Sunday 1 January 2017

Laing and Esterson. 7. The Golds. 50 years on. Hilary Mantel and Anthony Stadlen conduct Inner Circle Seminar 233 (12 February 2017)

Laing and Esterson

Sanity, Madness and the Family
50 Years On
Family 7: The Golds

Dame Hilary Mantel   Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 233
Sunday 12 February 2017
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hilary Mantel

R. D. Laing
Aaron Esterson


We believe that the shift of point of view that these descriptions both embody and demand has an historical significance no less radical than the shift from a demonological to a clinical viewpoint three hundred years ago.

Thus, in Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (1964), R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson introduced their revolutionary descriptions of eleven families of ‘schizophrenics’. But fifty years on, the ‘clinical viewpoint’ still reigns supreme. Have Laing and Esterson been proved wrong? They wrote: ‘Nobody can deny us the right to disbelieve in schizophrenia.’ Why, then, do most psychiatrists and psychotherapists claim Laing and Esterson said ‘families cause schizophrenia’?

Hilary Mantel wrote that the simple words the people speak’ in Laing and Estersons book gave her, at 20, the courage to write her own astonishing books. Her introductions to the seminars in this series have enthralled participants.

Anthony Stadlen continues to interview the eleven families in the twenty-first century. Today, we explore Chapter 7, on ‘Ruth Gold’ and her family, in the light of his discussions with Ruth’s familyWe shall play extracts from Estersons original tape-recordings from the early 1960s of Estersons and Laing’s interviews with the family as well as from Stadlen’s recordings of his own twenty-first-century interviews with Ruths brother and his wife. We shall view old and new family photographs. Your contribution to the discussion will be welcomed.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water, Durrants rock included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  +44 (0) 7809 433 250
For further information on seminars, visit:

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 universities.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree with Hilary Mantel’s comment that she is “wary ... the last thing I want to do is to embroider and steal the case histories away and make them over into literature”. In a similar light, although I think we need to understand Ruth’s whole story for the sake of liberty, I felt it verged on voyeuristic listening to Ruth’s torment on cassette. It was so private. I fear to appropriate it.

I had forgotten Ruth’s brother’s anger at Laing and Esterson’s “whitewash” of his and Ruth’s parents. However, I feel I have always sensed the horror and agony of all the women and have always taken the cases as sketches comparable to those of Matisse, where one simple line speaks the whole volume.

I thought it very brave and generous of Ruth’s brother’s beautiful widow to attend this seminar and share her experiences with us.