Email this review


Seven wide-ranging essays on intrapsychic processes and the analytic relationship that are five parts scintillation, four parts intellectual irritation, and one part obscurity. Phillips, a British psychoanalyst and author of On Flirtation and On Kissing; Tickling and Being Bored (not reviewed), writes the way the psychoanalytic patient is urged to proceed: associatively, aware that the self is far more fluid, provisional, and sometimes perverse than rational discourse would have it. In writing about terror and experts (both refer more to the analyst than the patient), authorities, symptoms, fears, dreams, sexes (more about sexuality than gender) and mind, Phillips's underlying premise is that psychoanalysis needs ""intelligent hostility,"" which he more than provides with an ironic, deconstructionist perspective on the analyst's craft. Phillips is an engagingly dialectical thinker, noting, for example, how and why our wanting love is inescapably coupled with a deep fear of abandonment. He can also be delightfully playful, for he feels, rightly, that psychoanalysts take themselves too seriously, adding, more dubiously, ""They forget . . . 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 intellectual and rhetorical shorthand that will leave many readers baffled, e.g., his claim that ""in psychoanalysis one can see very clearly how two people can sit in a room together and kill each other's pleasure: the aim of analysis is to understand how this happens, and to restore pleasure in each other's company."" Thus, this brief book is dense with both provocatively subversive and hopelessly murky musings. As such, it demands to be discussed and decoded as much as read.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0674874803
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.