Best of 2022: Adam Phillips’s “On Wanting to Change” and “On Getting Better”

December 30, 2022

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In an encore presentation, Adam Phillips joins Kate Wolf to discuss his two latest books, both published this year, On Wanting to Change and On Getting Better. The series looks at the very human impulse toward transformation, from religious and political conversion, and the conversion to family life from which one must ultimately emerge, to the aims and practices of psychoanalysis, along with more quotidian ideas of self-betterment. As always in his work, Phillips attends in these books to the aspects of ourselves that can be hardest to bear, and that can lead us to desire more rigid structures — intellectual or otherwise — or desire to be someone else, while also quietly petitioning for a more complex and thoughtful mode of change in which, as Socrates encouraged his pupils, we learn only to be ourselves. How might we get better, Phillips wonders, at talking about what it is to get better?

Also, Pankaj Mishra, author of Run and Hide, returns to recommend Josep Pla’s The Grey Notebook.