Terms Used by Psychoanalysis

Terms Used by Psychoanalysis

 

http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/termsmainframe.html

THE FOLLOWING TERMS are presented in alphabetical order; however, someone beginning to learn psychoanalysis needs to stay conscious of the ways that each major theorist uses particular terms in his or her particular way. I have indicated those terms that are particularly tied to an individual theorist, as well as those terms that are used differently by two different psychoanalysts. For an introduction to the four psychoanalytical theorists currently influencing the discipline, see the Psychoanalysis Modules in this site. Whenever one of these terms are used elsewhere in the Guide to Theory, a hyperlink will eventually (if it does not already) allow you to review the term in the bottom frame of your browser window. The menu on the left allows you to check out the available terms without having to scroll through the list below. Note that the left-hand frame works best in Explorer, Mozilla, and Netscape 4; you may experience some bugs in Netscape 6 and Opera. (See the Guide to the Guide for suggestions.) I will also soon provide an alternate menu option; for now, just scroll down.

A
The Abject, abjection (Kristeva):
Our reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even a particularly immoral crime (e.g. Auschwitz). Kristeva posits that abjection is something that we must experience in our psychosexual development before entering into the mirror stage, that is, the establishment of such boundaries as self and other or human and animal. See the Kristeva module on the abject.Kristeva also associates the abject with the maternal since the establishment of the boundary between self and other marks our movement out of the chora. See the Kristeva module on psychosexual development.
Anal-Sadistic Phase:
The second phase of early childhood psychosexual development, according to Freud, when pleasure is oriented to the anal orifice and defecation (roughly 2-4 years of age). This phase is split between active and passive impulses: the impulse to mastery on the one hand, which can easily become cruelty; the impulse to scopophilia (love of gazing), on the other hand. According to Freud, the child’s pleasure in defecation is connected to his or her pleasure in creating something of his or her own, a pleasure that for women is later transferred to child-bearing. See Freud Module 1 on psychosexual development.
B
Between the two deaths (Lacan):
The space of pure death drive without desire, between symbolic death and actual death. Lacan associates this space with an unconditional, insistent demand, like the demand from the ghost of Hamlet’s father insisting that he be revenged. In pop culture, this position is often taken up by the living dead (ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc.), by, as Zizek puts it, “the fantasy of a person who does not want to stay dead but returns again and again to pose a threat to the living” (Looking Awry 22)..
C
Castration Complex:
The early childhood fear of castration that Freud and Lacan both saw as an integral part of our psychosexual development. The castration complex is closely associated with the Oedipus complex, according to Freud: “the reaction to the threats against the child aimed at putting a stop to his early sexual activities and attributed to his father” (Introductory Lectures 15.208). The young child with primitive desires, in coming face to face with the laws and conventions of society (including the prohibitions against incest and murder), will tend to align prohibition with castration (something that is sometimes reinforced by parents if they warn against, for example, masturbation by saying that the child will in some way be punished bodily, eg. by going blind). Lacan builds on this Freudian concept in defining the Law of the Father.
Cathexis (cathexes, to cathect):
The libido‘s charge of energy. Freud often described the functioning of psychosexual energies in mechanical terms, influenced perhaps by the dominance of the steam engine at the end of the nineteenth century. He often described the libido as the producer of energies that, if blocked, required release in other ways. If an individual is frustrated in his or her desires, Freud often represented that frustration as a blockage of energies that would then build up and require release in other ways: for example, by way of regression and the “re-cathecting” of former positions (ie. fixation at the oral or anal phase and the enjoyment of former sexual objects [“object-cathexes”], including auto-eroticism). When the ego blocks such efforts to discharge one’s cathexis by way of regression, i.e. when the ego wishes to repress such desires, Freud uses the term “anti-cathexis” or counter-charge. Like a steam engine, the libido‘s cathexis then builds up until it finds alternative outlets, which can lead to sublimation or to the formation of sometimes disabling symptoms.
