R. D. Laing

Ronald David Laing ( born October 7, 1927 in Glasgow, Scotland, † August 23 1989 in St. Tropez, France) was a British psychiatrist and one of the founders of the anti-psychiatry movement.


Laing After studying medicine at the University of Glasgow as a psychiatrist in the British Army ( 1951-1953 ). There he developed a special interest in " psychotic " patients. Inspired by reading Harry Stack Sullivan, Frieda Fromm- Reichmann and Marguerite Sechehayes, he sought an understanding access to this win.

In 1956 he went to London and worked on the London Tavistock Clinic. He began training as a psychoanalyst at the Institute for Psychoanalysis (his training analyst was Charles W. Rycroft under the supervision of Donald Winnicott and Marion Milner ). In disappointment and critical shift away from this experience, he turned to the analytical psychology of Carl Jung to whose thinking seems to allow rehabilitation " psychotic " processes as meaningful, mental restructuring ( " metanoia ").

1960 appeared The Divided Self ( German edition 1973: The Divided Self). Laing drew referring back to the contemporary philosophical movement of phenomenology and existentialism a first summary of his confrontation with the conventional psychiatry and psychoanalysis. He criticized on the basis of a phenomenological ontology of interpersonal relationship ( interpersonal phenomenology ) in particular their reifying, depersonalisierenden character and the resulting medical practice. The experience of the schizoid or schizophrenic existence is characterized by the constant feeling threatened - being, which he calls " ontological insecurity " and distinguish it from the basic experience of others.

From 1965 he lived in a shared apartment with schizophrenics in Kingsley Hall, a house in London (documentary Asylum by Peter Robinson, USA, 1972).

In 1965, he founded the Philadelphia Association, whose aim is to spare mentally ill by the common life in an assisted household admission to a psychiatric hospital.

In 1989 he died of a heart attack while playing tennis in St. Tropez.

In the 1960s, he worked with the mathematician, psychologist and philosopher George Spencer - Brown, who was known in Germany by Niklas Luhmann. Laing is one of the few scholars who explicitly appeal to Spencer - Brown's Laws Of Form.

" Did You Used to Be R. D. Laing? "Is a biographical television documentary of 1989. During 2000, the same play was awarded a prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


Laing's work as a whole is directed against the reification of mystifying considered by Freud as untreatable psychotic disorders. For Laing, these mental disorders are in the context of - family and social - genesis and are primarily existential situations of the individuals themselves, which must be lived by them and mitgelebt of the attending physicians, etc., and if at all possible, existentially mitverstanden ( rather than objectively categorized should be ). It Laing keeps a critical distance to all theories of mental disorders, unless they adjust the original human encounter, that is the authentic relationship aspect between the physician and the patient actor. Here he has regularly after that refer the criteria of the diagnostic overview about the definition of schizophrenia readily on this: The schizophrenia proves so almost as a projection of a schizophrenic theory; as such it is based on unquestioned attitudes and principles (such as the depersonalization ) that are detected in the corresponding diagnosis as krankheitswertige features on the object.

He was founder of the interpersonal phenomenology. This is intended as a way of describing what happens between people, with very substantial waiver of a medical interpretation or ideology (such as psychoanalysis or just existing psychiatric school of thought ). For the medical practice Laing calls for a phenomenological attitude which expresses itself in readiness for direct interpersonal encounter and the ability to renounce the typical situation of roles.


  • The divided self. An existential study of sanity and madness, 1987 ( orig. The Divided Self. An existential study on sanity and madness, 1960)
  • Sanity, Madness and the Family (1964 )
  • The Politics of Experience, 1967 German: phenomenology of experience, translated by Klaus Figge and Waltraud stone, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1969, ISBN 3-518-10314-8