Adam Phillips on sanity

Definitions of sanity become elegies for a lost world, nostalgic fantasies for a wished-for strength, for an afterlife without struggle and self-division. In a supposedly secular society sanity keeps in circulation pictures of life before the Fall. Of a life, that is to say, in which one’s body, and other people — other people’s bodies — are no trouble.


The traditional contest between sanity and madness is therefore about the transparency of our intentions, about the extent to which our lives are our own — not subject to the darker forces, the obscurer inclinations — and so can be designed by ourselves for ourselves. What is at stake in sanity is whether we can be at home in the world; whether we are right to think of ourselves as self-fashioning creatures, and whether, if we are not, there is still a way of living available to us that is the right way…”

— Adam Phillips. Going Sane. Penguin Books, 2005. p. 60; 77.

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