If the individual cannot take the realness, aliveness, autonomy, and identity of himself and others for granted, then he has to become absorbed in contriving ways of trying to be real, of keeping himself or others alive, of preserving his identity, in efforts, as he will often put it, to prevent himself losing his self. What are to most people everyday happenings, which are hardly noticed because they have no special significance, may become deeply significant in so far as they either contribute to the sustenance of the individual’s being or threaten him with non-being. Such an individual, for whom the elements of the world are coming to have, or have come to have, a different hierarchy of significance from that of the ordinary person, is beginning, as we say, to ‘live in a world of his own’, or has already come to do so. It is not true to say, however, without careful qualification, that he is losing ‘contact with’ reality, and withdrawing into himself. External events no longer affect him in the same way as they do others: it is not that they affect him less’ on the contrary, frequently they affect him more. It is frequently not the case that he is becoming ‘indifferent’ and ‘withdrawn’. It may, however, be that the world of his experience comes to be one he can no longer share with other people.
R. D. Laing, The Divided Self