Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

Adam Phillips

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips thinks there's a lot to be said for the unlived life. Drawing deeply on the works of Shakespeare and of Freud, amongst other writers and thinkers, he suggests that in missing out on one experience we always open ourselves to the potential of another, and that in depriving ourselves of the frustration of not getting what we think we want, we would be depriving ourselves of the possibilities of satisfaction. 3.3 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 224
RRP
Date of Publication June 2012
ISBN 978-0241143872
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
 

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips thinks there's a lot to be said for the unlived life. Drawing deeply on the works of Shakespeare and of Freud, amongst other writers and thinkers, he suggests that in missing out on one experience we always open ourselves to the potential of another, and that in depriving ourselves of the frustration of not getting what we think we want, we would be depriving ourselves of the possibilities of satisfaction.

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Reviews

The Financial Times

Laurence Scott

Phillips’s writing occasionally has a Lewis Carroll quality, as though the smoking caterpillar has taken a genuine interest in our psychic well-being. Missing Out, like the Alice stories, is a study of the misfit, an exploration of how we are wedged in the often absurd gap between fantasy and reality. Either we are too big for life or it is too small for us, and Phillips understands the look in our eyes as we nibble hopefully at the next mushroom.

09/06/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Rowland Manthorpe

Always humane, never reductive, Phillips is one of those writers whom it is a pleasure simply to hear think. Yet while Phillips on Shakespeare is suggestive and illuminating, Phillips on capitalism is extraordinary. The heart of Missing Out is its central essay, “On Getting Away With It” ... increasingly, Phillips suggests, getting away with it is precisely our intent. In this way of thinking, opportunism is all. The only crime is to get caught. Phillips does not say so, but he is surely writing about the financial crisis.

04/06/2012

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The Guardian

James Lasdun

With psychology not being quite a hard science, and literature — even King Lear — not being quite life, a faint air of indeterminacy hovers over the book. The mortar between propositions often seems a little soft: you find yourself not so much following the argument as simply reacting to individual statements: great, yes, hm, maybe, I don't think so …The places where Phillips permits himself to write from direct professional experience (he's a practising psychoanalyst as well as literary critic) are incomparably more persuasive and engaging, and I wished there were more of them.

16/06/2012

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The Independent

Christina Patterson

It's all interesting stuff, and peppered with the kind of insights that make you scrawl "yes!" in the margins on almost every page. What it isn't is an easy read … In the end, this clever, and sometimes frustrating, book is about what you can't and shouldn't want to get ... But what you do feel, when you've finished Missing Out, is that you've just heard, above the babble, snippets of a conversation that offered glimpses of the real, true, messy and never knowable human heart.

16/06/2012

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The Sunday Times

Ian Critchley

Refreshingly, Phillips avoids psychoanalytic and scientific jargon, preferring to take his examples from literature. But his style is often dense and elliptical, his sentences complicated by sub-clauses and unnecessary phrases, with the result that his prose occasionally obscures his argument rather than clarifying it. Nevertheless, the book provides intriguing insights into the central importance of frustration to our lives.

10/06/2012

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The New Statesman

Talitha Stevenson

... his anatomy makes no distinction between fantasy and creative thought, and no reference to compulsion. Phillips also assumes we are the sole authors of our fantasies, which excludes from consideration anyone from a family or a culture. And he overlooks the possibility that fantasies may emanate as much from a distorted perception of self as from a lively instinctual range. Curious omissions for a psychoanalyst to make ... But, after 14 books, Phillips has charmed us into slackening the house rules; he reads texts as people and, less attractively, people as texts, and it is all so elegant, so intelligent, that to point this out is to call the emperor naked. “It is worth asking”, to use a Phillipsian enchantment, what would be lost if we discovered that he had invented his role as principal child psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital.

20/06/2012

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