R. D. Laing wore many robes in his career, including psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, social critic, author, poet, and mystic, and at the peak of his fame and popularity in the 1970s he was the most widely-read psychiatrist in the world.
|Arguably the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud, Laing's meteoric rise in the 1960s was the result of his rare ability to make complex ideas accessible with such best-selling classics as The Divided Self (1960), Sanity, Madness and Family (1964), The Politics of Experience (1967), Knots (1970), and many others. Laing's impassioned plea for a more humane treatment of those in society who are most vulnerable catapulted him into the vanguard of intellectual and cultural debate about the nature of sanity and madness, and inspired a generation of psychology students, intellectuals, and artists to turn this disarming Scotsman into a social icon.
One of the most seminal aspects to Laing’s approach to the human condition was his exploration into how human beings treat each other: the healing dimension to our relationships. Laing was psychoanalyst, philosopher, and existentialist, with a no-holds barred critique of the dark side of the human condition, as well as its virtues. Our symposium this year will explore what healing entails, in all of the many contexts in which we experience it, including psychotherapy, altered states, psychedelics, education, and any experience that brings us peace of mind and a more meaningful existence.
In previous Esalen workshops we have explored the meaning of sanity, therapy, authenticity, love, happiness, spirituality, and ethics. The focus of our annual Esalen symposium and workshop this year shifts to psychotherapy
and training in existential psychoanalysis, a more philosophical yet personal approach to therapy initiated by Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. Two of our Faculty trained with Laing and founded Free Association, Inc., and its New School for Existential Psychoanalysis to further this approach to healing. Several of our students will also present their work at this year's symposium. The workshop will be comprised of theoretical presentaitons, panel discussions, and experiential exercises to demonstrate practice aspects of Laing's legacy.
Among the questions we will explore:
1. What is the relation between healing and treatment?
2. What experiences have we enjoyed that we believe were healing, and why?
3. Does healing require "treatment," or can extra-clinical experiences be just as healing, or more so?
4. Is love an essential aspect of healing, or does it get in the way?
5. Does healing reduce suffering, or does it simply increase our capacity to suffer?
Join us for five breathtaking days at Esalen Institute on the Pacific Coast to explore how we can promote more humane and effective ways of helping those suffering from everyday life.
–MICHAEL GUY THOMPSON, NITA GAGE, FRITJOF CAPRA