• Embodied ideas and divided selves: revisiting Laing via Bakhtin

      Burkitt, Ian; Sullivan, Paul W. (2009)
      In this article, we apply Mikhail Bakhtin's model of a 'divided self' to R.D. Laing's eponymous work on the lived experience of divided selves in 'psychosis'. Both of these authors offer intriguing insights into the fracturing of self through its social relationships (including the 'micro-dialogues' staged for oneself) but from uniquely different perspectives. Bakhtin (1984) uses Dostoevsky's novels as his material for a theory of self, centrally concerned with moments of split identity, crisis, and personal transformation, while Laing relies on his patient's accounts of 'psychosis'. We will outline how two key Bakhtinian divisions of the self (spirit/soul and authoritative/internally persuasive discourse) help to make sense of Laing's descriptions of his patient's experiences and micro-dialogues. Conversely, when refracted through Laing's phenomenology Bakhtin's account of the self becomes richer and somewhat darkened in terms of a double-edged ontology, which describes a maximally open self but one that is consumed by ideas, unable to manage their contradictions. The implications of this for managing the dilemmas of self-identity will be drawn out.