Psychotherapist and author Adam Phillips on Pleasure & Frustration:
“One of the obstacles is the demand that we be happy and enjoy your lives. I think it’s a huge distraction and it’s very undermining, I think. In the old days, whenever that was, there was an internal injunction to be good. Now the injunction is to be happy or to be enjoying yourself. And the reason this is a distraction is because life is also painful…in other words—and it’s a very simple thing and it’s very obvious and this starts in childhood—which is that if somebody can satisfy you, they can also frustrate you. This is ineluctable. It’s structural. It’s never going to change. This means that everybody has to deal with ambivalence—they’re going to have to deal with the fact that they love and hate the person they love and hate.
What we’re continuously being sold are possibilities for pleasure, in one way or another, as though all we want to do is get rid of the pain and increase the pleasure. I think this is a very impoverished view of what a life is, even though every life must involve trying to do something with the pain and having the pleasure. But there’s a difference between evacuating pain and frustration, and modifying it. And what we’re starved of now is frustration.
It’s as though we’re phobic of frustration, so the moment there is a feeling of frustration, it’s got to be filled with something. It’s a bit like the mother who overfeeds her child. She does that to stop the child from having appetite, because the appetite is so frightening. Now it seems to me there’s an attempt to foreclose appetite, to foreclose people’s capacity to think about what is really missing in their lives, what they might want and what they might do about getting it. Fantasies of satisfaction are saboteurs of pleasure.”