Best Adam Phillips books

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

Adam Phillips

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A TRANSFORMATIVE BOOK ABOUT THE LIVES WE WISH WE HAD AND WHAT THEY CAN TEACH US ABOUT WHO WE ARE

All of us lead two parallel lives: the one we are actively living, and the one we feel we should have had or might yet have. As hard as we try to exist in the moment, the unlived life is an inescapable presence, a shadow at our heels. And this itself can become the story of our lives: an elegy to unmet needs and sacrificed desires. We become haunted by the myth of our own potential, of what we have in ourselves to be or to do. And this can make of our lives a perpetual game of falling short.

But what happens if we remove the idea of failure from the equation? With his flair for graceful paradox, the acclaimed psychoanalyst Adam Phillips suggests that if we accept frustration as a way of outlining what we really want, satisfaction suddenly becomes possible. To crave a life without frustration is to crave a life without the potential to identify and accomplish our desires.

In Missing Out, an elegant, compassionate, and absorbing book, Phillips draws deeply on his own clinical experience as well as on the works of Shakespeare and Freud, of D. W. Winnicott and William James, to suggest that frustration, not getting it, and getting away with it are all chapters in our unlived lives―and may be essential to the one fully lived.

On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life

Adam Phillips

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In a style that is writerly and audacious, Adam Phillips takes up a variety of seemingly ordinary subjects underinvestigated by psychoanalysis--kissing, worrying, risk, solitude, composure, even farting as it relates to worrying.

He argues that psychoanalysis began as a virtuoso improvisation within the science of medicine, but that virtuosity has given way to the dream of science that only the examined life is worth living. Phillips goes on to show how the drive to omniscience has been unfortunate both for psychoanalysis and for life. He reveals how much one's psychic health depends on establishing a realm of life that successfully resists examination.

Unforbidden Pleasures

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 9.48

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AN AMBITIOUS BOOK THAT EXPLORES THE PHILOSOPHICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, AND SOCIAL DYNAMICS THAT GOVERN HUMAN DESIRE AND SHAPE OUR EVERYDAY REALITY

A great deal has been written, by psychoanalysts and many others, about the pleasures that are forbidden to us. But what of the pleasures that are unforbidden and freely available to all?

Using Oscar Wilde as a springboard, Phillips takes a deep dive into the function of taboo in society, beginning with the fall of our “first parents,” Adam and Eve, and progressing through the work of the great psychoanalytic thinkers. Forbidden pleasures, he argues, are the ones we tend to think about, yet when we look into it, we may get as much gratification, if not more, from unforbidden pleasures―those things that are easy to attain and socially sanctioned. And we may have underestimated just how restricted our restiveness, in thrall to the forbidden and its rules, makes us.

Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst (Jewish Lives)

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 8.83

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From one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sigmund Freud comes a strikingly original biography of the father of psychoanalysis

Becoming Freud is the story of the young Freud—Freud up until the age of fifty—that incorporates all of Freud’s many misgivings about the art of biography. Freud invented a psychological treatment that involved the telling and revising of life stories, but he was himself skeptical of the writing of such stories. In this biography, Adam Phillips, whom the New Yorker calls “Britain’s foremost psychoanalytical writer,” emphasizes the largely and inevitably undocumented story of Freud’s earliest years as the oldest—and favored—son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and suggests that the psychoanalysis Freud invented was, among many other things, a psychology of the immigrant—increasingly, of course, everybody’s status in the modern world.
 
Psychoanalysis was also Freud’s way of coming to terms with the fate of the Jews in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. So as well as incorporating the writings of Freud and his contemporaries, Becoming Freud also uses the work of historians of the Jews in Europe in this significant period in their lives, a period of unprecedented political freedom and mounting persecution. Phillips concludes by speculating what psychoanalysis might have become if Freud had died in 1906, before the emergence of a psychoanalytic movement over which he had to preside.

