing with a type of person (the schizophrenic) who does just this to himself. The language in which Laing chooses to discuss the world of the schizophrenic is that of existential phenomenology, and it is to the existential tradition that he acknowledges his main indebtedness. Thus, we are given the following picture of the origins and phenomenology of schizophrenia: The inner core of a person is his 'self'. The self is in the world and relates to the world by means of its body. Most people most of the time feel basically safe in the world; Laing calls this 'primary ontological security'. Some persons, however, become ontologically insecure, i.e., they feel persecuted by reality itself. We are not clearly told how this occurs, though the life experiences in his case studies make it plausible that they would feel this way; but one is still left wondering why others with similar experiences did not become schizophrenic. The man who becomes schizophrenic becomes preoccupied with preserving rather than gratifying himself; the ordinary circumstances of living threaten his low threshold of security. His dread of hisown dissolution into non-being becomes so great that the self retreats into a central citadel; by being unembodied it seeks to transcend the world and hence to be safe. The self becomes dissociated both from its own body and from the whole external worldof people and events. It is thereby precluded from having a direct relationship with real things and real people; it relates instead to objects of its own imagination and memory. Its own bodily experiences and actions become alien part of a false-self system. Thus, the self becomes 'a relationship which relates itself to itself' (Cf. supra). This relationship sustains an illusion of omnipotence and freedom within (and only within) the circle of its own shut-upness in fantasy. The psychotic's freedom consists in being inaccessible. Action is the dead end of possibility. It scleroses freedom. Laing concludes that there is one basic defence in every form of psychosis: 'the denial of being as a means of preserving being'.


~ Robert M Young

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