Book Review: Knots – R. D. Laing

Not what you’re expecting… well worth reading. Perhaps my favourite book ever.

Title:Knots
Author:R. D. Laing
Year:1971
Importance:4/5
Accessibility:5/5
Recommended:5/5

OK, disclaimer. I think this might be my favourite book ever.

The love affair started off a bit rocky, though. I’m a keen sailor, and I thought this was going to be a book about, you know, knots. I thought I couldn’t believe my luck – a book written by an interesting psychiatrist, and about boats.

Alas, it was knot to be. The knots Laing writes about here are instead the emotional ones we tie ourselves up in, when we communicate with our loved ones. OK… equally as interesting!

This is a strange book, written entirely in long poems and dialogue. It’s really easy to read. And it’s really weird. I love it. Laing takes us round these poetic emotional circles, showing us the core fears and wounds often at the root of our struggles.

I found it particularly relatable when I read it during a tough time when my own complex childhood trauma was unravelling all around me.

It also inspired me to be creative with my own healing process, inspired me to work on Eyes On Trauma, and to write these very words you are reading now.

R. D. Laing’s work with ‘Knots’ is an incredibly creative way to explore the subject, and was surely pushing the boundaries back in 1971 when it was published. Maybe a psychedelic trip inspired it?

Either way, I have taken a leaf out of this book and will continue on my journey raising awareness of complex trauma in my own creative way. And I recommend getting your hands on an original copy of this gem – I hope you treasure it as much as I do.

In fact, I love this book so much, I have two copies. I managed to find the paperback in a charity book shop in Brighton, and the hardback in a second hand book shop in the Netherlands! I guess it really is my favourite book ever.

Have you read this book too? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Book Review: Sanity, Madness and the Family – R. D. Laing & A. Esterson

Title:Sanity, Madness and the Family
Author:R. D. Laing and A. Esterson
Year:1964
Importance:5/5
Accessibility:4/5
Recommended:5/5

This book is one of the most eyeopening things I have ever read. It was written in 1976 and is just as relevant today. In fact, I can’t believed it’s been so overlooked.

It is based around 11 vivid case studies and transcripts from interviews with people who have been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, and their families.

When viewed objectively like this, and through a trauma-informed lens, the power dynamics in these families is obviously unhealthy. It soon becomes clear that much of the behaviour labelled as symptoms of clinical schizophrenia can otherwise be explained in light of the family dynamics, and complex trauma, at play.

This book made me question the validity of all mental health labels, and even the construct of mental health itself. It’s clear to me that many behaviours which are otherwise labelled as mentally ill by our society can otherwise be explained by the emotional and familial systems individuals have grown up in, and the complex trauma they have experienced within these.

As more and more evidence begins to emerge about the effects of trauma on brain development, attachment, etc. especially within our formative early childhood years, we cannot keep ignoring the fact that maybe there is an answer to “mental health”, but it doesn’t lie within problem individuals. Labelling people with disorders whilst their trauma goes invalidated and unprocessed is not the way forward.

This book was written in 1976. It’s now 2021, we’ve created the fastest vaccine ever to cure a global pandemic, but we’re still treating people who’ve experienced trauma like there is something wrong with them. Come on science, sort it out.

Have you read this book too? Share your thoughts in the comments below.