Chora:
The earliest stage in your psychosexual development (0-6 months), according to Julia Kristeva. In this pre-lingual stage of development, you were dominated by a chaotic mix of perceptions, feelings, and needs. You did not distinguish your own self from that of your mother or even the world around you. Rather, you spent your time taking into yourself everything that you experienced as pleasurable without any acknowledgment of boundaries. This is the stage, then, when you were closest to the pure materiality of existence, or what Lacan terms “the Real.” At this stage, you were, according to Kristeva, purely dominated by your drives (both life drives and the death drives). See the Kristeva Module on Psychosexual Development.
Condensation:
Condensation is one of the methods by which the repressed returns in hidden ways. For example, in dreams multiple dream-thoughts are often combined and amalgamated into a single element of the manifest dream (e.g. symbols). According to Freud, every situation in a dream seems to be put together out of two or more impressions or experiences. One need only think about how people and places tend to meld into composite figures in our dreams. The same sort of condensation can occur in symptom-formation. The other method whereby the repressed hides itself is displacement.
D
Death Drive :
The bodily instinct to return to the state of quiescence that preceded our birth. The death drive, according to Freud’s later writings (Beyond the Pleasure Principle, “The Uncanny”), explains why humans are drawn to repeat painful or traumatic events (even though such repetition appears to contradict our instinct to seek pleasure). Through such a compulsion to repeat, the human subject attempts to “bind” the trauma, thus allowing the subject to return to a state of quiescence. See the Freud Module on Trauma and Transference.
Displacement:
Displacement is one of the methods by which the repressed returns in hidden ways. For example, in dreams the affect (emotions) associated with threatening impulses are often transferred elsewhere (displaced), so that, for example, apparently trivial elements in the manifest dream seem to cause extraordinary distress while “what was the essence of the dream-thoughts finds only passing and indistinct representation in the dream” (“New Introductory Lectures”22.21). For Freud, “Displacement is the principle means used in the dream-distortion to which the dream-thoughts must submit under the influence of the censorship” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.21). The same sort of displacement can occur in symptom-formation. The other method whereby the repressed hides itself is condensation.
Drives:
Instinctual (pre-lingual) bodily impulses or instincts, which Freud ultimately decided could be reduced to two primary drives: 1) the life drives (both the pleasure principle and the reality principle); and 2) the death drive, which Freud saw as even more primal than the life drives.
E
Ego:
For Freud, the ego is “the representative of the outer world to the id” (“Ego and the Id” 708). In other words, the ego represents and enforces the reality-principle whereas the id is concerned only with the pleasure-principle. Whereas the ego is oriented towards perceptions in the real world, the id is oriented towards internal instincts; whereas the ego is associated with reason and sanity, the id belongs to the passions. The ego, however, is never able fully to distinguish itself from the id, of which the ego is, in fact, a part, which is why in his pictorial representation of the mind Freud does not provide a hard separation between the ego and the id. The ego could also be said to be a defense against the superego and its ability to drive the individual subject towards inaction or suicide as a result of crippling guilt. Freud sometimes represents the ego as continually struggling to defend itself from three dangers or masters: “from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the super-ego” (“Ego and the Id” 716).
Ego-Ideal (Freud):
The ideal of perfection that the ego strives to emulate. For Freud, the ego-ideal is closely bound up with our super-ego. The super-ego is “the vehicle of the ego ideal by which the ego measures itself, which it emulates, and whose demand for ever greater perfection it strives to fulfil” (“New Introductory Lectures”22.65). Given the intimate connection of the super-ego to the Oedipus complex, the ego-ideal is likely “the precipitate of the old picture of the parents, the expression of admiration for the perfection which the child then attributed to them” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.65). It is also tied up with childhoodnarcissism (the belief in one’s own perfection), which in adulthood can take as its substitute the perfection of the ego-ideal.
Ego-Ideal and “ideal ego”(Lacan):
Lacan makes a distinction between the “ideal ego” and the “ego ideal,” the former of which he associates with the imaginary order, the latter of which he associates with the symbolic order. Lacan’s “ideal ego” is the ideal of perfection that the ego strives to emulate; it first affected the subject when he saw himself in a mirror during the mirror stage, which occurs around 6-18 months of age (see the Lacan module on psychosexual development). Seeing that image of oneself established a discord between the idealizing image in the mirror (bounded, whole, complete) and the chaotic reality of the one’s body between 6-18 months, thus setting up the logic of the imaginary’s fantasy construction that would dominate the subject’s psychic life ever after. For Lacan, the “ego-ideal,” by contrast, is when the subject looks at himself as if from that ideal point; to look at oneself from that point of perfection is to see one’s life as vain and useless. The effect, then, is to invert one’s “normal” life, to see it as suddenly repulsive.
