Transcript: Flying Solo - Adam Phillips | May 15, 2004

On a black slate, concentric neon light beams move in waves to the sound of electronic music. The title “Flying solo” appears in white letters.

A picture of Adam Phillips appears on screen. He’s in his late thirties, clean-shaven and with short curly brown hair. He wears a burgundy shirt and a black jacket. A caption reads “Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst. Editor of the new Penguin Freud. Author of many books, among them Monogamy, published in 1996.”

A picture of the book appears. Two intertwined golden rings with the word “Monogamy” in the intersection illustrate the white background. Letters “O” and “G” in “Monogamy” also intertwine.

Adam says I WROTE THE
BOOK, NOT TO BE PRO-IT OR ANTI-
IT.
IT'S NOT A HOW TO BOOK OR A HOW
NOT TO BOOK.
IT'S MUCH MORE A QUESTION OF HOW
DIFFICULT IT IS TO TALK ABOUT
THESE THINGS.
YOU KNOW, IF A COUPLE GO OUT FOR
DINNER AND THEY TALK ABOUT
MONOGAMY, IT WILL BECOME FRAUGHT
VERY QUICKLY.
I WONDER WHY IT'S SO DIFFICULT
TO TALK ABOUT.
AND WHY IT'S KIND OF TAKEN FOR
GRANTED AS A VALUE, AND YET IT'S
DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT.

A quote on screen reads “Monogamy and infidelity. The difference between making a promise and being promising.”

Adam says I MEAN SOME OF
THIS BOOK, OBVIOUSLY COMES OUT
OF MY WORK, BECAUSE I'M A CHILD
PSYCHOTHERAPIST, SO I'VE SEEN A
LOT OF FAMILIES, AND CHILDREN
HAVE A PASSION FOR THEIR
PARENTS, AND VICE VERSA, BUT YOU
KNOW, THE PARENT IS EVERYTHING
TO THE CHILD, BUT THE CHILD
ISN'T NECESSARILY EVERYTHING TO
THE PARENT.
SO IN A SENSE, YOU'RE ALWAYS
DEALING WITH, I THINK, AND
INTENSITY OF LOVE FOR YOUR
PARENT, AND A GROWING
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT THEY HAVE A
PARTNER, YOU HAVE SIBLINGS, SO
YOU SUFFER.
I DON'T MEAN THAT'S ALL YOU DO,
BUT THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS YOU
DO.
YOU LOVE SOMEBODY, AND YOU HAVE
TO SHARE THEM.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THAT,
THAT'S HARD TO TAKE.
WHEN, THEN, AS ADULTS, WE FALL
IN LOVE WITH PEOPLE, WE FEEL
SEXUALLY JEALOUS VERY QUICKLY.

Another quote reads “Everyone feels jealous or guilty and suffers the anguish of their preferences.”

Adam says I THINK IT'S
TEMPTING TO GENERALISE, AND I
THINK IT'S IMPOSSIBLE.
YOU SEE, I THINK WE'D WANT TO
SAY SOMETHING LIKE, OR IT LOOKS
AS THOUGH MEN ARE THE ONES WHO
ARE DRIVING THE INFIDELITY
STORY, AND WOMEN ARE DRIVING THE
FIDELITY STORY.
I DON'T THINK IT'S TRUE.
AND OBVIOUSLY FEMINISM HAS MADE
A HUGE DIFFERENCE TO ALL OF
THIS.
SO I THINK INCREASINGLY, WE
WON'T BE ABLE TO BLAME THE OTHER
PERSON.
YOU SEE, THERE'S BEEN A RATHER
NEAT DIVISION OF LABOUR.
IT'S AS THOUGH WE CAN BLAME THE
WOMEN FOR THEIR FIDELITY, AND
THE MEN CAN BE BLAMED FOR THEIR
INFIDELITY.
HOPEFULLY THERE WILL BE MORE
OVERLAP, AND I THINK THERE IS,
AS TIME GOES ON.
AND EVEN THOUGH IT IS MORE OFTEN
THE CASE, IN MY EXPERIENCE, THAT
THE MAN IS UNFAITHFUL, AND
INFIDELITY SEEMS TO ME TO BE AN
UNCONSCIOUS CONTRACT IN A
COUPLE, THAT IS TO SAY, ONE
PERSON ENACTS IT, AND THE OTHER
PERSON FEELS ALL SORTS OF OTHER
THINGS ABOUT IT.
I THINK IT'S AN ARRANGEMENT.

