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R. D. Laing

R.D. Laing

Ronald David Laing (R. D. Laing), a Scottish psychiatrist was born on 7th October 1927 in the Govanhill district of Glasgow. He father was David Park MacNair and his mother was Amelia Glen Laing and he was the only child of his parents. Ronald description of his parents especially his mother’s attitude was somewhat odd. He wrote greatly about mental illness especially in relation to psychosis. His father had served as an electrical engineer in the Royal Arms force and often came home very depressed due to strained relations with his very own brother during Ronald’s teenage years. His mother on the other hand was described as someone who was “psychologically peculiar”. According to his self diagnosis, R. D. Laing had his fair share of problems too suffering from clinical depression and episodic alcoholism which he spoke about in the 1983 BBC Radio interview with Anthony Clare however he was free of these problems before his death. Furthermore, these problems had serious repercussions for him which consequently led to his clinical practice being ceased by the General Medical Council.

R. D. Laing was greatly influenced by existential philosophy as far as causes and treatments of serious mental dysfunction were concerned. With him it was like that he took the feelings the individual client or patient expressed as valid interpretations of lived experience instead of mocking it as some kind of mental disorder. Although he rejected the label but he was associated with the anti-psychiatry movement. Additionally, he was also known to be a thinker of the New Left. Initially, he was educated at Sir John Neilson Cuthbertson Public school and four years after that; he was transferred to Hutchesons’ Grammar School. At school, he was considered to be very clever, sharp, and competitive. Apart from that, Ronald was involved in reading various types of classics and philosophy and he read them from the local library. Due to his taste for music, he was made the associate of the Royal college of Music. At the University of Glasgow, he went on to study medicine and also for several other reasons. Firstly to face life and death and secondly was to become more scientific. From the age of 18, he started to engage into heavy drinking.

At the time of his medical period, he established “Socratic Club” and the philosopher Bertrand Russell agreed upon becoming the president. In 1950, he failed his exams but after a second attempt and spending 6 more months working on a psychiatric unit, he cleared them in 1951. In 1965, he established the Philadelphia Association which he also chaired.

At the age of 61 he died of a heart attack while playing tennis with his friend and colleague Robert W. Firestone.

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