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A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy 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WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Late Sigmund FreudThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy 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Related Topics
EqualsReview - Equals
by Adam Phillips
Basic Books, 2002
Review by Havi Hannah Carel, Ph.D.
Sep 16th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 38)

Equals is a collection of essays, made up of three distinct parts: "Equals", "Under Psychoanalysis" and "Characters". As such it suffers from an unevenness in the quality of each part and its relevance to the overall idea of the book, a problem far from alien to this format. The first part of the book comprises [p2] a very good set of essays examining the notion of equality, or rather the sources of inequality, exploring the different attitudes we could take towards equality, a notion central to human life on both a personal and political level. The perambulation through various themes within this topic: political equality, equality as democracy, equality in psychoanalysis, equality between various kinds of partners: parent-child, lovers, patient-analyst etc. are all explored in Phillips's usual astute style. The question of superiority in its relation to power, and of care in relation to inequality is particularly important within a psychoanalytic or therapeutic context. Patients enter psychoanalysis with a democratic egalitarian ethos, but all of a sudden renounce that ethos by endowing the analyst with unreasonable power based on their expectations and a belief in the analyst's omnipotence and omniscience. How should the analyst respond to this demand? What, then, is the basis for arguing that there is equality in psychoanalytic relations, where one side pays and talks and the other side is paid to listen? The idea of equality as "the legitimation, if not celebration, of conflict" (p.11) is then explored in the last chapter of the first part, "Against Inhibition". In this chapter Phillips describes inhibition as the authoritarian suppression of the conflict enabled by equality, a suppression expressed as an incapacity or lack of permission (p. 65). As a result, we are distracted from the only freedom we have, "the freedom to choose an unpredictable future for ourselves" (p.73, grammar modified).

The second part of the book is based on the more general theme of "Under Psychoanalysis", and contains seven chapters of varying length, examining madness, the notions of narrative and coherence in psychoanalysis, need and neediness, childhood and memory, and the recognition/ misrecognition ambivalence. Several questions arise while reading this part: firstly, Phillips argues that "it is not our suffering we need to understand, it is our happiness" (pp.110-111), but shortly afterwards argues that "there is nothing more essential to, or about a person than his needs" (p.119). How do these two claims relate to one another? If the frustration of needs creates suffering, then surely it is suffering we should focus on rather than happiness. Secondly, Phillips argues for an anti-essentialist position with respect to needs: needs have no known essence, a need is something that is created in response to an initial stimulus (p.122). But are needs not, at least initially, a fundamental force operating universally? Are not nourishment, love and nurturing a condition for any form of human development and well-being? And finally, Phillips sides with Ghent in arguing that the unknown change is the optimal consequence of analytic treatment. But this could, arguably, also be a change for the worse. If one does not know what change they aspire to, and accept the openness of the unknown, they must also accept the potential negative change: regression, return to inhibition and suicide are all changes - but are they necessarily desirable?

The third and final part of the book is a collection of book reviews[p3] . This part lacks a theme, its main problem being one of context: a book is not a collection of essays, it must be something more in order to justify its format. And it is this format that emphasises the trivial or the fragmented aspect of these reviews, each of which surely had a respectable place within the pages of the London Review of Books. Within Equals, these reviews read as disjointed pieces, and the psychoanalytic perspective from which Phillips is writing and reading seems to narrow down to a commentary on whether the protagonists, real or fictional, are 'gay', 'Jewish', or [p4] both. There is little to be gleaned from reading this part of the book, which comes across as somewhat trivial in the sense that it lacks a unifying theme or a question and hence is disappointing. However[p5] , the first two parts afford a valuable insight into the world of the analyst, exploring issues in a non-trivial way. The book, therefore, has much to offer its readers, but remains of uneven quality, and its end leaves the reader somewhat disappointed and unmoved.


© Havi Carel 2002

Havi Carel received her Ph.D. from at the Department of Philosophy, University of Essex; her thesis was on the concept of death in Heidegger and Freud. She teaches philosophy at Oxford Brookes University and at the University of Essex.


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