All of us lead two parallel lives: the life we actually live and the one that we wish for and fantasise about. And this life unlived (the one that never actually happens, the one we might be living but for some reason are not) can occupy an extraordinary part of our mental life. We share our lives, in a sense, with the people we have failed to be - and this can become itself the story of our lives: an elegy to needs unmet, desires sacrificed and roads untaken. In this elegant, compassionate and absorbing book, acclaimed psychoanalyst Adam Phillips demonstrates that there might in fact be much to be said for the unlived life. Drawing deeply on the works of Shakespeare and of Freud, amongst other writers and thinkers, he suggests that in missing out on one experience we always open ourselves to the potential of another, and that in depriving ourselves of the frustration of not getting what we think we want, we would be depriving ourselves of the possibilities of satisfaction.
Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst and a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York. He is the author of several previous volumes, all widely acclaimed, including On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, Going Sane, Side Effects and On Balance. He is also the co-author, with historian Barbara Taylor, of On Kindness.