Intended for healthcare professionals


The Divided Self

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 25 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:211
  1. Paul Crichton, consultant psychiatrist (
  1. 1London

    In his short life the Scottish psychiatrist Ronald (“Ronnie”) Laing progressed from iconoclast to guru and mystic. The Divided Self was written at the beginning of this journey, when he was only 30. He went on to write other books in which he expressed some of the main tenets of the anti-psychiatry movement, including the belief that madness can be a useful interpersonal strategy or even a healing process rather than an illness—but this first book, published in 1960, is probably his best.

    In it he describes with empathy some of his patients and concludes that those who developed schizophrenia did so because of disturbed family relationships. Although he followed Freud in regarding schizophrenia as a disorder of ego identity, his book made schizophrenic symptoms—often regarded as …

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