LACAN – The Psyche
What we are building towards? Understandable sense of confusion around connotation and denotation. Spring breakers – we cannot understand it in denotation meaning.
How we integrate in structure, how we become who we are
We are going to penetrate some of the things we talk about. The Lacan and the idea of psyche – who you are, the inner voice, the outer world.
The three orders
- The REAL
- The IMAGINARY
- The SYMBOLIC
- Freud 3 parts of the psyche – ID, SUPEREGO, EGO
- “The symbolic”, “the real” and “the imaginary” all have individual definition, all relate to something significant in our daily sense of the world, all evoke meanings and references independent of each other. We seek out (or avoid) the Real World; we have Imaginary friends; we experience Symbolic Moments.
Lacan is doing something different than Freud. Lacan’s work is extensions, he is influenced by structualists, of semiotics, of signifier and signifies.
We can use these words to describe our everyday life and give it meaning. However, we need to approach those words how Lacan refer to them.
What has this got to do with the Media?
- For Lacan these three things they form the levels of which we experience the world
- It is way of thinking about subjectivity, the way we encounter the world
- Our perception, who we are, subject formation
- That is what media is – sound, images. It what we see, hear, look at; it is the external world
- Theories of media are embedded with invocations of these three Lacanian orders and a further concern
- The way our mind work – we cannot understand the media unless our mind is structured in specific ways
- It is ignored by media studies. The slippery relationship between psychology and media. Focus on structure of the mind and how it works
- We can begin with Lacan’s infantile mirror stage and then we further align the continued proposition of subjectivity with the influences of external stimuli such as media. The moment when we understand that we existed – Lacan identifies it and calls it mirror stage. The idea we are influenced by things around us – we exist externally.
- From that idea, the proposition of inner world and outer world – two worlds we are subject of – media and the process of media in designing our mind. This understanding of inner and outer affect us and we are being influenced by it.
The Mirror Stage and the Symbolic Order
Marker of intelligence – any creature recognise itself in the mirror. This is important because this encounter literally everybody’s experience. Nobody can remember seeing their reflection for the first time. Lacan has a reason why – seeing yourself for the first time and no one has memory about it – this is the birth of the subjectivity. It is represented by a baby recognising itself in the mirror. According to Lacan when the baby see itself in the mirror, something important happens – the first time when the baby see itself as a whole and Lacan sees that important because until that point everything was seen by the baby as a fragments.
That moment in the baby’s life according Lacan, the baby sees is IDEAL self. We saw ourselves and smile – we look in the mirror and thought we like what we see. The Ego Ideal, using Freudian words.
This is the moment we exist as a whole human being. The idea of wholeness.
It is coherent – we look at ourselves and we make sense. It is a connection to the internal world. The mirror stage is the connection between the inner and the outer – that we exist and other people can see us. We knew that people can see you, but we did not know what they are seeing. We have image of ourselves in our mind, of how we look, we are aware. It is the awareness of the self that happens in the mirror stage. The first understanding of relationships – me and you.
What Lacan is pointing to is that moment actually does something traumatic to us, deeply disturbing – having a image of ourselves is traumatic, subjectivity is traumatic. We start to understand the external world and then the internal world in completely different way. The mind splints between these tree: the real, the imaginary, the symbolic.
According to Lacan the real is a state of nature. We lose it, we start to lose our understanding of real. The real is need – N-E-E-D. We got primordial needs as babies – breathes, eating, creating. Its life is driven by need – when it need something, it cries and shouts, it does not care about the external world and it does not care about ‘you’, it cares about ‘me’.
For Lacan it is a nature, it is a time for joy – a wonderful time when someone wants something and cry for it someone fulfilled it. The inner voice gets what it needs. That for Lacan is the real and we lose it. The birth of the subjectivity is the end of the real. The moment of us understanding as whole and our position in relationship and things we do is the moment when we lose ‘the real’.
Lacan says the real becomes impossible. The world is separating us from the real. The sense of the idea of the real – it never leaves us, it becomes part of our minds, influences us for the rest of our lives. The real is always there.
The real defies language. We cannot put in words what the real feels like or what the real was. It defies language and we can remember the real when something happens. When we are face ‘the materiality’ of our existent, when our reality is threaten. Then real appears, we cannot explain what we feel at that moment. There is no language for it.
