"Since I was diagnosed with a terminal illness two years ago, I have had to readjust my life significantly in ways I could not have imagined at the time. One example is that my condition and treatment has confined me to the house for long periods. For example, it has been one year since me and Sheila have had a full day out together. Such changes in my life has been assisted greatly by being able to look at what I have in more positive ways, and for that I can thank a Scottish Psychoanalyst called R.D. Laing.
Many years ago when I used to operate a large hydraulic machine called a wuzzer in a dyehouse, when one came to open the machine the handle frequently stuck fast. I soon learned that if you banged the handle hard one way and it didn't open, the trick was to bang it hard the other way and then again the proper way. This method always seemed to release the blockage. Thereafter, I learned to look at the problems and situations I encountered in life differently to more conventional folk. I suppose one could say, I learned to look at things from different angles. This approach helped me enormously to counsel people with problems as a Probation Officer and Group Worker.
Over the years I was to meet many people, who may have looked at the same thing at the same time, yet always managed to see things differently to each other; very much as the optimist and the pessimist are prone to do.
Then one day, I saw a television interview about a Britiish Psychoanalyst who fascinated me and this interview led me to read countless numbers of his books. This man was the most 'unconventional' psychiatrist of his time and was often associated with the 'anti-psychiatric movement.' Too frequently he would drink copious amounts of alcohol despite the brilliance of his mind and the breadth of his psychological vision. His name was R.D. Laing and though he lived only sixty two years, his contribution to the psychoanalysts who followed him was immense.
He was responsible for a method he called, 'Reframing.' This method was simply a way of looking at situations and problems in a less conventional way in order to resolve them easier. If for example he was interviewing a mad man who believed that he was Richard the Third, was dressed like Richard the Third and acted like Richard the Third, then R.D.Laing would act as though he was in the presence of Richard the Third in order to positively converse with his patient. He once arrived to interview one patient and during their conversation he noticed that the patient sat next to a spare chair and frequently turned towards it during conversation. When Laing inquired what was the purpose of the spare chair, he was told that it was occupied by the patient's best friend who was invisible to everyone except herself Laing therefore presumed that it was for the patient's imaginary friend. Laing naturally included the spirit of the invisible third party in their subsequent conversation as that was the only way it seemed to flow naturally.
During the 70s and 80s for reasons I know not, people were often brought to court for the crime of beastiality. Laing always held the view that nothing was ever gained by sending a man to prison who had sex with pig or a horse unless the animal objected or could be shown to have been harmed by the experience.
A woman once approached him with her problem of not being able to sleep all night. She told him that her problem was that she would stay awake all night and fill in her time baking and doing other jobs while the rest of the city slept soundly. Then, when the city awoke the next morning she would sleep for the rest of the day until late evening. After hearing her stated problem, instead of sympathising with her situation as most psychiatrists would have done, Laing 'reframed' it and remarked, 'What a wonderful gift you have. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be able to work like you throughout the night without the interruptions and the interference of other humans for a straight eight hours. Just think how much I could do?' His patient reportedly went away happy with her special gift.
The next time you happen to find yourself stuck, try 'reframing' the situation and you may be pleasantly surprised what you come up with, but whatever you do, please leave the pigs and the horses to their own kind! As for me and Sheila, we are spending the full day out together in Knaresborough as the sun is shining. We plan a row on the river, provided that Sheila does the rowing. Happy Easter Monday everyone." William Forde: April 6th, 2015.