Born OTD in 1927, Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis, R. D. Laing. Laing’s views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy.

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Laing’s radical approach to insanity offered a rich existential analysis of personal alienation and made him a cult figure in the 1960s, yet his work was most significant for its humane attitude, which put the patient back at the centre of treatment.

First published in 1960, this watershed work aimed to make madness comprehensible, and in doing so revolutionized the way we perceive mental illness. Using case studies of patients he had worked with, psychiatrist R. D. Laing argued that psychosis is not a medical condition, but an outcome of the ‘divided self’, or the tension between the two personas within us: one our authentic, private identity, and the other the false, ‘sane’ self that we present to the world.

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