Adam Phillips Gives Praise to the Unlived Life

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Acclaimed psychoanalyst Adam Phillips explains that all of us lead two parallel lives: the one we are actively living, and the one we feel we should have had or might someday have. In Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, he suggests that if we accept frustration as a way of outlining what we really want, satisfaction suddenly becomes possible.


Adam Phillips

Comments [23]

carolyn Hewitt from Oly. Wa.

My youngest 14.5 yr. old brilliant, warrior, master story teller daughter, needs more support. I am striving to support her healthy progressions during many displays of " Acting Mad" I am using everything I know and can think of to bring the applicable audience and attention to what she needs!
Arya and her family bring loads of insight to a progressive world!
I will not buy in to the last psychiatrist evaluation of borderline personality and or bi polar! Drugs are not the answer!
The many more gifted and graced individuals that are born among us deserve us all to try even harder to pave the way for their healthy progressive successes.
Arya and I need your help! Is there some type of grant to facilitate? She is aligning herself in the destructive behaviors, that make me concerned for her well being, and future prospects.
Can I come and work for you or with you in some way? I am a early childhood educator, a Nutritional consultant, a working poor single mom for the last 36 yrs.
I am very thankful of this time you are spending to read this. We are worth your effort in what ever way you see fit to assist. Peace in Progress

Jul. 15 2013 08:59 PM
Ed from Larchmont

My own experience is that at some point God offered his friendship to me. I believe he offers this at some time to each person. And because of some decisions and some circumstances, I said yes, though it was scary.

Now I see that God's abiding with me, his friendship, is what satisfies me. And that my job, or other people, or careers, are very good, but they can not satisfy me or any person.

If all that were taken away from me, I would still be content, because I have what gives contentment, God's indwelling and friendship. Of course I could lose it by sin, or being put to the test and failing, I pray that that doesn't happen.

And this friendship (He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood ... abides in me, and I in him...) is sustained by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, Confession and the Eucharist. How we love the Church!

Feb. 27 2013 09:32 PM
Astoriagrrrl from Astoria, NY

Cannot wait to read Adam's current book (and some of the others). I was intrigued enough after checking out the New Yorker profile, but Leonard's astute interview sold me 1000%. I especially liked Adam's comment that many of us have certain masochistic tendencies—that is, we learn like that frog in water that started out tepid but is gradually headed to a boil—to accommodate all kinds of things in our environment that we probably shouldn't. (Of course, there are some unkind realities that can't be helped.) But at least you can try to wake up and change what you can. Fingers crossed!

Feb. 26 2013 04:19 PM
Joy Mars from Los Angeles, CA

So sorry I missed this. Will hear the podcast later today. One comment: there was a rather snitty review of this book in last week's New Yorker Magazine. This guy is a prolific writer, and maybe not very precise, but the subject is VERY much needed as a reply to the out of control "human potential" movement. It has had its use, but a good does of sobriety would do us all a world of good.

Feb. 26 2013 01:12 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

Perhaps the following exhortation of the founder of the Hasidic movement, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, is apropos.

When it comes to _material_ possessions and bodily comforts, one should always look toward those who have _less_ and be satisfied and grateful for what one has.

When it comes to matters of _spiritual_ achievement, refinement of _character_ and piety, however, one should do just the opposite: Look toward those who have _more_ and always strive to emulate them, never being complacent.

Feb. 26 2013 01:09 PM
Jf from The future

We need utopia thats the problem. Scarce rescources are worthless an have multitudes of abundant alternatives.scarcity is manufactured.this life is boring, no opportunity. Dystopic trash strewn hell. Everything abundant is clean and free. But land which needs not to be walled up and destroyed. We are frusturated because we are in prison.

Feb. 26 2013 01:08 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

jgarbuz's 12:22 p.m. comment summarizes exactly what King Solomom [Shlomo HaMelech] says in Ecclesiastes [Koheles].

Feb. 26 2013 12:51 PM
Monica Iancu from NYC - Queens

It is not quite accurate to say that "Buddhism tells us to want less."
Instead it is more about understanding our relationship to desire and cutting through false concepts of happiness and fantasy which undermines genuine engagement.

Feb. 26 2013 12:43 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

This is the best conversation I ever heard in my life! I can't wait to read the book.

Feb. 26 2013 12:42 PM
Laura from UWS

What is the body chemistry of frustration?
From pleasant appetite whetting to bitter frustration?

Feb. 26 2013 12:38 PM
David from Brooklyn

I'm a 38 year old painter who's always a heartbeat away from trying to write, a debate that I've lived for 20 years...

Feb. 26 2013 12:36 PM
Charles from Teaneck

I prefer the Buddhist (mindfulness) approach where whatever we're doing becomes the most important thing. In cognitive psychology "shoulds" are classified as a cognitive distortion. As Albert Ellis used to say, "stop 'shoulding' on yourself!" Nevertheless, I'm not necessarily arguing against the inquiries of your guest--such inquiries.

Feb. 26 2013 12:32 PM
Gaby from jackson heights

I am wondering if you could speak on social anxieties. When one is constantly second guessing words spoken and their interpretation by others. We can never trully know that our words are understood. Is this frustration of human speech? or Is it a sign of some other disorder?

Feb. 26 2013 12:27 PM
Ed from Larchmont

"Life in the main is made up of irritations, frustrations, and disappointments, and our job is to face, tolerate and endure." Abraham Low, 'Mental health through will training', 1940s.

Feb. 26 2013 12:22 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@Ed from Larchmont,

I have always heard the line, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans", attributed to John Lennon.

The famous quote from George Bernard Shaw, "Youth is such a wonderful thing. It is a crime to waste it on the young.", encapsulates another great paradox of life: It is only when we are well past our youth that we can first appreciate how unique, opportune and downright magical a time it was.

Feb. 26 2013 12:22 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Life is a waste of time. It's just a meaningless struggle for survival. It always ends in death regardless. Unless you believe in religion, the existence of God or whatever, it's all just a delusion. All hopes, dreams, and prayers are just delusions. All victories illusions, as are all defeats.
The only hope, as farfetched as it may be, is belief in God. Without that, it is all just marking time.

Feb. 26 2013 12:22 PM
James Herlan from St. John, USVI

I would like to know what Adam Phillips thinks about people who think they should live their lives "without regrets"?

Feb. 26 2013 12:21 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Since we can only choose a few things, we are encouraged to 'seek for the kingdom of God, and the rest will be given unto you', choose God.

Feb. 26 2013 12:16 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Very good. We get used to lives of sin sometimes, and get addicted to the suffering.

Congratulations on your anniversary!

Feb. 26 2013 12:13 PM

Thank God for Plan B.

Feb. 26 2013 11:28 AM
JT from NJ

"Once In A Lifetime"

Says it all.

Feb. 26 2013 09:36 AM

A quote from a poem that I sent on to my son:
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do,
with this one wild and precious life,"...

Feb. 26 2013 08:41 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It reminds me of 'Life is what goes on while we make other plans.' Fran Liebowitz, I think. In theological terms it would be the life we are living and the call we feel to the life we should live, and how to make them closer.

Feb. 26 2013 05:55 AM

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