Reading again this book, ‘Sanity, Madness and the Family’ (R.D Laing & A. Esterson), a collection of recorded interviews with 11 families. Each family had the common feature of having a child defined as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’ and had been subsequently hospitalized. Here we get not only an insight into the machinations of family brainwashing, but also a historic dimension in which we get a glimpse of the inheritance of systems from the next generation back. Here we enter into the generations of madness as an institution.
Having it’s origin in the early ‘60’s, the book is focused on generations familiar to me, and I recognize many of the now dated words of the time that made up the back-chat. Somewhat like a memory of the furniture in my grandmother’s parlour, these antiquated words and phrases come back to me as the units of the experience that I came to accept as myself.
Phrases such as, ‘showing-off’, ‘highly-strung’, ‘break-down’, ‘making a fuss’, ‘not your place’, ‘your own sweet way’, ‘full of yourself’, ‘spoiled’, ‘stubborn’, ‘selfish’, seem to me to be the features of the culture into which I was born. Each phrase carries a living connection to unconscious systems of values, this livingness of connection being me.
In seeing this book as another peek into my inheritance of systems, I realize also now that my initial ‘understanding’ of the book on first reading in my teenage years, would have been in the shape of how effectively the information had answered the question that I became as the starting point of reading this book. In the case of this book as well as a general ‘interest’ in psychology, the starting point was , ‘Is it, (within my belief and self judgement of there being ‘something wrong with me’), is it that I will find this definition of myself within this word of ‘schizophrenic’?
Looking back at these times I can see how this quest of self within the accepted reality of separation was ridiculously enough within a hope of finding myself amongst the ready made psychological definitions of human personality. I was seeking a definition from the system so that I could take part in the system, as a component of the system.
So first reading of this book had been an attempt to clarify the state of mystification in which I had walked away from my family. What I hadn’t realized was that on the other side of mystification lay a rooted belief in self definition as the way to go in this culture/system/world that seemed to me to be composed of definitions and labels, evident in the expressions and thoughts of family members such as in these charged up words I mentioned.
This process of mystification is a common feature amongst the interviews of these 11 families in the book. It is often the story of a child’s attempt to stabilize itself in the conditions of a conspiracy of fear and lies, in a story of war, of allegiances, parties, and special relationships, secret contracts, jealousy, and competition.
At one point in the book, Laing remarks that the parents “spoke without the slightest recognition that the modality of their experience and actions was fantasy”. It is as if the vehicle of the family system gets pushed along from generation to generation with no insight as to its content or direction. In these families specifically collateral damage was seen as an acceptable consequence, in which the opportunity of a child has been deliberately fucked over. Families in which there are no living beings but only beings suspended in abdication to automated systems.
Here’s the perspective of a being crossed over and talking through the Portal, a quote from Life Review My Life of Sin: (free!)
“…and there we are all going walking in our lives not realizing that we are not living, we are not here in this physical reality, we are complete zombies in these internal fantasy illusion imagination realities in our mind in which we’ve accumulated our little worlds as everything of this world that we are interpreting perceiving believing and like literally creating ideas of within our own minds. So it’s taking actual physical reality, imprinting everything, the likes, dislikes and preferences of all systems as all the parts into our minds and creating a mind world of the actual physical world and simply existing and experiencing ourselves as within our own interpretations of reality, as that’s literally how each human being is living in this world…”