On Kindness

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 9.29

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Kindness is the foundation of the world's great religions and most-enduring philosophies. Why, then, does being kind feel so dangerous? If we crave kindness with such intensity, why is it often the last pleasure we permit ourselves? And why―despite our longing―are we often suspicious when we are on the receiving end of it?

Drawing on intellectual history, literature, psychoanalysis, and contemporary social theory, this brief and essential book will return to its readers what Marcus Aurelius declared was mankind's "greatest delight": the intense satisfactions of generosity and compassion.

Promises, Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 11.95

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As an essayist, Adam Phillips combines the best of two worlds: the mastery of psychotherapy as a practitioner and a theorist-and a reputation as one of the best literary writers around. In this collection of essays, he brings the two gifts to bear upon each other, reaching far beyond the borders of psychoanalytic discourse into art, novels, poetry, and history to speculate on the relative merits of psychoanalysis and literature. In his quirky, epigrammatic style, Phillips shows us how psychoanalysis and literature at their best share the goal of shedding light on human character, the most fascinating of disorders.

Winnicott

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 12.9

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D.W. Winnicott's remarkable books, including The Piggle, Home Is Where We Start From and The Child, Family and the Outside World (all published by Penguin) are still read, valued and argued with over thirty years after his death. Adam Phillips's short book, now issued with a new preface, is an elegant, thoughtful attempt to get to grips with a writer, paediatrician and psychiatrist whose work with children and mothers (and the wider implications their relationship has for all of us) continues to be profoundly relevant and fascinating.

Monogamy

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 9.92

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In this sparkling, provocative collection of meditations on coupledom and its discontents, Adam Phillips manages to unsettle one of our most dearly held ideals, that of the monogamous couple, by speculating upon the impulses that most threaten it--boredom, desire, and the tempting idea that erotic fulfillment might lie elsewhere. With 121 brilliant aphorisms, the witty, erudite psychoanalyst who gave us On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored distills the urgent questions and knotty paradoxes behind our mating impulse, and reveals the centrality of monogamy to our notions of marriage, family, the self--in fact, to everything that matters.

The only truly monogamous relationship is the one we have with ourselves.
Every marriage is a blind date that makes you wonder what the alternatives are to a blind date.
There's nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage.

On Balance

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 12.44

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Every day, we are told that balance is a good thing. We are supposed to make balanced judgments, balance our budget, and preserve a balance of power in our government. Disturbed people are described as unbalanced. In this insightful, charming book, the philosopher and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips looks afresh at balance (and its shadow, excess) and asks if achieving the former is such an admirable goal. From this perspective, Phillips examines the explosive topics of money, sex, parenthood, faith, and education. In his exhilarating and casually brilliant explorations of case studies, fairy tales, works of art, and literature, the paradoxes inherent in our appetites and fears are revealed.

On Flirtation

Adam Phillips

Best price for this book: $ 21.22

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People tend to flirt only with serious things--madness, disaster, other people's affections. So is flirtation dangerous, exploiting the ambiguity of promises to sabotage our cherished notions of commitment? Or is it, as Adam Phillips suggests, a productive pleasure, keeping things in play, letting us get to know them in different ways, allowing us the fascination of what is unconvincing? This is a book about the possibilities of flirtation, its risks and instructive amusements--about the spaces flirtation opens in the stories we tell ourselves, particularly within the framework of psychoanalysis.

Phillips looks at life as a tale to be told but rejects the idea of a master plot. Instead, he says, we should be open to the contingent, and flirtation shows us the way. His book observes children flirting with their parents, our various selves flirting with one another, and literature flirting with psychoanalysis. As Phillips explores the links between literature and psychoanalysis--ranging from Philip Roth to Isaac Rosenberg, Karl Kraus to John Clare--psychoanalysis emerges as a multi-authored autobiography. Its subjects are love, loss, and memory; its authors are the analyst and the analysand, as well as the several selves brought to life in the process. A passionate and delightfully playful defense of the virtues of being uncommitted, On Flirtation sets before us the virtue of a yet deeper commitment to the openendedness of our life stories.