With the exception of Freud’s eccentric disciple Wilhelm Reich, it was not until after WW II that a school of psychology appeared that was willing to take Freud’s hypothesis of collective insanity seriously and to launch out along a different route. R.D. Laing, whose background was as much Existentialist-Marxist as it was Freudian, was among the first to assume an adversarial position on the issue of insanity.
Convinced that the mad, or at least some portion of those designated schizophrenic, may be a rare and endangered species desperately in need of protection, Laing argued that psychological breakdown could be the first step toward enlightened breakthrough. It might be an incipient assertion of true sanity by those who were still at least resilient enough to feel the pain of society’s oppression. It is therefore the psychiatrist’s responsibility to take the side of the mad against wrong-headed social authority.
“We live”, said Laing, in the midst of “socially shared hallucinations…our collusive madness is what we call sanity”.
From Laing’s work and that of Thomas Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness), a small, insurgent school of Radical Therapy – sometimes called Antipsychiatry – developed, which sees itself as a sort of Mad Liberation Front, the ally and advocate of suffering souls against all the forces that would “adjust” them to their place in an insane world.
Roszak believes that the Radical Therapists may never get beyond heroic opposition to the psychiatric establishment, the result being more of a political cause than personal health, although there is hope that the two can be allied in a people’s psychology that will integrate self-awareness within the revolutionary process. He acknowledges, however, that neurosis is defined within a political context and is therefore intimately related to the social health and harmony surrounding the individual.
~ Theodore Roszak, Voice of the Earth.