Top 35 Inspirational Adam Phillips Quotes and Sayings

The wish to be understood may be our most vengeful demand, may be the way we hang on, as asults, to our grudge against our mothers; the way we never let our mothers off the hook for their not meeting our every need. Wanting to be understood, as adults, can be our most violent form of nostalgia.

Adam Phillips

The past influences everything and dictates nothing.

Adam Phillips

Everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves.

Adam Phillips

Monogamy is a way of getting the versions of ourselves down to the minimum.

Adam Phillips

Greed is a way of avoiding making choices: if I have everything I don’t have to choose what I want. And choosing what I want means giving up some pleasures for other pleasures.

Adam Phillips

The only satisfactions available are the satisfactions of reality, which are themselves frustrating.

Adam Phillips

Sanity, as the project of keeping ourselves recognizably human, therefore has to limit the range of human experience. To keep faith with recognition we have to stay recognizable. Sanity, in other words, becomes a pressing preoccupation as soon as we recognize the importance of recognition. When we define ourselves by what we can recognize, by what we can comprehend- rather than, say, by what we can describe- we are continually under threat from what we are unwilling and/or unable to see. We are tyrannized by our blind spots, and by whatever it is about ourselves that we find unacceptable.

Adam Phillips

And reality matters because it is the only thing that can satisfy us.

Adam Phillips

To grow up is to discover what one is unequal to.

Adam Phillips

The big secret about Art is that no one wants it to be true.

Adam Phillips

If you want to be with somebody who gets you, you prefer collusion to desire, safety to excitement (sometimes good things to prefer but not always the things most wanted). The wish to be understood may be our most vengeful demand, may be the way we hang on, as adults, to the grudge against our mothers; the way we never let our mothers of the hook for their not meeting our every need. Wanting to be understood, as adults, can be, among many other things our most violent form of nostalgia.

Adam Phillips quotes

loneliness is the inevitable cost of looking after ourselves.

Adam Phillips

The people we fall in love with we find singularly captivating, as are any of the people (or ideas) that inspire us, for better or for worse.

Adam Phillips

It is as if, oddly, you were waiting for someone but you didn’t know who they were until they arrived. Whether or not you were aware that there was something missing in your life, you will be when you meet the person you want. What psychoanalysis will add to this love story is that the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams; that you have dreamed them up before you met them; not out of nothing — nothing comes of nothing — but out of prior experience, both real and wished for. You recognize them with such certainty because you already, in a certain sense, know them; and because you have quite literally been expecting them, you feel as though you have known them for ever, and yet, at the same time, they are quite foreign to you. They are familiar foreign bodies.

Adam Phillips

Lovers, of course, are notoriously frantic epistemologists, second only to paranoiacs (and analysts) as readers of signs and wonders.

Adam Phillips

Everything depends on what we would rather do than change.

Adam Phillips

So there are three consecutive frustrations: the frustration of need, the frustration of fantasized satisfaction not working, and the frustration of satisfaction in the real world being at odds with the wished-for, fantasized satisfaction. Three frustrations, three disturbances, and two disillusionments. It is, what has been called in a different context, a cumulative trauma; the cumulative trauma of desire. And this is when it works.

Adam Phillips

Believing in religion is like believing that adulthood is the solution to childhood.

Adam Phillips

Kindness — that is, the ability to bear the vulnerability of others, and therefore of oneself — has become a sign of weakness (except of course among saintly people, in whom it is a sign of their exceptionality).

Adam Phillips

We need, in other words, to know something about what we don’t get, and about the importance of not getting it.

Adam Phillips

Our excesses are the best clue we have to our own poverty, and our best way of concealing it from ourselves.

Adam Phillips

It is difficult to enjoy people for whom we have waited too long. And in this familiar situation, which evokes such intensities of feeling, we wait and we try to do something other than waiting, and we often get bored — the boredom of protest that is always a screen for rage.

Adam Phillips

n Freud’s story our possibilities for satisfaction depend upon our capacity for frustration; if we can’t let ourselves feel our frustration — and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do — we can’t get a sense of what it is we might be wanting, and missing, of what might really give us pleasure.

Adam Phillips Quotes

There is nothing more terrorizing than the possibility that nothing is hidden. There is nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage

Adam Phillips

Tragic heroes are failed pragmatists. Their ends are unrealistic and their means are impractical.

Adam Phillips

In our dreams we can have our eggs cooked exactly how we want them, but we can’t eat them.

Adam Phillips

Falling in love, finding your passion, are attempts to locate, to picture, to represent what you unconsciously feel frustrated about, and by.

Adam Phillips

Finding hate-objects may be every bit as essential as finding love-objects, but if one can tolerate some of one’s badness — meaning recognize it as yours — then one can take some fear out of the world.

Adam Phillips

You can’t have a desire without an inspiring sense of lack. What we do to our frustration to make it bearable — evade it, void it, misrecognize it, displace it, hide it, project it, deny it, idealize it, and so on — takes the sting out of its tail.

Adam Phillips

Anger, then, is only for the engaged; for those with projects that matter.

Adam Phillips

However much you have been wanting and hoping and dreaming of meeting the person of your dreams, it is only when you meet them that you will start missing them. It seems that the presence of an object is required to make its absence felt (or to make the absence of something felt). A kind of longing may have preceded their arrival, but you have to meet in order to feel the full force of your frustration in their absence.

Adam Phillips

We can only be really realistic after we have tried our optimism out.

Adam Phillips

So there is something perhaps more difficult to conceive of, sometimes born of resignation and sometimes not- a life in which not getting it is the point and not the problem; in which the project is to learn how not to ride the bicycle, how not to understand the poem. Or to put it the other way round, this would be a life in which getting it — the will to get it, the ambition to get it — was the problem; in which wanting to be an accomplice didn’t take precedence over making up one’s mind.

Adam Phillips

We make ourselves out of the demands others make of us, and out of whatever else we can use.

Adam Phillips

The pleasure of kindness is that it connects us with others; but the terror of kindness is that it makes us too immediately aware of our own and other people’s vulnerabilities (vulnerabilities that we are prone to call failings when we are at our most frightened). Vulnerability — particularly the vulnerability we call desire — is our shared biological inheritance. Kindness, in other words, opens us up to the world (and worlds) of other people in ways that we both long for and dread. How can people, from childhood onward, feel confident enough to take such risks?

Adam Phillips

Kindness consistently preoccupies us, and yet most of us are unable to live a life guided by it.

Adam Phillips

Before you have children, the novelist Fay Weldon once said, you can believe you are a nice person: after you have children you understand how wars start.

Adam Phillips

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