Lacanian psychoanalysis and its different aspects

Lacan is a French psychiatrist whose own version of psychoanalysis is very distinctive with many remarkable aspects. He worked with psychotic patients from 1930 to 1940. During the 1950s, he began to develop his own version of psychoanalysis keeping his precursor Freud as the mastermind behind his activities. His extraordinary contribution to this field is his accommodation of structuralism and deconstruction with psychoanalysis. He is greatly influenced by the Saussurean linguistic model, Levi Strauss’s model, and Derridian deconstructive model. he has shifted psychoanalysis from its humanistic model to the poststructuralist paradigm.

Freudian Psychoanalysis

Before discussing Lacanian psychoanalysis, it is important to know what Freudian psychoanalysis says. According to Freud, human actions, beliefs, thoughts, and the idea of the self are inevitably determined by the unconscious and its different components. Thus, the unconscious destabilizes the humanist idea of self or the center. Regarding this, he behaves like a poststructuralist. But he shifts his idea by saying that the unconscious can be channeled to a formative self with the introduction of the superego, and thus, freeing a person from his polymorphously pervert desires. In this way, as Freud claims, a person can form his subject position.

Lacanian Idea of I

Lacan questions the Freudic idea of the subject formation. To him, the formation of ‘I’ is nothing but an illusion. In his Psychoanalytic Experience (1949), he shows how an infant forms the idea of the signifier ‘I’ as an illusion of an ego. it is to be mentioned here that Lacanian psychoanalysis is also centered on the unconscious but he is substantially different from Freud in the functioning of the unconscious.

Lacanian unconscious: a verbal paradigm

According to Lacan, the Freudian unconscious is a verbal paradigm and so, it works as a language following the definitive linguistic structures. For defining it, he takes Saussure’s linguistic model into consideration in which he says that meaning in any language is the inevitable combination of signifier and signified.

singifier + signified= meaning

To Freud, a signifier is a sound we utter, and signified is the psychological imprint of the utterance. These two can be combined following a particular psychological process called to be signification. He emphasizes the fact that without producing signified by the signifier, meaning is quite impossible. So, meaning is nothing but the signified of the corresponding signifier. The Lacanian objection lies here regarding the inevitability of the signified. It is the chain produced in the manner that the signifier can be combined with the signifier. The famous analogy given by him is that

I am x or y= I am breast or I am penis

The shifting is remarkable as it offers an externally embodied form. Moreover, it represents a name that links the person individually in the social network. This is also a shift of Freudian metaphor to Lacanian metonymy.

Mirror Phase

Peter Barry analyses the mirror phase elaborately in his Beginning Theory. According to him, it happens between six to eighteen months. Seeing himself in the mirror, a child considers himself as a unified body. But he is given the notion by someone from his family uttering ‘look, look, it is you’. The infant looking at himself and the person indicting discovers the ultimate difference existing between them. According to Lacan, this is the moment when he enters into the world of language. His language system is concerned with the lack and separation. He can realize that he lacks something that his mother or father has and thus, he suffers from the sense of separation. But Barry comments on the fact that the mirror stage is the beginning of socialization for the baby as it is concerned with prohibition and restriction. This is also the beginning of Lacanian symbolism.

The idea of wholeness that the infant perceives by seeing himself in the mirror offers him a sense of no lack, no notion of absence, or incompleteness. This stage is called to be the ideal ego. It is nothing but a fictional reality that leads him to a separation from his original tie, his mother. With the emergence of the ideal ego, the child enters into the realm of language and culture but it alienates him from nature, his mother.

Unconscious as language

The Lacanian unconscious is structurally language. According to him, the Freudian unconscious comes out following some indirect routes such as dreams, jokes, and slips of tongues. Dreams work like metaphor ( condensation) and metonymy (displacement) which are linguistic in nature. Lacan also opines that Freud deals with his patients through linguistic aspects such as puns, association, etc.

Lacan’s use of deconstruction

Lacan also uses Derridian deconstructive ideas in his own version of psychoanalysis. Derrida is with the view that a signifier is not necessarily bound to a signified. It may get combined with another signifier. Thus, there can be a chain of signifiers in the signification system. He argues that the chain of the signifiers is endless. Lacan uses the idea of the endless chain of signifiers to refer to the formation of the ‘I’ that is nothing but an illusion to him. The formation of the ‘I’ is another addition of the signifier of the chain of signifiers. Lacan is also deconstructive in the sense that the unconscious would never be channeled to a particular formative self what is contrary to his precursor Freud.

Abdur Rahim
Abdur Rahim

Assistant Professor, and Member of the Proctorial Body
Department of English Language and Literature (DELL), Premier University, Chattogram,
& Doctoral Fellow, English Department, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka.

Phone: +8801715638298


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