Define englulfment, implosion and petrification in R.D. Laing's "The Divided Self". How can we apply these on a schizophrenic patient?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In simple terminology: Engulfment is the feeling of being trapped and washed away by the ideas of others. You could feel engulfed, for example, when you are part of a very pushy family or society that demands you to exercise behaviors that are non compliant with your personality. Complying would make you feel fear of your own self being swapped away.

Implosion is a moment of total emptiness in which the patient of schizophrenia or any other patient would just lose their controls and give in. This is the beginning of many psychological disorders.

Petrification is the fear of becoming stagnant or stale in a developing world. It is a reaction to societal rules and family expectations and demands. For example, if your parents say that you should be married by age 21 and you are a liberal woman, this demand would literally freeze you, or "petrify" you. As a result you would engage in many different behaviors to divert the  situation.

According to Laing, when we feel these three feelings, our tendency is to build a safe niche in which we can defend our feelings, and our sanity from the world. However, in a schizophrenic patient, these niches become real, and so do the fears. Therefore, for a non-schizo's perspectives these are fears, but to a schizophrenic patient these are realities. They truly do feel the engulfment and may display behaviors of such. They certainly feel the implosion and the petrification. The inner "citadel" that they build, according to Laing, to protect themselves becomes a headquarter for reactions, and this is the main and most important key factor with patients of this sort.