Robin Skynner

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Robin Skynner (16 August 1922, Cornwall – September 2000, Islington, London) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot who flew the Mosquito twin-engined fighter bomber, and was also a psychiatric pioneer and innovator in the field of treating mental illness. Trained in Group Analysis and working as a child psychiatrist and a family therapist, he employed group-analytic principles in that therapeutic modality. He was a gifted teacher and practitioner of psychotherapy with individuals, groups, families, couples and institutions. He was also a prolific writer.

  • "My first experience came as a result of taking part in a research study, during my psychiatric training.
  • What sort of research? Into LSD.
  • Are you telling me, Robin, that your first experience was drug-induced? Yes. LSD was being used in the USA as an experimental form of therapy, and one of the senior doctors wanted to test It out on some ordinary people first, before trying it on patients. So I volunteered, together with some other trainees, to be a `guinea-pig' for this purpose and report the effects of receiving it. In fact, I had such massive blinkers on at that time that I doubt if I would ever have allowed myself to have a spiritual experience without a bit of 'chemical dynamite' to blow them off. So the drug temporarily stripped off some of my blinkers, and encouraged me to take this side of life more seriously, to Investigate it.
  • Did it make you want to take the drug again? No. For me it was like seeing a wonderful distant land from the top of a mountain. You knew that no matter how many more times you went up the mountain to look at it again, you still wouldn't really get any closer to what you'd seen. To get to it you had to go back down and make your way along the ground, which I've been attempting to do ever since. So I'm enormously grateful for that glimpse the drug gave me of what was possible."
  • "During that first experience through LSD, a colleague who was not taking pan in the experiment came into the room, and it was as if I could see right through him in a psychological sense. I could see all his faults and limitations — and can remember what I saw — but I didn't feel critical at all. In fact I felt great affection for him, for exactly what he was. At the same time, I seemed to lose all my own defences and need for self-deception, so that I could see my own faults clearly and accept myself despite them too. This seems to be a common experience — many similar ones were reported by the great psychologist William James in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience.
  • But if you can suddenly see things about yourself that are ordinarily 'behind the screen', isn't that painful? It can be. There are occasions when your understanding goes through a kind of 'gear-change'. You feel stuck for a time and then suddenly all kinds of observations 'come together' and It may feel as If you've received a fresh vision of things. But if you reflect, you often realise that the new picture was building up over a long period, but couldn't be completed until one last insight was gained, one final bit of the jigsaw. And the key insight is usually a (act about one's own character that contradicts one's picture of oneself, which Is therefore painful to see. Sometimes this kind of Insight can only be attained in a situation of strong emotion or stress, or with the help of someone who understands much more than one does oneself."
- from the Book Life And How To Survive It