Terrors and Experts by Adam Phillips

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Iris Murdoch once suggested that to understand any philosopher's work we must ask what he or she is frightened of. To understand any psychoanalyst's work--both as a clinician and as a writer--we should ask what he or she loves, because psychoanalysis is about the unacceptable and about love, two things that we may prefer to keep apart, but that Freud found to be inextricable. If it is possible to talk about psychoanalysis as a scandal, without spuriously glamorizing it, then one way of doing it is simply to say that Freud discovered that love was compatible, though often furtively, with all that it was meant to exclude. There are, in other words--and most of literature is made up of these words--no experts on love. And love, whatever else it is, is terror.

In a manner characteristically engaging and challenging, charming and maddening, Adam Phillips teases out the complicity between desire and the forbidden, longing and dread. His book is a chronicle of that all-too-human terror, and of how expertise, in the form of psychoanalysis, addresses our fears--in essence, turns our terror into meaning.

It is terror, of course, that traditionally drives us into the arms of the experts. Phillips takes up those topics about which psychoanalysis claims expertise--childhood, sexuality, love, development, dreams, art, the unconscious, unhappiness--and explores what Freud's description of the unconscious does to the idea of expertise, in life and in psychoanalysis itself. If we are not, as Freud's ideas tell us, masters of our own houses, then what kind of claims can we make for ourselves? In what senses can we know what we are doing? These questions, so central to the human condition and to the state of psychoanalysis, resonate through this book as Phillips considers our notions of competence, of a professional self, of expertise in every realm of life from parenting to psychoanalysis. Terrors and Experts testifies to what makes psychoanalysis interesting, to that interest in psychoanalysis--which teaches us the meaning of our ignorance--that makes the terrors of life more bearable, even valuable.


About Adam Phillips

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Adam Phillips has been working in traditional 2D animation for Disney since early 1993, with eight of those years spent in special effects. With all his free time, he writes and animates short stories for his personal website and online gallery, www.biteycastle.com. Most recently, Adam convinced US band, Ween, to let him animate the video for their single "Transdermal Celebration." All involved were happy with the result, and an optimized QuickTime version of the video can be found on the book's CD. Adam is quite small, but has big hands.
Published January 1, 1996 by Harvard University Press. 180 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Self Help, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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that they are only telling stories about stories.'' His writing is replete with pithy, sometimes downright wonderful insights, as when he notes that ``relationships are often constituted by what one dares not say to the other person.'' Yet nearly as often, Phillips uses a kind of extreme intellec...

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Publishers Weekly

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Other chapters re-examine fundamental psychoanalytic concepts (""Fears,'' ""Dreams,'' ""Sexes'') and demonstrate how the analyst might utilize the patient's own beliefs about him- or herself in making sense of experience: we might all be ""experts"" if properly listened to.

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London Review of Books

But, it may be felt, Phillips’s use, for example, of the idea of words ‘doing something’, as in ‘Symptoms’, the second essay in Terrors and Experts, is not Austin’s, as when we find there: ‘It is always worth wondering, as a prelude to a case-presentation such as this’ – a young boy with eczema –...

Dec 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Terrors and Experts


Adam Phillips is most famous for his strikingly well written investigation into the margins of a life On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, but here he turns his critical gaze on his own profession.

Jun 05 1997 | Read Full Review of Terrors and Experts

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