Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

R. D. Laing, fully Ronald David Laing

Scottish Psychologist who wrote extensively on Mental Illness

"The psychiatrist must become a fellow traveler with his patient."

"Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death."

"Violence attempts to constrain the other's freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other's own existence or destiny."

"The truth brings with it a great measure of absolution, always."

"When the Copernican Revolution superseded the ancient Polemic world view, the earth took its rightful place as one planet among many. Man was no longer the center of the universe and though his self-image was deflated, he grew in maturity. In the same way, we must take our rightful place in nature - not as its self-centered and profligate "master" with the divine right of kings to exploit and despoil, but as one species living in harmony with the whole."

"We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love."

"A child born today in the United Kingdom stands a ten times greater chance of being admitted to a mental hospital than to a university... This can be taken as an indication that we are driving our children mad more effectively than we are genuinely educating them. Perhaps it is our way of educating them that is driving them mad."

"Alienation as our present destiny is achieved only by outrageous violence perpetrated by human beings on human beings."

"Attempts to wake before our time are often punished, especially by those who love us most. Because they, bless them, are asleep. They think anyone who wakes up, or who, still asleep, realizes that what is taken to be real is a "

"Even facts become fictions without adequate ways of seeing the facts. We do not need theories so much as the experience that is the source of the theory. We are not satisfied with faith, in the sense of an implausible hypothesis irrationally held: we demand to experience the evidence."

"Each time a new baby is born there is a possibility of reprieve. Each child is a new being, a potential prophet, a new spiritual prince, a new spark of light precipitated into the outer darkness."

"Creative people who can't help but explore other mental territories are at greater risk, just as someone who climbs a mountain is more at risk than someone who just walks along a village lane."

"Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that."

"Here we have the paradox, the potentially tragic paradox, that our relatedness to others is an essential aspect of our being, as is our separateness, but any particular person is not a necessary part of our being."

"From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful."

"If I don't know I don't know, I think I know. If I don't know I know I know, I think I don't know."

"Freud was a hero. He descended to the Underworld and met there stark terrors. He carried with him his theory as a Medusa's head which turned these terrors to stone."

"In a world full of danger, to be a potentially seeable object is to be constantly exposed to danger. Self-consciousness, then, may be the apprehensive awareness of oneself as potentially exposed to danger by the simple fact of being visible to others. The obvious defence against such a danger is to make oneself invisible in one way or another."

"If you have passion for what you do, the company you keep, the life you live, it will be reflected in whatever you create. Passion is like that; it springs out, jumps, unpredictable and unplanned, into everything we touch. If it doesn't, others know. Passion can't be faked and it can't be manufactured. Which is why it is so priceless."

"In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are than in what they are not. Our social realities are so ugly if seen in the light of exiled truth, and beauty is no longer possible if it is not a lie."

"It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that because a group"

"Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world."

"Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent."

"Perhaps God is not dead; perhaps God is himself mad."

"Rule A: Don't. Rule A1: Rule A doesn't exist. Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or non-existence of Rules A, A1 or A2."

"Normality highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100, 000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years."

"Psychological breakdowns are actually breakthroughs to enlightenment."

"Perfection is something we should all strive for. It's a duty and a joy to perfect one's nature... The most difficult thing is love. A loveless, driving person that just competes in the rat race is far from perfection in my book."

"Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair"

"The brotherhood of man is evoked by particular men according to their circumstances. But it seldom extends to all men. In the name of our freedom and our brotherhood we are prepared to blow up the other half of mankind and to be blown up in our turn."

"The experience and behavior that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation."

"Schizophrenic behavior is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation."

"The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one"

"The Lotus opens. Movement from earth, through water, from fire to air. Out and in beyond life and death now, beyond inner and outer, sense and non-sense, meaning and futility, male and female, being and non-being, Light and darkness, void and full. Beyond all duality, or non-duality, beyond and beyond. Disincarnation. I breathe again."

"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds."

"There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain."

"To live in the past or in the future may be less satisfying than to live in the present, but it can never be as disillusioning."

"There is no such ''condition'' as ''schizophrenia,'' but the label is a social fact and the social fact a political event."

"True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is."

"We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world -- mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt"

"We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing."

"Truth is literally that which is without secrecy, what discloses itself without a veil. "

"We are all in a post-hypnotic trance induced in early infancy"

"We are all murderers and prostitutes - no matter to what culture, society, class, nation one belongs, no matter how normal, moral, or mature, one takes oneself to be."

"True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality... and through this death a rebirth and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer."

"Whether life is worth living depends on whether there is love in life."

"What we call "

"When family relations are no longer harmonious, we have filial children and devoted parents."

"What we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And when we fail to notice that we have failed to notice there's nothing we can do to change. Until we notice that failing to notice is what forms our thoughts and our deeds."

"Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough."