Under the heading of "ontological anxiety" Laing invokes the work of Kafka, Beckett, and Shakespeare to describe the the sense of non-existence which often permeates the life of those suffering from emotional challenges, which may metastasize into psychosis and schizophrenia.
He describes three forms in which such ontological anxiety becomes manifest: engulfment, implosion, and petrification or depersonalization.
A person afflicted with engulfment is one whose sense of identity is so fragile as to be constantly under siege. Such a person can feel overwhelmed in a mundane conversation to the extent that simply losing an argument means the extinction of their identity.
The experience of implosion transpires in a person who already feels completely empty and void of emotion. For such a character, any type of contact with reality is terrifying in its power to obliterate or 'implode' their identity.
In a condition of petrification, one has the feeling of having been transformed into an object,...
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