Laing is considered by many to be a founding figure in the anti-psychiatry movement. In this book he postulates that the development of a unified sense of self is essential in cultivating and maintaining a relationship with the outside world. This “ontological security” provides us with the belief that the world is a stable place in which to live, and affirmative of our choice to live there. The “ontologically insecure” person, such as a schizophrenic or psychotic individual, has failed to develop this unity of self, from birth onwards through adolescence and into adult life. It is this insecurity, Laing believed, that distorts the individual’s relationship with the world, to the extent that there is no defence against him or her being “acted on”, or perceived in any way. What is needed, Laing argues, is greater understanding of the gestures and communications of those whom society wrongly ignores and demonises as “mad”.
This book is essential reading for anyone cast with a psychiatric label, or their carers to provide a deeper understanding of what is going on. It is also a great place to start for anyone interested in existentialism, and it’s impact on psychiatry, anti-psychiatry, and psychiatric diagnosis.