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Lowenfeld, H. (1963). The Self and Others. Further Studies in Sanity and Madness: By R. D. Laing. (Studies in Existential Analysis and Phenomenology.) (London: Tavistock Publications, 1961. Pp. 186. 25 s.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:116-118.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:116-118

The Self and Others. Further Studies in Sanity and Madness: By R. D. Laing. (Studies in Existential Analysis and Phenomenology.) (London: Tavistock Publications, 1961. Pp. 186. 25 s.

Review by:
Henry Lowenfeld

R. D. Laing, author of The Divided Self, attempts in his new work to explore the self within a 'nexus' of other persons. In his introductory chapter about 'the phenomena of phantasy' he evaluates critically psycho-analytical theories. He states that the validity of such mechanisms as conversion, projection, etc., 'postulated to provide a shuttle service between two worlds … rests on the validity of a very confused dualistic philosophy of psychical and physical, inner and outer, mental and physical'. But the hope that the author will develop less 'confused' concepts to replace these is certainly disappointed.

Laing deals at some length with the problem that no one can see through another's eyes or hear through another's ears, but has to draw inferences which are based on a number of assumptions. This process is hazardous, as the psychiatrist 'may simply step through the looking-glass into his own projected phantasy. …' These well-known dangers are discussed by the author, because he postulates that existential analysis 'differs from this naïve "natural" understanding … it is an attempt to understand the patient's being-in-his-world systematically … it is an attempt to do this in a self-critical way. …' Laing quotes Mounier: 'The person is not an object that can be inspected, but is a centre of re-orientation of the objective universe.' The author obviously assumes that such a vague formulation should assist us in the certainly difficult task of understanding the 'other'—this is the term that Laing uses throughout the book—in the task of examining one's inferences critically, and at the same time not interfering with empathic understanding.

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