F
Fetishism (the fetish):
The displacement of desire and fantasy onto alternative objects or body parts (eg. a foot fetish or a shoe fetish), in order to obviate a subject’s confrontation with the castration complex. Freud came to realize in his essay on “Fetishism” that the fetishist is able at one and the same time to believe in his phantasy and to recognize that it is nothing but a phantasy. And yet, the fact of recognizing the phantasy as phantasy in no way reduces its power over the individual. Octave Mannoni, in an influential essay, phrased this paradoxical logic in this way: “je sais bien, mais quand-même” or “I know very well, but nevertheless.”Zizek builds on this idea in theorizing the nature of ideology, which follows a similar contradictory logic. Kristeva goes so far as to associate all language with fetishism: “It is perhaps unavoidable that, when a subject confronts the factitiousness of object relation, when he stands at the place of the want that founds it, the fetish becomes a life preserver, temporary and slippery, but nonetheless indispensable. But is not exactly language our ultimate and inseparable fetish? And language, precisely, is based on fetishist denial (‘I know that, but just the same,’ ‘the sign is not the thing, but just the same,’ etc.) and defines us in our essence as speaking beings” (37).
Fixation:
When one’s desire is tied to an object of desire connected to an earlier phase in one’s psychosexual development. Example: a fixation on oral pleasure, which Freud would see as “stuck” at the oral phase even though other aspects of one’s development may have proceded normally: “I regard it as possible in the case of every particular sexual trend that some portions of it have stayed behind at earlier stages of its development, even though other portions may have reached their final goal” (Introductory Lectures 16.340). This term is closely related to regression. See also Freud: Module I on psychosexual development.
G
The Gaze (Lacan):
The Gaze in Lacan refers to the uncanny sense that the object of our eye’s look or glance is somehow looking back at us, a feeling that affects us in the same way as castration anxiety (reminding us of the lack at the heart of the symbolic order). We may believe that we are in control of our eye’s look; however, any feeling of scopophilic power is always undone by the fact that the the materiality of existence (the Real) always exceeds the meaning structures of the symbolic order. Lacan’s favorite example for the Gaze is Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors (pictured here). When you look at the painting, it at first gives you a sense that you are in control of your look; however, you then notice a blot at the bottom of the canvas, which you can only make out if you look at the painting from the side, from which point you can make out that the blot is, in fact, a skull staringback at you. By having the object of our eye’s look look back at us, we are reminded of our own lack, of the fact that the symbolic order is separated only by a fragile border from the materiality of the Real. The symbols of power in Holbein’s painting (wealth, power, ambition) are thus completely undercut. The magical floating object “reflects our own nothingness, in the figure of the death’s head” (Lacan, Four Fundamental 92). See the Lacan module on the Gaze.
Genital Phase:
“Normal” heterosexuality. According to Freud, heterosexual intercourse should be the goal of psychosexual development (a position that has since been questioned by feminists and queer theorists; see Gender and Sex.) At this point in “normal” development, Freud writes, one witnesses”the subordination of all the component sexual instincts under the primacy of the genitals” (Introductory Lectures 16.328). In this way, the individual enters adulthood and ensures the survival of the species. For Freud, a desire for oral or anal pleasure constitutes a fixation on or a regression to an earlier stage in one’s psychosexual development.
H
Hysteria:
The symptomatic return of repressed childhood sexual trauma. The two main forms of hysteria are 1) conversion hysteria, in which the symptoms are manifested on the body (eg. psychosomatic illness); and 2) anxiety hysteria, in which one feels excessive anxiety because of an external object (eg. phobias).
I
Id:
The id is the great reservoir of the libido, from which the ego seeks to distinguish itself through various mechanisms of repression. Because of thatrepression, the id seeks alternative expression for those impulses that we consider evil or excessively sexual, impulses that we often felt as perfectly natural at an earlier or archaic stage and have since repressed . The id is governed by the pleasure-principle and is oriented towards one’s internal instincts and passions. Freud also argues on occasion that the id represents the inheritance of the species, which is passed on to us at birth; and yet for Freud the id is, at the same time, “the dark, inaccessible part of our personality” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.73). See also Freud Module I on psychosexual development.
