This is Ronald Laing's brilliant first work, written by the eminent psychiatrist at the tender young age of 28. I must say that it contains one of the most eloquent and compassionate descriptions of the process by which an individual retreats from the world of consensual experience and enters the fantastic world of psychosis. Laing provides a detailed theory of this process in his dichotomy between the "false" and "real" selves (based on the existentialist notions of inauthentic and authentic existence, respectively). (Laing explains that the "false self" is best thought of as a "system of false selves".) Beginning with the eccentric neurotic and "schizoid" individuals, Laing explains how these individuals, from a sense of ontological insecurity, progress into the schizophrenic stage of acute psychosis. He harvests the profound insights of existential philosophers (Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, et al) and applies them to his psychoanalysis.
While I find his explanations of the schizoid individual pretty compelling, they become more and more difficult to follow as he approaches the schizophrenic stage. (In fact, the last case presented in his book of chronic schizophrenia, "The Ghost of the Weed Garden", is downright depressing, and his idea of the schizophrenogenic family (as opposed to schizophrenogenic mother) of this girl seems somewhat unfair to the family members of this chronically psychotic individual.) Most people today would agree that schizophrenia (or "the schizophrenias", whatever the disease/s is/are) is best explained in terms of physiology; however, Laing offers an excellent existential analysis of the "illness" and provides insight into the unique perspectives of the borderline psychotic and psychotic individuals.
All in all, this is a beautiful exposition of the schizoid/schizophrenic mode of being-in-the-world.