Vaughan Bell measures the professional against the personal in the life of counter-culture psychiatrist R.D. Laing:

Madness, [Laing] argued, was a transformative experience, rich with personal meaning, that functions like an existential rite of passage. Delusions and hallucinations were the expression of the unmentionable, illustrating the emotional double-booking keeping of the family with an unignorable tear in the fabric between the conscious and unconscious mind.

When you talk to psychiatrists from Laing’s generation, they are rarely complimentary. The fact he fuelled the ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement (unwittingly, he claimed) is secondary to the fact that they chiefly remember his decline from a brilliant thinker to a tacky drunk.

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