R.D. Laing and the Politics of Madness By Louise M. Hart 26 years after his death a biopic has recently been released about the life of, “acid psychiatrist,” and counter cultural guru, R. D. Laing. Whilst a range of theorists, writers and even some of his former patients have attempted to discredit Laing’s theories and practice, his star continues to shine. Supporting this is the primacy and currency of discourse about the man and his world view. Ronald David Laing (1927-1989) is most famous for challenging mainstream psychiatry. His legacy, also, includes his much wider attack on the dominant model of scientific reason and western post-enlightenment thinking. Laing uproots traditional belief systems and rather, reconfigures psychiatry in a framework that is both socio-political and philosophic. Influenced by existential philosophy, Laing argues that the diagnosis of mental disorder, or madness (his preferred term) should not be based on patients’ presentation or behaviour. He believes that treating behaviour medically is false epistemology. Accordingly, a patient’s mental health is no longer a signifier of conduct but a consequence of how their beliefs impact and shape their behaviour. Laing famously writes about the experience of breakdown/breakthrough as a regenerative process. He encourages patients’ personal growth and claims that a psychotic break does not have to induce psychical deterioration. Rather, he perceives the process as a transformative experience comparable with a shamanic journey and argues that a positive outcome should involve a freer and more humanistic treatment of patients. In 1965 he opened the now notorious, Kingsley Hall as an alternative to traditional psychiatric hospitals, which promote a medical model approach to mental health. At Kingsley Hall patients were allowed to act out their psychosis free of tranquilising, anti-psychotic medication and offered in contrast, illegal and hallucinogenic drugs. Laing recognised that anti-psychotic medication sedated and dulled the mind to the more metaphysical symptoms associated with psychosis. He believed in contrast that hallucinogens expanded consciousness and promoted the free expression of thought, feeling and behaviour. Laing proposed that his revolutionary approach to mental illness, backed by the use of hallucinogenic drugs constituted a more effective treatment option for those affected by psychosis than the traditional medicalized approach. The Laingian model promised the possibility of healing through spiritual and psychological renewal. At best the Kingsley Hall experiment produced mixed results. At least 2 patients died jumping from the rooftop. But, it represented an important landmark in the aetiology of mental health theory and practice and opened up the debate about the use of medication. Today’s mental health recovery movement is one of the more progressive social change movements and arguably would not exist without Laing’s influence. It is progressive because it challenges not only mainstream psychiatry, but the ideological basis of received thinking in contemporary western society about the normative principle. Laing and recovery model advocates argue that the concept of normality is the prerequisite for the construct of madness. Consequently, were we to eradicate the notion of normality, madness, also, would be extinguished.


I’m not Paranoid, I just don’t Trust anyone


By Louise M. Hart

Don’t look at me

Don’t-look-at-me

Does my face threaten your subjectivity

Or put you off your cup of tea?

I took my tablets today

So now I’m symptom free

What do you see…

When you meet my glare?

I pull out my hair

And worry that you can see my scaly skin

Through the tear

In my jeans or smell my underwear

I pretend not to care

But I am crucified inside

Like Jesus Christ mounted on a cross of mind

After forty days and forty nights in the wilderness

Of my turbulent mental flight

Like squabbling lovers my thoughts scream and shout

I try to quieten them

In case you can hear

But you laugh in fear

Don’t look at me

Don’t-look-at-me

I look at you

And suddenly remember that you are only three

Rent Boy


By Louise M. Hart

He silently sits in a busy underpass

Raggedy man reflecting his soul like glass

“Only the poor give to the poor,” He thinks

A benefit scrounger inserts a pound coin

Between his teeth

And drops it into raggedy man’s hat

He eats empty plates of thoughts for dinner

And dreams of being fat

His heart has no home

Less, his body resides in the West Midlands of nowhere

He does not even own a cat

Called Bob

Man, it is boring here

Where he cannot afford a beer or a filtered cigarette

His brow is lined with the sweat of circumstance and distress

And all because his Mother called him, “a sinner”

He was big in Moseley once

Now he is invisible in an underpass

Wanker banker leaves work at 5.33

He passes Mr Raggedy

And notices the curve of his lips

His hungry brown eyes

And delicate finger tips

He rubs his wallet

Tea at Nanna’s


By Louise M. Hart

 

Sit at the table girls

Remember to say, “Please,” and “Thank you”

And never use bad words

Like, “Oh God,” and, “sod,” and “bloody ‘ell”

Children should be seen but never heard

Except by those who wash their underwear

 

Pretend to contentedly defer

To your superiors; the vicars and doctors

Who will one day fear

The glare of your exterior

Nose studs which endear you to the great unwashed

Bovver boots yielding you to trample underfoot

The mass who speak with crap

Leaking through the cracks of their posteriors

 