Another quote reads “Most people would never have engaged in monogamy of they never heard of monogamy.”

Adam says IN ORDER TO BE
MONOGAMOUS, YOU HAVE TO GROW UP
IN A CULTURE IN WHICH PEOPLE ARE
MONOGAMOUS, AND TALK ABOUT IT.
I'M NOT SAYING BY THAT, THAT WE
CAN BE ANYTHING WE LIKE, BUT
THERE ARE CULTURAL CONSTRAINTS.
ONE OF THE CONSTRAINTS ON PEOPLE
LIKE US, PROBABLY EVERYBODY IN
THIS ROOM, IS THAT WE'VE ALL
GROWN UP EITHER WITH TWO
PARENTS, OR WITH THE IDEA THAT,
AS IT WERE, THERE WERE TWO
PARENTS.
CERTAINLY NOT IN EXTENDED
FAMILIES OR WHERE OUR MOTHERS
LIVED WITH THEIR BROTHERS OR
WHATEVER, SO THERE ARE ALL SORTS
OF DIFFERENT FORMS OF SOCIAL
ORGANISATION.
THEY ALSO NOTICE THAT THEY MIGHT
GROW UP WITH A NOTION OF MISS
RIGHT OR MR. RIGHT, BUT THERE
SEEM TO BE SEVERAL OF THEM.
I MEAN LET'S SAY THERE IS ONE
MOTHER AND ONE FATHER, BUT THERE
REALLY ARE A LOT OF MEN AND
WOMEN IN THE WORLD.
I THINK IT'S ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT DAWNS ON YOU WHEN YOU GROW
UP.

A caption reads “What about love?”

Adam says ROMANTIC LOVE
IS WHEN SOMEBODY IDEALISES
SOMEBODY, I THINK PROBABLY IN
EXCESS OF WHO THEY HAPPEN TO BE.
TO MAKE SOMETHING ELSE POSSIBLE,
AS IN SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL,
POWERFUL EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE.
EVERYBODY IS CAPABLE OF IT, BUT
IT'S POSSIBLE TO HAVE HAD THE
KIND OF CHILDHOOD THAT MAKES IT
EITHER TOO FRIGHTENING, OR MAKES
ONE FEEL THAT SUCH THINGS DON'T
EXIST.
I THINK IT'S AN EXPERIENCE THAT
EVERYBODY HAS THE CAPACITY FOR,
BUT IT CAN BE SABOTAGED.
I MEAN IF YOU HAVE A
CATASTROPHIC LOVE AFFAIR WHEN
YOU'RE 14, YOU MIGHT THINK,
“NEVER AGAIN.”
AND PEOPLE CAN DO PRETTY SEVERE
DEALS WITH THEMSELVES ABOUT
THIS.
YOU MIGHT DECIDE, FOR EXAMPLE,
THAT YOU COULDN'T RISK THAT
SCALE OF DISAPPOINTMENT AGAIN,
OR THAT SCALE OF LONGING FOR
SOMEBODY, OR, INDEED, THAT
INTENSITY OF PLEASURE.
ALL THESE THINGS CAN BE DAUNTING
DEPENDING ON WHO YOU HAPPEN TO
BE.

Another quote reads “Not everyone believes in monogamy, but everyone lives as though they do.”

Adam says WELL I THINK
THE CULTURE WANTS TO SUSTAIN THE
HOPE THAT SOMETHING CAN LAST,
AND THAT I THINK THAT IN TIMES
OF ECONOMIC INSECURITY, FOR
EXAMPLE, AND IF PEOPLE DON'T
BELIEVE IN GOD, AND IF THEY FIND
IT DIFFICULT TO BE PATRIOTIC,
THE QUESTION IS, WHAT DO YOU
BELIEVE IN, WHERE DO YOU GET
YOUR RELIABILITY FROM?
WELL ONE PLACE YOU MIGHT TRY AND
GET IT FROM, IS FROM
RELATIONSHIPS.
SO I THINK NOW THE PRESSURE ON
RELATIONSHIPS IS VERY GREAT, TO
PROVIDE SOME KIND OF ANCHOR,
BECAUSE EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT
LIFE IS VERY UNPREDICTABLE.

