On Tickling (in On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life)


by Adam Phillips (1954 - 0)

In this compact essay, which remains an unanswered enquiry more than most ‘essais’, an esteemed analyst of children wonders that the childhood experience of being tickled by a parent or other adult has been so little examined.

He notes Freud’s uncertainty on the subject. The adult’s assertion of dominance over the tickled child, who can never learn to tickle themselves as they learn to feed or dress themselves, is described as ‘ordinary, affectionate, perverse’. The experience is an initiation into ‘the helplessness and disarray of a certain primitive kind of pleasure’ and is therefore erotic, but without possibility of satisfaction.

Related recommendation: Max Beerbohm’s ‘Laughter’ (1920)

Origin: Britain

Themes: Familiar Examined Afresh, Raising Children

Genres: Scientific or Medical

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