Identification:
This is the process whereby one’s ego seeks to emulate another. It is particularly important in overcoming the Oedipus complex: the young child deals with his primitive desires by identifying with his parents, imitating them to such an extent that, ultimately, he introjects the parental authority—and thus develops a super-ego. Identification is quite different from object-choice: “If a boy identifies himself with his father, he wants to be like his father; if he makes him theobject of his choice, he wants to have him, to possess him” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.63).
Imaginary Order (Lacan):
The fundamental narcissism by which the human subject creates fantasy images of both himself and his ideal object of desire, according to Lacan. The imaginary order is closely tied to Lacan’s theorization of the mirror stage. What must be remembered is that for Lacan this imaginary realm continues to exert its influence throughout the life of the adult and is not merely superceded in the child’s movement into the symbolic order. Indeed, the imaginary and thesymbolic are, according to Lacan, inextricably intertwined and work in tension with the Real. See the Lacan module on the structure of the psyche.
Instinct:
A pre-lingual bodily impulse that drives our actions. Freud makes a distinction between instinct and the antithesis, conscious/unconscious; an instinct is pre-lingual and, so, can only be accessed by language, by an idea that represents the instinct. What is repressed is not properly the instinct itself but “the ideational presentation” of the instinct, which is just another way of saying that our deepest, primitive drives are beyond our ability to represent them. Psychoanalysis seeks to make sense of the unconscious, which is to some extent intelligible and, so, one step removed from instinct. According to Freud, there are two classes of instincts: 1) Eros or the sexual instincts, which he later saw as compatible with the self-preservative instincts; and 2) Thanatos or the death-instinct, a natural desire to “re-establish a state of things that was disturbed by the emergence of life” (“Ego and the Id” 709). The death-instinct, which he theorized, in part, as a response to World War I, allowed Freud to explain man’s desire for murder and destruction.
Introjection:
The internalization of authority. According to Freud, when you introject the demands of your parents and, thus by extension, society, these demands become a part of your own psyche, which then becomes divided between social demands and your own repressed, socially unacceptable desires and needs. An endless process of self-policing occurs as the super-ego reinforces parental proscriptions long after the parental authority has ceased to make its demands.
Introversion:
A turn from reality to phantasy. Freud borrowed this term from C. G. Jung and defined it this way: “introversion denotes the turning away of the libido from the possibilities of real satisfaction and the hypercathexis of phantasies which have hitherto been tolerated as innocent” (Introductory Lectures 16.374). For Freud, an example of such introversion is art, since the artist turns away from real satisfaction to the life of phantasy.
J
Jouissance:
Definition on its way.
K
L
Latency Period:
The period of reduced sexuality that Freud believed occured between approximately age seven and adolescence. Freud claimed that children went through a “latency period” during which “we can observe a halt and retrogression in sexual development” (Introductory Lectures 16.326). During this time, the child also begins the process of what Freud terms “infantile amnesia”: the repression and estrangement of those earliest childhood memories that we find traumatic, evil and/or overly sexual. Freud warns, however, that “The latency period may… be absent: it need not bring with it any interruption of sexual activity and sexual interests” (Introductory Lectures 16.326). See also Freud: Module 1 on psychosexual development.
Libido:
The sexual drive. Freud believed that the sexual drive is as natural and insistent as hunger and that the libido manifests its influence as early as birth.
M
Melancholia:
Depression. Freud read melancholia as an example of how the super-ego could go overboard and cause harm to the individual subject; the melancholic’s “super-ego becomes over-severe, abuses the poor ego, humiliates it and ill-treats it, threatens it with the direst punishments” (“New Introductory Lectures”22.61).
