on ‘Becoming Freud,’ by Adam Phillips

10gornick-master495Vivian Gornick at the New York Times:

Freud was stunned by the stories people invent in describing their childhoods. In time he would become absorbed in showing us “how ingenious we are at not knowing ourselves, and how knowing ourselves . . . has become the problem rather than the solution.”

The discovery of and exploration of the unconscious was the central drama of Freud’s life, the one thing he kept passionate faith with throughout private and professional vicissitudes. It was through attention to the unconscious that he made his major discoveries, the most important being that from birth to death we are, every last one of us, divided against ourselves. We both want to grow up and don’t want to grow up; hunger for sexual pleasure, dread sexual pleasure; hate our own aggressions — our anger, our cruelty, our humiliations — yet these are derived from the grievances we are least willing to part with. The hope of achieving an integrated self is a vain one as we are equally divided about our own suffering; we do in fact love it and want — nay, intend — never to relinquish it. What Freud found most difficult to cure in his patients, Phillips tells us, “was their (mostly unconscious) wish not to be cured.”

more here.