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Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (Penguin psychology) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin psychology
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (December 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140134662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140134667
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Not Moses on September 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gregory Bateson and Robert Lifton figured out the mechanisms. Salvador Minuchin and Stephen Karpman figured out the systems of triangulation. Ron Laing and Aaron Esterson documented it all right here.

There really are a lot of "great books" in this field, but this one stands out as an absolute must for anyone who'd call him- or herself a "master" of family therapy.

We can't say for sure if the authors saw the crazy-making ("schizogenic") family as a half-conscious, mind control cult run by parents trapped in religious and cultural "common sense." But they surely understood Karpman's notions of covertly controlling rescuers, crafty persecutors and duty victims in family systems where the parents believe to their very core that the painful memories and emotions they suffered in their own crazy-making families of origin are "intolerable."

In the service of affective "stuffing," these people infect their children with the contagion they contracted in their own psychogenic youth.

Alice Miller was asked by an interviewer if she'd read Laing. She had. She went no further, but it's clear in her own work that she saw all this in her "Prisoners of Childhood." As valuable as Miller's many books have been for a generation of therapists, however, none of them illustrate her notions of "for your own good" and "thou shalt not be aware" as well as this one.

The crazy-made parents need a crazy child upon whom to project all of their intolerable guilt, shame, worry, remorse, regret and grief for the suffering of their own childhoods.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on March 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Famed psychiatrist R. D. Laing gives a study of eleven families and thier children whom are schizophrenic. Laing gives no interjections, but rather lets the conversations that the families have amongst themselves give their own testimony. Laing lets the reader know where language patterns occur, in which he believes is largely due to the psychic split. The "double bind" theory introduced by Gregory Bateson, in which the child has been given mixed messages. In the cases given, the studies are all female, and the mothers are usually the aggressor, while the father the passive, and if other siblings are included, they usually side with the mother against the sibling. Shocking, sad and enlightening all together, Laing gives a great look on how schizophrenic in this light can and does occur. Highly reccomended and should be read by all psychologists entering or in the field (it is a shame that this book, like so many of R.D. Laings books are out of print). One should include with this book Gregory Batesons "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" which includes the essay which explains the "double bind."
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on October 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
That is to say there are logical means to schizophrenia, and nothing that confers to a physical disability. An amazing study of eleven families and the children who are hospitalized because of their "illness" (incidentally noted, they are all female patients). Dr. Laing and Dr. Esertons account of schizophrenia all points to the facts that this mental illness is not a physical impairment, but a distrust in a persons reality, through communication, through insecurity of beliefs and senses. Schizophrenics choose logically and intelligently under the confines of family life with the parents (who are more delussional than the patient). Although this book is primarily a psychological study, it reads like a novel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By minnow on May 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a series of interview transcripts of the families of schizophrenics, with a forward describing each family situation and the patient. The authors' theory was that schizophrenia in a person could be a result not of illness in the patient, but of family dynamics. To test this theory, Laing and Esterson interviewed the patient's families -- usually the mother, father, siblings, and grandparents if available, as well as the patients themselves.

The interviews certainly show that many jumbled signals were being received by the child; and many factors (projection, denial, extensive control of the child's behavior etc.) were at play.

For example, a patient might say, "I was very unhappy at school... I felt ashamed of my (whatever)," And the mother chimes in with, "You enjoyed math, didn't you?" Even though she and the father actively discouraged the child to study mathematics. Thus the patient stops talking, mystified by this comment which is so at odds with what was actually their experience.... and forgets to pursue their telling the mother about the shame they felt. These poor souls become catatonic, unable to speak or unwilling to.

Often it seems that the parents had a stake in denying the patients their selfhood.

Like Laing's other work, the feeling one comes away with is of empathy and sympathy with the patients, and a feeling that they are not so insane as others think them to be. This is what I take away from Laing's work -- empathy ---- but also a focused look at what could be causing the mental illness.

This wasn't as helpful to me as "The Divided Self," but I still found it to be sobering and in some places humorous, in a sad way, because it was quite familiar in spots, the convoluted way these families "communicated."
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