Another quote reads “Monogamy comes with infidelity built in, if only as a possibility.”

Adam says I THINK WE
SHOULD HOLD ON TO ROMANCE, BUT I
THINK IT WOULD BE GOOD IF WE HAD
MORE STORIES ABOUT IT.
I THINK FOR EXAMPLE, IT'S A BAD
STORY TO BELIEVE THAT ONE'S
ASPIRATIONS SHOULD BE MONOGAMY,
OR THAT A RELATIONSHIP IS
VALUABLE ACCORDING TO HOW LONG
IT LASTS.
YOU COULD MEET SOMEBODY FOR 10
MINUTES AND IT COULD CHANGE YOUR
LIFE.
AND YOU COULD SPEND 10 YEARS
WITH SOMEBODY AND IT COULD
ACTUALLY DEADEN YOU.
AND I THINK IT WOULD BE BETTER
IF WE HAD JUST A SIMPLY LARGER
REPERTOIRE OF IDEAS ABOUT
POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIPS.
TWO CAN SUFFICE SOMETIMES, BUT
YOU HAVE TO GET LUCKY.
AND I THINK THAT IT'S NOT THAT
IT IS A BAD IDEA TO AIM TO HAVE
A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP.
IT'S THAT IT IS A WISH, YOU
CAN'T ACTUALLY PREDICT IT'S
GOING TO HAPPEN, BECAUSE PEOPLE
EVOLVE AND CHANGE IN DIFFERENT
WAYS AND SO ON.
ALSO, PEOPLE LIVE LONGER NOW
THAN THEY'VE EVER LIVED BEFORE.
I MEAN, IF WE WERE LIVING AT THE
END OF THE 19th CENTURY, AND I
VOWED MYSELF TO SOMEBODY ELSE, I
WOULD BE VOWING MYSELF FOR 20
YEARS PROBABLY.
BUT I MEAN YOU COULD BE VOWING
YOURSELF NOW FOR 50.

Another quote reads “There is nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage.”

Adam says IT IS A
MYSTERY TO OUTSIDERS.
NOBODY KNOWS WHAT GOES ON INSIDE
A COUPLE.
I MEAN THE COUPLE USUALLY DON'T
KNOW EITHER, BUT NOBODY SITTING
AS A THIRD PARTY DOES.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE MEET PEOPLE AND
THEY LOVE AND DESIRE EACH OTHER
FOR AN AWFULLY LONG TIME.
I THINK TODAY THAT'S A KIND OF A
FRONT TO PEOPLE, BECAUSE PEOPLE
ARE NOW RATHER CYNICAL ABOUT
RELATIONSHIPS, AND ASSUME
THEY'RE NOT GOING TO LAST VERY
LONG.
IT'S OUTRAGEOUS, IT REALLY
UPSETS OUR EXPERIENCE OF
OURSELVES.
IT MAKES US ENVIOUS, IT MAKES US
WONDER WHAT THEY'RE UP TO, WHAT
THE SECRET IS, OR IF SOMETHING
IS THAT GOOD FOR THAT LONG, THEN
WHAT IS IT THAT I HAVEN'T GOT,
THAT I CAN'T DO IT OR HAVE IT?

Another quote reads “We need to replace the idea of a real relationship with the idea of a pleasurable relationship.”

Adam says I THINK PEOPLE
USE WORDS LIKE REAL, OR MATURE,
RATHER MISLEADINGLY.
I THINK RELATIONSHIPS SHOULD BE
ABOUT PLEASURE.
PLEASURE IS A BIG CATEGORY, BUT
I THINK IT WOULD BE MUCH MORE--
I THINK WE'D HAVE A BETTER TIME
IF WE THOUGHT ABOUT
RELATIONSHIPS IN TERMS OF HOW
MUCH HOPE THEY GIVE US, HOW MUCH
WE CAN BE A VERSION OF OURSELVES
WE LIKE OR VALUE, RATHER THAN
THINKING, OR BELIEVING THAT
THERE IS A REAL RELATIONSHIP AND
EVERYTHING ELSE IS SOME KIND OF
SPURIOUS ALTERNATIVE TO IT.
BECAUSE I MIGHT THINK--
I MIGHT GROW UP IN A CULTURE
THAT TELLS ME THE REAL
RELATIONSHIP IS HETEROSEXUAL,
INVOLVES HAVING 2 CHILDREN, AND
LASTS FOR 30 YEARS, SAY.
NOW I WOULD WANT TO KNOW WHO'S
GOT AN INVESTMENT IN ME
BELIEVING IN THIS, BECAUSE IT'S
QUITE CLEAR FROM EXPERIENCE,
THAT THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF GOOD
RELATIONSHIPS.
SO THE WORD REAL IS VERY
COERCIVE, WHEREAS THE WORD
PLEASURABLE SEEMS TO BE MUCH
MORE AVAILABLE TO EXPERIENCE.
YOU REALLY CAN ASK YOURSELF, AM
I ENJOYING BEING WITH THIS
PERSON?
IF YOU ASK YOURSELF, AM I HAVING
A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS
PERSON, WHO KNOWS, WHO'S TO SAY?