Mirror Stage (Lacan):
The young child’s identification with his own image (what Lacan terms the “Ideal-I” or “ideal ego”), a stage that occurs anywhere from 6-18 months of age. For Lacan, this act marks the primordial recognition of one’s self as “I,” although at a point before entrance into language and the symbolic order. This stage’s misrecognition or méconnaissance (seeing an ideal-I where there is a fragmented, chaotic body) subsequently “characterizes the ego in all its structures” (Écrits 6). In particular, this creation of an ideal version of the self gives pre-verbal impetus to the creation of narcissistic phantasies in the fully developed subject. That fantasy image of oneself can be filled in by others who we may want to emulate in our adult lives (role models, et cetera), anyone that we set up as a mirror for ourselves. The mirror stage establishes what Lacan terms the “imaginary order” and, through the imaginary, continues to assert its influence on the subject even after the subject enters the symbolic order. See the Lacan Module on Psychosexual Development.
N
Name-of-the-Father (Lacan):
The laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication, according to Lacan. The Name-of-the-Father is closely bound up with the superego, the Phallus, the symbolic order, and the Oedipus complex. Note that, according to Lacan, the Name-of-the-Father has a shadow double in the Father-of-Enjoyment. See the Lacan module on the structure of the psyche.
Narcissism:
Self-love. Ideally, the libido directs its energies to objects (“object-libido”), including eventually one’s love-object. However, the libido can also attach itself to the ego (“ego-libido”) to the exclusion of external object-cathexes. This situation leads, according to Freud, to narcissistic behavior and to narcissistic neuroses such as megalomania. Lacan makes narcissism an even more central aspect of the human psyche, aligning it with what he terms the “imaginary order,” one of the three major structures of the psyche (along with the Real and the symbolic order). Lacan suggests that, whereas the zero form of sexuality for animals is copulation, the zero form of sexuality for humans is masturbation. The act of sex for humans is so much caught up in our fantasies (our idealized images of both ourselves and our sexual partners) that it is ultimately narcissistic. As Lacan puts it, “That’s what love is. It’s one’s own ego that one loves in love, one’s own ego made real on the imaginary level” (Freud’s Papers 142).
Neurosis (neuroses, neurotic):
The formation of behavioral or psychosomatic symptoms as a result of the return of the repressed. A neurosis represents an instance where the ego‘s efforts to deal with its desires through repression, displacement, etc. fail: “A person only falls ill of a neurosis if his ego has lost the capacity to allocate his libido in some way” (Introductory Lectures 16.387). The failure of the ego and the increased insistence of the libido lead to symptoms that are as bad or worse than the conflict they are designed to replace. This term should be carefully distinguished from psychosis.
O
Object:
In psychoanalysis, “object” often refers to the object of one’s sexual desire: Freud, for example, refers to one’s “object-choice,” the earliest one being the mother (and before her the mother’s breast). Freud also refers to “object-cathexes,” objects that have been imbued with a sexual charge. “Object-choice” should be carefully distinguished from identification.
Oedipus Complex:
For Freud, the childhood desire to sleep with the mother and to kill the father. Freud describes the source of this complex in his Introductory Lectures(Twenty-First Lecture): “You all know the Greek legend of King Oedipus, who was destined by fate to kill his father and take his mother to wife, who did everything possible to escape the oracle’s decree and punished himself by blinding when he learned that he had none the less unwittingly committed both these crimes” (16.330). According to Freud, Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex, illustrates a formative stage in each individual’s psychosexual development, when the young child transfers his love object from the breast (the oral phase) to the mother. At this time, the child desires the mother and resents (even secretly desires the murder) of the father. (The Oedipus complex is closely connected to the castration complex.) Such primal desires are, of course, quickly repressedbut, even among the mentally sane, they will arise again in dreams or in literature. Among those individuals who do not progress properly into the genital phase, the Oedipus Complex, according to Freud, can still be playing out its psychdrama in various displaced, abnormal, and/or exaggerated ways. See alsoFreud Module 3 on repression and Freud Module 1 on psychosexual development.
Oral Phase:
According to Freud, the earliest phase in a child’s psychosexual development, during which time the mouth and lips take on an erotic charge (roughly 0-2 years of age). The first sexual object, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, is the mother’s breast, followed by the mother herself. In dealing with the loss of the breast, the young child of the oral phase naturally turns, for exaample, to thumb-sucking in order to compensate for the loss of gratification. See Freud Module I on psychosexual development.
