‘KNOTS’ … R.D.Laing

Photo: WHB – ‘The Gateway – Hampton Court   

R.D.Laing (1927-1989) is perhaps best known for his book ‘The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness’.  He was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. He aimed to revolutionise the way we look at personality disorders.

In his books, ‘Knots’, ‘Do You (Really) Love Me?’, ‘Conversations With Children’, and others, he demonstrates, as expressed in his words below, the amalgam of ‘patterns’, speech forms, verbal exchanges, or ‘knots’ he has encountered during his professional work.

I give below just four short  examples of these ‘KNOTS’, the first of which
I have called ‘THE GATEWAY’

Although innumerable beings have been led to Nirvana
no being has been led to Nirvana
Before one goes through the gate
one may not be aware there is a gate
One may think there is a gate to go through
and look a long time for it
without finding it
One may find it and
it may not open
If it opens one may be through it
As one goes through it
one sees that the gate one went through
was the self that went through it
no one went through a gate
there was no gate to go through
no one ever found a gate
no one ever realized there was never a gate

If I don’t know I don’t know

I think I know

If I don’t know I know

I think I don’t know

They are playing a game. They are playing at not

playing a game.  If I show them I see they are, I

shall break the rules and they will punish me,

I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game

JILL   You put me in the wrong

JACK   I am not putting you in the wrong

JILL   You put me in the wrong for thinking you put me in the wrong

JACK   Forgive me


JACK   I’ll never forgive you for not forgiving me

Four ‘binds’ from ‘Knots’ by R.D.Laing (pub. Penguin 1970)

(Previously published on this blog in 2016)