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Wilce, G. (1994). On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: psychoanalytic essays on the unexamined life by Adam Phillips. Published by Faber & Faber, London, 1993; 143 pages; £14.99.. Brit. J. Psychother., 10(3):450-451.
   

(1994). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10(3):450-451

On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: psychoanalytic essays on the unexamined life by Adam Phillips. Published by Faber & Faber, London, 1993; 143 pages; £14.99.

Review by:
Gillian Wilce

A phobia, like a psychoanalytic theory, is a story about where the wild things are.

The bored child is waiting, unconsciously, for an experience of anticipation.

[T]he only way to discover your projects is to notice - to make conscious - what you reckon are the obstacles.

So epigrammatic is the style of these extraordinary essays about ‘the most ordinary things in the world’ that the temptation (not wholly avoided here) is to review them simply by quoting and quoting.

Like the psychoanalysis which most interests Adam Phillips, his book is ‘prodigal in its use of analogy and promiscuous in its references’: on one page a child patient storing up worries to offer as gifts to his mother and on the next the etymology of the word ‘worry’; from Rousseau on being unable to buy the pears he desires to Freud on jokes to George Crabbe on the definition of an obstacle, all within a half-dozen paragraphs. Phillips' own desire in these essays is to ‘circulate’ the language of psychoanalysis ‘in unusual places with other languages’ (literature, for example, and the stories people tell about themselves) in order to illuminate and question both psychoanalysis itself and the most everyday of experiences: why tickling? what does composure mean? what is happening when we are bored? what is the kiss as a thing in itself?

And the experiences and the psychoanalysis, of course, question one another, often with unexpected outcomes. ‘One of the dramas that these essays try to sustain,’ he writes, ‘is the antagonism between the already narrated, examined life of developmental theory and the always potential life implied by the idea of the unconscious.

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