Another quote reads “At its best monogamy may be the wish to find someone to die with; at its worst it is the cure for the terrors of aliveness. They are easily confused.”

Adam says WE'VE HAD 30
YEARS OF PEOPLE HAVING DIVORCES
BECAUSE RELATIONSHIPS ARE
PROBLEMATIC.
I DON'T THINK THE INFERENCE FROM
THAT IS WE SHOULD TRY HARDER TO
GET ON WITH EACH OTHER.
I THINK THAT THE MESSAGE YOU CAN
GIVE A CHILD, IF YOU STAY
TOGETHER BECAUSE OF THE
CHILDREN, YOU CAN GIVE A CHILD
THE MESSAGE THAT COUPLES ARE
RELATIONSHIPS IN WHICH PEOPLE
HUMILIATE EACH OTHER, OR COUPLES
ARE ARRANGEMENTS IN WHICH TWO
PEOPLE MAKE EACH OTHER EXTREMELY
MISERABLE.
I WOULDN'T PROMOTE AT ALL THE
IDEA THAT WHEN IT GETS DIFFICULT
YOU LEAVE, I'M NOT AT ALL
SUGGESTING THAT, BUT I AM
SUGGESTING THAT THERE'S A KIND
OF PURITANICAL IDEA ABOUT
WORKING AT A RELATIONSHIP, WHICH
CAN BE REALLY VERY MISLEADING
AND PRODUCES A LOT OF
PSYCHOBABBLE ABOUT RESOLVING
THINGS AND WORKING THROUGH AND
SO ON AND SO FORTH, AND
BASICALLY SIMPLY LEGITIMISE A
LOT OF MASOCHISM.
THAT IS TO SAY, THIS IS GOOD
BECAUSE I'M SUFFERING SO MUCH.
WELL IT MIGHT BE BAD BECAUSE
YOU'RE SUFFERING SO MUCH.
IN OTHER WORDS, SUFFERING IN AND
OF ITSELF, IS NOT A VALUE IN A
RELATIONSHIP.
IT CAN BE, BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE
TO BE.

Another quote reads “No one gets the relationship they deserve.”

Adam says NOBODY CAN
PROGRAM THE RELATIONSHIPS
THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE.
THAT IS TO SAY, WE HAVE WISHES
OR FANTASIES ABOUT THE KIND OF
WOMEN OR MEN WE WOULD WANT TO
MEET, AND YET WE MEET THESE ODD
OTHER PEOPLE, AND WE HAVE TO PUT
TOGETHER OUR FANTASIES ABOUT
PEOPLE WITH THE REALITY OF THE
PEOPLE WE COME ACROSS.

Another quote reads “Every marriage is a blind date that makes you wonder what the alternatives are to a blind date.”

Adam says I THINK IT'S
TRUE INSOFAR AS YOU REALLY DON'T
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GETTING.
AND YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT
YOU'RE GETTING.
I MEAN YOU CAN LIVE WITH
SOMEBODY FOR 10 YEARS, BUT THEY
REALLY CAN SURPRISE YOU.
OTHER PEOPLE REALLY ARE QUITE AN
UNKNOWN QUANTITY.
ONE WORKS VERY HARD TO
FAMILIARISE THEM AND MAKE
ONESELF FEEL THAT YOU KNOW WHO
THEY ARE AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU
ARE WITH THEM, AND YET THERE ARE
DISPARITIES.
I MEAN, YOU SEE YOUR WIFE ACROSS
THE ROOM AT A PARTY, TALKING TO
ANOTHER MAN OR A WOMAN, AND YOU
SEE SOMETHING YOU HAVEN'T SEEN
BEFORE.

