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January 30, 1970 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-01-30

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THE NtICHIGA 3 C AIL.Y

Friday, January 30, 197

THE MICHIGAN DAILY Friday, January 30, 197

Laing:
th
R. D. Laing, The Divided Self,. h'
and Self and Others, Pantheon
Books. $5.95 each.

Experience

as

trauma

By DONALD MOSS
Life counterfeits life; cold,
clean winter winds become fur-
ious methane; death counter-
feits death.
R. D. Laing fafls flying into
schizophrenic space of eyes
without mothers, Adams with-
out God; his wings are Blake's,
Freud's, N. 0. Brown's, but ul-
timately they are his own, made
of yes and pain and life-love.
In The Divided Self Laing
presents the schizophrenogenic
base as one of "primary ontolo-
gical insecurity." At the most
fundamental level of differen-
tiation of self and world the in-
fant experiences only dread; he
has no experience that is his, no
home; his literary spokesmen
are Beckett and Kafka, not
Shakespeare, Sophocles; Borges
is a receding galaxy. There are
no colors, no I (eye), no poetry.
Lovei becomes engulfing, for he
owns no receptacle (self) to
hold it; reality can be nothing
except implosive when he sees
himself as a vacuum; interper-
sonal contact petrifies f o r it
means being only the subjective
experience of another.
Wombed in the terrible thigh
of this space, a false self, com-
mitted to phantasy in order to
survive, is born. Yet without ex-
perience to nurse it, phantasy's
source withers, turns on itself
and "real toads invade one im-
aginary gardens and ghosts
walk in the real streets."
The schizophrenic lives h i s
metaphors; there is no "as if."
Movement is smothered: avoid-
ing life in order to live, killing
self in order to be. The distance
between the false self and real
self, is created in order t ha t
there be no connection between
the two; thus, the real self may
starve while the false self ap-
pears fulfilled (compare this to
the neurotic process of joy
Today's writers ...
Donald Moss is a fourth-year
medical student specializing in
Psychiatry. Liz Wissmnan is a
graduate student in the Eng-
lish Department.

ce
ho
fa
ga
le

rough frustration, even frus-
ation through joy).
Laing conceptualizes the pro-
ss of going mad as a basically
onest inability to maintain the
lse-self system. This letting
o means dropping into bottom-
ss space (Freud's primary pro-

ity of the schizophrenic vision
and leaves himself open to be
called infatuated, Romantic, etc.
Yet, a Pied Piper of psychosis
he is not: Laing knows this de-
sert and knows it is a desert.
Laing's philosophical base. is
in modern French existential-
ism, his psychological perspec-
tive a dialetic of analytic and
phenomenological sources. But
this academic b u 1 k seems
weightless, its mass becomes
shimmering and almost trans-
parent instead of gray. viscous
and deadly. It allows him to af-
firm rather than interpret in
therapy: when a patient notices
Laing's attention drifting, Laing
apologizes, validating the pa-
tient's experience, telling him
that part of his world is "real."
M o r e practical suggestions.
more of what Laing's perspec-
tive means for therapy, would
be desirable, but the book is
about schizophrenia, not about
psychiatry. This insistence nev-
ertheless impedes Laing's abil-
ity to expand. His images be-
come incestuous as they turn in
on each other, almost exploding.
Laing's latest book, Self and
Others, a revision of a 1962
work, has a broad scope, de-
scribing interpersonal processes,
their phantasy sources, and
their relationship to schizophre-

nia. He begins by attempting to
redefine the classical psychol-
analytic perspectives of inter-
personal dynamics which a r e
almost all based on mind-body,
inner-outer dichotomies; Laing
explodes this: "To explain it-,
self. the theory spirals f r o m
non - phenomenological postu-
lates devised to 'explain' how
what is 'in' the 'mind' is experi-
enced as 'outside' 'the mind' 'in'
the 'body'." He insists that ex-
perience is the only valid exper-
ience. and that much of psycho-
therapy acts only to place bar-
riers between self and exper-
'ence. thereby "curing."
The book's most powerful
chapter, "Pretence and Elus-
ion,' conceptualizes the process
by which the infan't real self,
A, is denied him so that he
learns to be B, but later he real-
izes the lie of this and moves
quickly and easily to A'. a per-
, f .__: CON._._E_

feet copy of A, but nevertheles
absolutely unreal. To get bac
home he has to go backwa:i
through all the illusions; goin
forward means only more lie
I't is precisely this going bac
and being homeless - Laing,
p r o c e s s of derealization-re
realization -- that heralds ;h
onset of psychosis, for every
thing becomes questionable:
side-outside. mine-yours. Phan
tasy rules because phantasy is.
The rest of the book is slog
mroving into modes of interac
tion. such as use of complemen
tary identities, bilateral collu
sion (beautifully using Gen:
"The Balcony" , confirmatior
and di sconfirmation. The sim
p'e theme in these chapters i
that one's vision of the worlt
supports one's vision of onesel;
and when they become disson-
ant. one probably will chang
one's world.

cess), space terrified of itself:
but it also means flying into
visionary space without the
one-dimensionality of contem-
porary language, without t h e
linearity of civilization. Laing
uses clinical examples to high-
light the poetry and universal-

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