Tuesday 12 January 2010

Existential Pioneers. 3. Laing: The Divided Self (1960) 50 Years On. Inner Circle Seminar 158 (5 December 2010)

R. D. Laing
Hampstead Heath, 1960
Existential Pioneers

3. R. D. Laing
The Divided Self (1960)
50 Years On

Anthony Stadlen
conducts Inner Circle Seminar No. 158
Sunday 5 December 2010
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fifty years ago this month, in December 1960, R. D. Laing’s first and best known book, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness, was published. It attracted little attention at first, but by the end of the 1960s it had become a bestseller.

Laing stated his purposes as: (1) ‘to make madness, and the process of going mad, comprehensible’; and (2) ‘to give in plain English an account, in existential terms, of some forms of madness’. In today’s seminar we explore the book in some detail, and ask how far it fulfils these stated purposes. This will necessarily entail our asking what Laing meant by ‘madness’, in the light of his statement that ‘the critical test of whether a patient is psychotic is a lack of congruity, an incongruity, a clash, between him and me’. We shall pay particular attention to some of Laing’s memorable case studies, and also to the differences between the arguments of Laing’s book and of Thomas Szasz’s book The Myth of Mental Illness published a few months later. Much has been written about The Divided Self, most of it based on very inadequate reading of it. Today’s seminar will try to do justice to this brilliant book’s strengths and weaknesses.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (http://www.durrantshotel.co.uk/)
Cost: Students £108, others £135; some bursaries; mineral water, coffee, tea, biscuits, liquorice allsorts included
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:
For further information on seminars, visit: http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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