Saturday, February 26, 2011

Freudiana in a Mirror

The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown to him.
--S. Freud


  1. The sad thing about being opaque is that it isolates.

    How can there be relatedness when one is opaque?

  2. For the record, it's not a joke to me.

  3. But then again, why be transparent when it all appears to be a joke (to the other)?

    It boils down to trusting oneself.

  4. At some time between six and eighteen months, the baby sees its image, generally in a mirror, and realises that what it is seeing is somehow itself. This recognition causes great confusion and ‘libidinal dynamism’ (Lacan, 1977) as the pre-linguistic infant struggles with its first identity conflict.

    With the boundary-formation of identity comes separation, and the image is perceived as distinct Other. Separation also creates a sense of loss and a lifelong desire to regain the jouissance of the connected wholeness.

    The image seems to be perfect, an ‘imago’ (Lacan, 1949), an ‘ideal ego’ that is appealing, to be loved and emulated in an enduring narcissistic fantasy. The perfect other also creates envy and dislike and hence further confusion and tension between these polar opposites. It also may seem to be asking questions or making demands of the child who may wonder what it wants and what it will do.

    An early sense of jubilation at recognizing its wholeness is followed by a fear that the infant will regress to its previous state of being in 'bits and pieces'. The mirror does not reflect feelings and 'lies' about the apparent independence of the image that the baby does not have.

    This misrecognition or m√©connaissance (Lacan, 1949) is compounded when, in taking the subject position of the image and looking back on its actual self, the baby contrasts what it sees with the ‘ego ideal’. This casts itself as imperfect and inferior, thus exaggerating the difference and cementing the trauma of imperfection and self-loathing and the desire to become the unattainable ideal (Leader and Groves, 2000).

    The desire for the connected whole and the desire for individual perfection represent a tension between non-identity and identity that is perhaps related to Freud’s death and life drives.

    Within the ‘imaginary order’ of this stage, the child continues to build its self image, oscillating between alien images and fragments of the real body. From surreal paranoia, the ego starts to emerge as an unconscious construction. Somewhat wittily, Lacan called this the ‘hommelette’ : the little man, made out of broken eggs. When a baby sees itself in a mirror, it both recognizes itself and misrecognizes itself. The image seems to be psychologically integrated and physically coordinated in a way that the baby does not feel.

    Adults still feel uncomfortable about themselves as integrated and whole individuals. Self-images continue through their lives to cause narcissistic fascination and/or discomfort in that the image somehow does not look like 'me'.