John Jolliffe Counselling and Psychotherapy

The following writing on this page is an early draft. I claim copyright on it.

Social phenomenology, post modernism, realism…
in relation to the individual in society… intentional consciousness, subjectivity…

this will present 'compromising contradictions' to the current mode of constructivism – with a new realism for the 21st century.


just for simplicity – I will start off with a phenomenological account of an encounter that took place in July 1986.

I will attempt to portray a comparison regarding this meeting – with as I see it – its objective reality to that of some post-modernist interpretations (ideological and political).

I'm going to base that presentation of reality – as I see it – on the empirical perspectives and research findings of Attachment Theory.

A phenomenological account of The Last Tuesday Group.
(I will provide on another page – the actual two-page article that I wrote for a book – in what I see as a book of memories of RD Laing – which has the title 'RD Laing: Creative Destroyer'– by Bob Mullan – editor.)

but before I go into this –

I would first like to make a brief comment on aspects of the work of RD Laing.

My thinking in regards to RD Laing – when he set up the alternatives – such as with Kingsley Hall – to the traditional approaches of the psychiatric hospitals of the time – where treatments were given such as electroconvulsive therapy, insulin shock therapy, and brain leucotomy and lobotomy – there was a concern – of how easily – in those times one could be committed for compulsory treatment – often seen from some perspectives – involving what some saw as a political influence in the diagnosis. And political could be seen in terms of where a person does not agree with the values of The State as seen in some countries – or with those of a religious culture – or just not fitting in with the context of the cultural values in general. Also in regards to RD Laing’s approach – as best as I understand it – he was also concerned with the orthodox treatments of psychoanalysis of his time – which were applied to some of these patients – which involved Freudian/Neo-Freudian interpretations of Oedipus or Electra complexes, and Kleinian interpretations concerning – in her view – some deeply destructive impulses – and as I understand it – which she saw as the innate condition of children – starting off with the new-born infant – and the position from which she believed they needed to grow out of – or be educated out of. My understanding – again as I see – of RD Laing – is that he found these interpretations questionable – and in some cases – causing trauma to the patients in receipt of these very treatments. As well as of course 'befuddling' them (a description RD Laing used)– *as to what is really the reality of their situation and what might lie behind their condition. This I believe took him onto the phenomenological enquiry – where he became immersed – again as I see it – in existential phenomenology and its application to the human situation – in regards to phases or conditions of distress.

As far as I see it – and again I use that phrase – as far as I see it – for RD Laing was not easy for people to understand – where in fact he veered away – often very radically – from the traditional perspectives – and where RD Laing wanted to find an alternative to all these forms of treatment. In one way – it is as simple as that. The special push forward came in his phenomenological existential approach – again as I understood it – and of course – we can add to this – that he was in receipt of ongoing and relentless attacks for his ideas.

I would ask you – if you were a patient – in the 1960s – what approach might you prefer?

Some of the later understandings that have been painstakingly developed over the very many decades since – since Kingsley Hall back in the 1960s – would have been of enormous help to RD Laing. Many of these ideas – were in fact taken up in regards to his later communities. I am quite sure – he would have taken some of the further developments on board that have continued to take place – and still had a place for many aspects of his approach. RD Laing died 23 August 1989 (aged 61) – but his impact of radically and courageously challenging the treatments of his time – has had a lasting – if not necessarily fully recognised – impact on our present culture.

Sometimes – to make a decision to get better – or a decision to change – might be all that it ultimately takes.

*That is very hard to believe for most people.

In this there can be seen some influence from Sartre - though worked somewhat differently in Laing's own unique way.

This would require explanation - though there is not room here - but is along the lines of an essay I wrote decades ago on authenticity.

Obviously – going into things in different ways – might facilitate such a decision – find out what holds one back from such a decision – understand how one got into the situation in the first place – or prevented one from moving on – and from this and other aspects – such as engaging with and reintegrating with dissociation – allow one through. The point is with the human mind – it doesn’t have a single answer such that traditional science looks for in order to solve various problems – it has a quantum like variability – but also quantum like qualities – and inevitably – in the uniqueness that each one of us is obviously about – there is always floating around these issues – ultimately an air of the mystical.

It was also considered – again in my view – by RD Laing – that if one had space – in which to find one's way back – or however you might want to put it – one would hopefully almost homeostatically – as it were – self-redirect. Kingsley Hall – and later developments in these alternative communities – were and still are a context in which to facilitate that.

I have not gone into the concept of the use of 'mind altering drugs'– such as LSD, mescaline, etc., which was a then current – as it were – cutting-edge experimental approach occasionally employed in those times – especially where trying to seek urgent answers where answers were not being found – but nevertheless as I have indicated - desperately needed. To go into this here - would lead to a relatively complex analysis involving - from one position - some of the problems in the various unrecognised conditions - underlying or informing 'the intentionality of consciousness'. So, as well as the occasional successes – because of the various problems that arose – it might be seen – as it could be descibed from this perspective – that such approaches might be more productive in adopting other methods for insight and change – that also can be seen as 'philosphically' – and in this somewhat panoramic view – also under the auspices of the phenomenological approach.

© John Jolliffe – 2018

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