Terrors and Experts
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN 10: 0674874803
ISBN 13: 978-0674874800
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.
“In Phillips's hands, psychoanalysis becomes an instrument of reproducible magic, a poetics you can use at home...Terrors and Experts has him wielding the writerly tools he used to such good effect in his previous [books]: paradox, aphorism, and exegesis of the mundane.”―Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Review
“Skillfully dovetailing criticism of psychoanalytic theory with clinical experience, Phillips wants analysis to be playful rather than dogmatic, to celebrate ambiguity, not rigidity...Terrors and Experts displays the witty verve of On Kissing and its marvelous follow-up, On Flirtation...Terrors and Experts provides ample evidence that Phillips is one of today's most thoughtful, as well as entertaining, writers on the mind. [He makes] an expert case for turning psychoanalysis into a more creative and pleasurable discipline.”―Bill Marx, Boston Globe
“[Phillips] radically redefines the legacy of Freud as a method of sustaining the life-giving stories that people tell themselves rather than a technological fix that will cure them. He is our leading proponent of the validity and vitality of the Freudian appeal.”―Bryan Appleyard, The Independent
“In three superb books, On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; On Flirtation; and Terrors and Experts...[Phillips] has endorsed pleasure as a laudable goal (imagine!) and enshrined narrative as a form of soul making. In the process, he's punched lovely skylights into the gloomy Freudian edifice and in general done much to rehabilitate the psychoanalytic enterprise by honoring the idiosyncrasy of human experience and by wielding method lightly, playfully, humanely.”―Will Blythe, Esquire
“In spite of the scientific shakedown of their ideology, psychoanalysts continue to have much to offer, if Adam Phillips and his new book, Terrors and Experts, are any indication. A child psychoanalyst and the author of several earlier books, Mr. Phillips continues here a project begun in On Flirtation of emphasizing the importance of uncertainty, error and magic in our thinking...Mr. Phillips writes well; his phrases dance, teasing from the reader new and often exciting ways of thinking about old ideas...The book is short, generally delightful...offering much to think about during these days when that magnificent age-old battle between truth and beauty (science and art, order and disorder) continues, now rippling its way through the field of psychiatry.”―Nicola Sater, Washington Times
“Phillips is one of the most intelligent and humane of psychoanalytic writers and Terrors and Experts contains a great number of thought-provoking and sometimes brilliant ideas. It will be of interest to anyone who feels that something is wrong whenever people get very convinced that analysts know either all or nothing.”―Alain de Botton, Sunday Telegraph
“Adam Phillips [is] an interesting figure. In three recent books of essays he has started to put present-day psychoanalysis on the map. He reminds us that there is more to psychoanalysis than what Freud did (or didn't do) with Minna Bernays...What is most striking is Phillips' intellectual confidence...His writing about psychoanalysis [has a] refreshing iconoclasm. He has ditched the old baggage--its prejudice against homosexuality, its obsession with instincts--and offers a psychoanalysis which is surprising.”―David Herman, New Statesman & Society
“Phillips's specification of the play of language as entering into 'an ordinary-language psychoanalysis', in alluding to so-called ordinary language philosophy, is an invitation to think further of psychoanalysis in connection with philosophy, specifically with the work of J. L. Austin and of the later Wittgenstein...I find this invitation to philosophy congenial and this way of writing attractive...Reports of Adam Phillips's celebrity suggest that his redescriptions are being rewarded. What I have noted here, in considering the relation of certain of Phillips's texts and practices with certain philosophical others, are various cues for finding, so far as my present competence and time have served, that this cause for raising a glass is well placed.”―Stanley Cavell, London Review of Books
“Phillips wants us to recognize that psychoanalysis is not a science but an art...He means that like the novelist and the poet, the psychoanalyst should know things that the scientist does not--things about the limits to self-knowledge, the unpredictability of the human psyche, the ambiguities of moral life, the indeterminacy of meaning...The man is so literary he makes Proust sound like the author of Modern Organic Chemistry.”―Ben Rogers, Independent on Sunday
“Is there any point in our reading about psychoanalysis when we do not forsee engaging in it? That depends on the writer. British analyst Adam Phillips, who specializes in working with children, is one of the few commentators on the subject who writes well, holds no brief for psychoanalysis as a profession and has a lot of philosophical and human sense”―Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle
About the Author
Adam Phillips is Principal Child Psychotherapist in the Wolverton Gardens Child and Family Consultation Centre, London.