The only real we experience in our life is about 5 or 6 months before the mirror stage, according Lacan. The idea of trauma – Lacan calls it the sense of ‘jouissance’. Our desires as babies suddenly becomes prohibited. It is not about the benefit of the child, but for other people – because of the external prohibition. Telling a child ‘you cannot do that!’ Everything was pleasurable becomes painful.
This feeling of jouissance we always keep it; it becomes a fantasy in the mind. We are always aware that pure joy can exist, it is there, in our mind. It exists, but we never have it.
The IMAGINARY order
It marks the moment when we move from the primal need to what is demand. The mother fulfils the needs according to Lacan. These mirror stage marks the end of that reality. We have the emergence of Imaginary. Our mind has to split. The imaginary order is primarily narcissistic according to Lacan. Because the big difference is that demands is not being satisfied.
We never will be in a state where we will have all we need. We can demand things but we will not get them. The baby starts to understand the absence; the lack of things it needs. The defining feature of us is the LACK, that we are not going to have the things we want, according to Lacan.
The baby believes that the mother and the baby are one subject, they are together. The mirror stage is the moment the baby understand it is a separate from the mother and from every human that exists.
It realizes that it never will be part of the mother’s subjectivity again. Makes the other a part of the self. This demand as seeing itself as ideal, but then it realizes that this is not the reality. The reality is – ‘you are not a whole independent creature’. The image of itself becomes a fantasy. The baby begins to fantasies about itself, because of the lack and loses.
The fantasy of itself refer to the ideal ego. This stays for the whole of our life and never leaves us. This is the process where we are starting to look for the fantasy of others. We start to project ideal ego on others. What we thing we see in the mirror is not necessary what the world see. What we see is the ideal ego.
We compensate for the trauma for looking out and projecting our fantasies on others. It could be a mirror reflection, it could be role model and we could start to act like it. It all happens in our mind. This is complete narcissistic according Lacan.
It continues to influence our life. The imaginary and the symbolic work in collaboration. We are projecting that idea and we are looking for it in other people.
It becomes an internalized image of this ideas, whole, self and is situated around the notion of coherence rather than fragmentation. We know we never will be complete individuals. But still we are going out looking for it.
For Lacan, looking in the mirror is sign and what is signified in our own head? The process of signification. The imaginary is aligned with the icon – an image which is understood with no mediation.
It is a contrast to the imaginary. Because that is way the baby is plunged into the world of signifiers, where everything is symbolic and has an association, everything is in order. ‘’Symbols envelop the life of man in a network so total that they join together, before he comes into the world, those who are going to engender him…’’
For Lacan the symbolic about structure, about narrative, about making sense of everything. A child has to enter the symbolic order and accept the rules, the dictates of the symbolic order. It is the society, not the external world. It has to accept it in order to fit within society structures. Us as a subject.
This is the entry of the father according Lacan. The restrictions, the laws, the rules of their communication are dictated in the Name-of-the-Father. The figure if law is the father and we have to recognize it and accept it. When the baby accepts it, it can enter the society.
The world of symbols, signs and signifiers. Even those things are symbolic – the name of the father does not have to be the male, it is the symbol of it.
These three things are happening all in the same time. The mirror phase mark them. Understanding these three things are extremely traumatic. Everyone is repressed down this feeling of trauma. We are train to repress everything down – the prohibition of the desire; telling a child ‘’put your clothes on’’ makes it to feel ‘’ashamed’’ (as going to the toilet is a ‘dirty’ thing, the real is ‘dirty’, that need is ‘dirty’).
The desire to procreate – are we born with it?
Repression feeds in imaginary. The things we repressed go into the imaginary. In our dreams we enter the subconscious. Using the imaginary to explain dreams.
Lacan and Media
How this relates to media?
Media is about perceptions. It is a visualization of someone’s imagination. Is it a way to access the real? Or we are continuously projecting? The three key things: representation, ideology and culture. They are all symbolic. The real, the imaginary and the symbolic – how many narratives, how many stories, how many films, how many programs are about subject identity, are about individual struggling with their identity, about people’s desires. We sometimes project on them – I am like them or I wish I was like them.
Seven repeated themes of media analysis:
- The presentation/ illusion of wholeness vs. fragmentation (fragile people become strong; strong people become fragile)
- The role of language and symbols
- The kind of mediation performed by the ego through perception
- The function of ‘the gaze’
- Defences against trauma
- Changes in internal perception (see the world differently and learn)
- The complex relation of representation to ‘’the real’’ (which for Lacan is what cannot be represented) (to return to the ‘real’)