‘The Divided Self’ by R. D. Laing Commentary
In ‘The Divided Self’, Laing examines schizoid and schizophrenic people and attempts to make their situation more understandable in existential terms. In order to understand Laing’s work, a person must first understand the concept of existential phenomenology, in which a person is characterized by his way of being-in-the-world. It involves the way he reacts to his environment and himself as a part of his world. It must also be mentioned that a person can not interact with the world, without having relatedness to others in the world.
Part One Laing begins by stating that a schizoid is one that is divided into different parts, between himself and his world, and within his own
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Also, only in terms of a person’s present, can one understand their past, rather than viewing their past as an explanation for their present. Before placing a patient into any particular category, a psychiatrist should try to understand what they are trying to say first. If a patient is prematurely labeled, then it is more likely they will be misread and misunderstood. Even if the person knows every scientific fact concerning schizophrenia, it is still possible that the person will not be able to understand a single schizophrenic; as looking at a patient in terms of schizophrenia as opposed to simply as a human being are very different. In attempting to understand a schizophrenic, the psychiatrist must be able to place himself in different and strange views of the world, to see the existential position of the patient. Schizophrenia must not be viewed as a disease one can catch; a person is schizophrenic. A therapist must therefore realize that both their love and hate are very relevant. How the schizophrenic is viewed through the eyes of the therapist determines what the therapist is to him. Certain schizophrenic signs are viewed as more or less important depending on different psychiatrists. When two sane people are with each other, it can be expected that “A will recognize B to be more or less the person B takes himself to be, and vice versa”(p. 34). In other