Another quote reads “Infidelity makes a life of absolute monogamy essential.”

Adam says IT'S A
QUESTION OF HOW COMPLICATED WE
CAN ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE.
IT SEEMS TO ME--
IT SEEMS TO BE OBVIOUSLY TRUE
THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF
LOVING MORE THAN ONE PERSON.
IT'S ALSO TRUE THAT SEXUAL
JEALOUSY IS AGONY AND DRIVES
PEOPLE MAD.
THAT'S PART OF THE COMPLICATION
OF BEING A PERSON.
NOW I WOULD PREFER THAT WE TAKE
ON THE COMPLICATIONS AND
TOLERATE THE CONFLICTS RATHER
THAN MAKE A KIND OF PREEMPTIVE
STRIKE.
SO YOU DECIDE, RIGHT, I WON'T DO
ONE.
IN OTHER WORDS, I'LL SHORT
CIRCUIT THE PROBLEM OF JEALOUSY
BY NEVER FALLING FOR SOMEONE
ELSE.
I THINK THAT'S A FALSE SOLUTION.
IN A WAY YOU COULD THINK THAT
YOU'RE ORGANISING YOURSELF
AROUND AN INABILITY TO TOLERATE
SEXUAL JEALOUSY.
BUT IT WOULD SEEM TO ME TO BE OF
INTEREST WHY ONE WOULD BELIEVE
THAT'S TRUE.
NOW IT MAY END UP BEING TRUE.
YOU KNOW, YOU MAY HAVE TO COME
TO THE CONCLUSION THAT YOU
REALLY CAN'T BEAR THIS.
THEN YOU MUST NOT DO IT.
BUT IT WOULD BE USEFUL IF YOU
COULD FIND WAYS OF DESCRIBING IT
THAT MADE IT MORE TOLERABLE,
BECAUSE THEN YOU'D HAVE MORE
ROOM TO MOVE, A BIT MORE
FREEDOM.

A picture of the book appears again.

Adam says THIS ISN'T A
RADICAL BOOK.
I WISH IT WAS A MORE RADICAL
BOOK.
IT'S, I THINK IT'S VERY
DIFFICULT TO--
IT'S ALMOST IS THOUGH THERE ARE
TWO CHOICES HERE.
EITHER WE JUST STICK BY
MONOGAMY, ASSUME WE KNOW WHAT IT
MEANS, OR, THERE'S KIND OF
EMOTIONAL CHAOS.
I DON'T THINK THOSE ARE THE
CHOICES.
I THINK THAT'S THE POWER OF A
DOMINANT IDEA, IT MAKES YOU FEEL
THE ALTERNATIVES ARE SILLY.
THE BOOK IS NOT SIMPLY SAYING,
“COME ON, LET'S ALL HAVE
AFFAIRS,” THE BOOK IS SAYING,
MONOGAMY, FOR SOME PEOPLE WORKS,
FOR SOME PEOPLE IT IS A PROBLEM.
IS THAT PROBLEM INTERESTING, AND
ARE THERE OTHER WAYS OF
ARRANGING THIS?
I DON'T THINK WE SHOULD TRY NOT
TO BE JEALOUS, BUT WE MIGHT BE
ABLE TO HAVE A DIFFERENT
RELATIONSHIP TO OUR JEALOUSY.
I WOULD PREFER ABOVE ALL, TO
LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE VARIOUS
DIFFERENT KINDS OF RELATIONSHIPS
COULD BE DISCUSSED AND
EXPERIMENTED WITH, THAT'S THE
POINT.
I DON'T THINK ANYBODY IS IN A
POSITION TO KNOW WHAT A GOOD
RELATIONSHIP IS, IN SOME
ABSOLUTE SENSE.

Music plays.

The end credits roll.

Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Series producer, Dan Dunsky.

Executive producer, Doug Grant.

Canadian Media Guild. TNG Canada. CWA.

CEP Local 72M.

A production of TV Ontario.

Copyright. The Ontario Educational Communications Authority. 2004.

Watch: Flying Solo - Adam Phillips