Sterilised milk makes our guts heave

But we say, “Thank you,” when it is poured into our cups

Butter sandwiches, a slice of ham inside

Nanna watches us eating, almost pulsating with pride

Tinned peaches as slippery as brine

When eaten with butter and bread

And combined with love and twinkling blue eyes

And the cakes…

 

We all like a bit of what you fancy

 

Mine was French

And encased in perfectly pink skin

Creamy upon the touch of my tongue

And slobbering chin

But taste is subject to change

So I subsequently deferred to a bit of brown

Being slim the aim in mind

Pink became the colour of yesteryear’s mistress race

A lick of brown replaced my love heart dress and fear of clowns

 

Forced to nibble pink

In an exhibition of familial love

I closed my nostrils

And thanked God above

For supplying fish for supper

 

 

 

Awakening Time


Awakening Time

By

Louise M. Hart

 

In exchange for my mortality

I was sentenced to purgatory

Shunning the luxury of life

I escaped the descent of death

Yielding no being no body

No voice or breath

 

Today I stand on insentient land

For I would rather be insentient

Than subject to death on demand

 

O’ children of life I banefully cried

Deserted earth

And parted the sky

And whilst the goddess above

Beckoned my love

The demons below

Seduced my soul

 

Torment chose their eyes

Hers winked

Like the stars

Above which she knitted

A complicit pattern of survival

 

Awaiting the world’s arms

Lay a shadow of dreams

Supporting humanity’s potential

For spiritual need

A need forever on the periphery

Like an infinite why

Conceived from the loins of a materialistic lie

And nurtured in the garden of truth

 

The awakening time is here

This life is queer

My awakening

Time

 

 

 

I am not a Sister’s Poet


She sways through town

5 feet 9 inches tall

And wide

Inside

She is still a child

 

Her boyfriend nods

On her mountainous back

Of a push bike

Trip to hell

His wheels deflated

By the airy tight force

Of her cutting mouth

 

She is driven to swell

Him

Beneath

But, he carries no desires

To service a chauffeur

And offers her

No passenger led rides

 

He is merely on loan to her

Until his use-by date expires

 

Whilst her skin is as ice is thin

Thoughts dripping

Beneath the frozen veil

Of words that threaten

To betray her

Her actions

Speak louder

Than her

Designer heels of delusion

 

And she short circuits reality

By reaching for the sky

 

Clip, clip, clop

She conscientiously navigates

Society’s exclusive upper underbelly

For if she stops, she fears that

Like her punctured bicycle

She will never be remounted

For Iain Duncan Smith, Ode to the Death of Another Benefit Scrounger


I read the news, today

Glasgow writer killed

By the hand

That did not feed him

A suicide statistic

Soon to be forgotten

Like the books

He laboured hard to write

Which no one cares to read

 

And sitting outside Wetherspoons

Alongside my companionable

Cigarettes and alcohol

I contemplate

The minister of The State

Who one day

Will withdraw

My disability living allowance

Because I can crawl

More than 2 metres

And write

Bloody awful poetry

 

I am the common word

More Smith

Than Plath

Pretentious enough

To be proud

To be working class

 

And, suddenly, life seems…

…like perpetual misery

And I become the future statistic

I do not want to be

 

Meanwhile…

Occupying his inflaming

Twin towers of ivory

Plated over-privilege

And steely mouthed

Prosthetic political power

The star player

In Cameron’s corrupted cabinet

Of party members

Porn players, all

And secretarial back (side)

Slappers

A stabber

Of the foulest form

Opens his whoring mouth

And laughs

 

Like Lucifer on crack

His Machiavellian throat

Issues sound that even Tony

Bastard bliar, bliar

After dinner speaker tones for hire

Cannot rival

 

Like a converse Jon Snow

Turned to Tory slush

He is the illegitimate

Legitimate product

Of an ideological game

Of thrones

And human slaughter

 

United Kingdom

Lock up your sick and disabled

Sons and daughters

Iain Duncan Smith

Is on the hunt

Pheasant is so last season’s

Prey

New labour’s elected

Sunday lunch

 

Human flesh

Is more appetising

These post-imperialistic

McSalad and fries days

 

With I.D.S. on my mind

I board the bus home

Grateful to still have money

In my pocket

And no student payback loan

 

But when I arrive home

I open the door

And staring back at me

From a crimson mat

Is a letter

Marked

Department of Work and Pensions

 

I take out a blade

And with a frenzied slash

The sullied brown envelop

Bleeds ink

Red as the gash

Adorning my wrist

 

I tear myself to pieces

Then I light a cigarette

Between

Slices

Of my orange peel fingers tips

 

Ode to the death of another

Benefit scrounger

Homage to the demise

Of a seated disco dancer

And an inverted snob