At War with the Obvious : Disruptive Thinking in Psychoanalysis book cover
1st Edition

At War with the Obvious
Disruptive Thinking in Psychoanalysis

ISBN 9781138841567
Published August 21, 2017 by Routledge
182 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Psychoanalytic thought has already transformed our basic assumptions about the psychic life of individuals and cultures. Those assumptions often take on the valence of common sense. However, this can mean that their original and important meanings often become obscured. Disruptive ideas become domesticated. At War with the Obvious aims to return those ideas to their original disruptive status. 

Donald Moss explores a wide range of issues—the loosening of constraints on deep systematized forms of hatred, clinical, and technical matters, the puzzling status of revenge and forgiveness, a consideration of the dynamics of climate change denial, and an innovative look at the problem of voice in the clinical situation. Because it is rooted in a profound reconsideration of the origins of psychic life, psychoanalysis remains vital, in spite of the perennial efforts to keep it effaced and quieted. Moss covers a range of central psychoanalytic concepts to argue that only by examining and challenging our everyday assumptions about issues like sexuality, punishment, creativity, analytic neutrality, and trauma, can psychoanalysis offer a radical alternative to other forms of therapy.

At War with the Obvious will appeal to psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists, cultural theorists and anyone for whom incisive psychoanalytic thought matters.

Table of Contents


1. Against Common Sense

2. The Insane Look of the Bewildered Half-Broken Animal

3. "The Sexual Aberrations: Do We Still Need the Concept? If so, when and why? If not, why not?" 

4. On Keeping Thought Erotic: Some Problems in Contemporary Theory and Practice. (Written with Alan Bass.)

5. Our Crying Planet: An Approach to the Problem of Climate Change Denial 

6. On the Fetishization of "Creativity"; Towards a General Theory of Work 

7. On a Regressive Feature of Applied Psychoanalysis

8. On the Work of Desiring and Being Desired

9. Whose Men? Whose Masculinities? 

10. On Thinking and Not Being Able to Think: Reflections on Viewing the Abu Ghraib Photos 

11. I and You 

12. After the Offense: Thoughts on Forgiveness;


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Donald Moss is a psychoanalyst with more than 40 years’ experience in private practice in New York City and a member of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. He edited the book Hating in the First Person Plural(Other Press, 2003), has authored the Routledge title Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man (2012) and written more than fifty articles linking basic Freudian concepts to contemporary social and clinical problems.


"Donald Moss, a courageous and gifted psychoanalyst and writer, succeeds in taking imaginative leaps whilst keeping his feet firmly on the ground. He encourages us to accompany him ‘beyond the obvious’, as he illuminates a wide range of issues, clinical cultural and social. The book argues effectively for the ongoing relevance of psychoanalytic thought in the contemporary world."-Irma Brenman Pick, Distinguished Fellow of the British Psychoanalytic Society.

"Donald Moss, in At War with the Obvious, is an unsettling psychoanalytic thinker. "The obvious" is our complacency with yesterday’s "truths" and today’s half-shed biases concerning, for example, the "rightness" of heterosexuality; the psychopathology of transgender individuals; our collective certainties concerning what it means to be a man and to be a woman; our allegiance to the concepts of sexual aberration and sexual perversion. "The obvious" is our attraction to the binary, which protects us from contending with a yet to be named "third zone," which Moss invites us to attempt to imagine along with him."-Thomas H. Ogden, author most recently of Reclaiming Unlived Life: Experiences in Psychoanalysis and Creative Readings: Essays on Seminal Analytic Works.

"The surprising thing about Don Moss is that he is always surprising. With all of his probing sophistication, he dwells within a beginner’s mind—and this sparks not only his own creative awareness, but that of the reader’s. With this volume Moss sets his gaze broadly, deeply, urgently, intertwining the personal, the clinical, and the pressing social issues of our times. His vision is not only engaged, ethical, and political— it is subversive. Don Moss brings us to the edges."-Alfred Margulies, MD, faculty at Harvard Medical School and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and author of The Empathic Imagination.

"Heeding the advice all writers receive but seldom follow-don’t tell, show, Donald Moss shows the constant battle one must wage with the obvious, whether working as a psychoanalyst in one’s practice or thinking as a psychoanalyst in the world. Moss’ many examples from the clinic and our culture demonstrate the relentless pull into what is already known and expectable, commonsensical and reasonable, against which a striving for authenticity must mobilize "erotic thought". With no place to stand outside the commonplace, at war with the obvious is also war with ourselves, illustrated through the arresting "disruptions" described throughout the book."-Bonnie E. Litowitz, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, JAPA.