P
Perceptual-Conscious System:
Consciousness. According to Freud, “This system is turned towards the external world, it is the medium for the perceptions arising thence, and during its functioning the phenemenon of consciousness arises in it” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.75). He used this concept, which he often wrote as Pcpt-Cs in order to clarify that the ego is not strictly analogous to consciousness.note
Perversion:
The pursuit of “abnormal” sexual objects without repression. Freud at one point lists five forms of perversion, which is to say five ways that an individual “differs from the normal”: “first, by disregarding the barrier of species (the gulf between men and animals), secondly, by overstepping the barrier against disgust, thirdly that against incest (the prohibition against seeking sexual satisfaction from near blood-relations), fourthly that against members of one’s own sex and fifthly the transferring of the part played by the genitals to other organs and areas of the body” (Introductory Lectures 15.208). He makes clear that a young child will not recognize any of these five points as abnormal—and only does so through the process of education. For this reason, he calls children “polymorphously perverse” (Introductory Lectures 15.209).
Phallic Phase :
According to Freud, the third phase in a child’s psychosexual development, when pleasure is oriented towards the phallus and urination (roughly 4-7 years of age). For young girls, the clitoris serves the same function as the penis, acccording to Freud. The trauma connected with this phase is that of castration, which makes this phase especially important for the resolution of the Oedipus complex.
Pleasure-Principle and Reality-Principle:
Respectively, the desire for immediate gratification vs. the deferral of that gratification. Quite simply, the pleasure-principle drives one to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. However, as one grows up, one begins to learn the need sometimes to endure pain and to defer gratification because of the exigencies and obstacles of reality: “An ego thus educated has become ‘reasonable’; it no longer lets itself be governed by the pleasure principle, but obeys the reality principle, which also at bottom seeks to obtain pleasure, but pleasure which is assured through taking account of reality, even though it is pleasure postponed and diminished” (Introductory Lectures 16.357).
Polymorphous Perversity:
The ability to find erotic pleasure out of any part of the body. According to Freud, a young child is, by nature, “polymorphously perverse” (Introductory Lectures 15.209), which is to say that, before education in the conventions of civilized society, a child will turn to various bodily parts for sexual gratification and will not obey the rules that in adults determine perverse behavior. Education however quickly suppresses the polymorphous possibilities for sexual gratification in the child, eventually leading, through repression, to an amnesia about such primitive desires. Some adults retain such polymorphous perversity, according to Freud.
Preconscious:
Latent parts of the brain that are readily available to the conscious mind, although not currently in use. Freud used this term to make clear that the repressedis a part of the unconscious, not all of it, which is to say that the repressed does not comprise the whole unconscious. Many facts, memories, etc. are not actively engaged by the conscious mind but remain available for possible use at a future time. The preconscious refers to those facts of which we are not currently conscious but which exist in latency and can be easily called up when needed. Other facts, memories, etc. are actively repressed by the conscious mind and thus are not accessible to the mind except by way of the psychoanalytical “talking cure.” Eventually Freud gave up the antithesis, conscious/unconscious, because of such problems of definition and turned instead to the tripartite division, super-egoego, and id.
Projection:
Scapegoating. Cutting off what the super-ego perceives as “bad” aspects of oneself (e.g. weakness or homosexual desire) and projecting them onto someone else “over there” where they can be condemned, punished, etc..
Psychosis:
A mental condition whereby the patient completely loses touch with reality. Freud originally distinguished between neurosis and psychosis in the following way: “in neurosis the ego suppresses part of the id out of allegiance to reality, whereas in psychosis it lets itself be carried away by the id and detached from a part of reality” (5.202).
Q
R
Reaction-Formation:
The blocking of desire by its opposite. “Reaction-formation” is the term Freud uses to describe the mechanism whereby the ego reacts to the impulses of theid by creating an antithetical formation that blocks repressed cathexes. For example, someone who feels homosexual desire might repress that desire by turning it into hatred for all homosexuals. See also substitute-formation.
The Real (Lacan):
The state of nature from which we have been forever severed by our entrance into language. Only as neo-natal children were we close to this state of nature, a state in which there is nothing but need. A baby needs and seeks to satisfy those needs with no sense for any separation between itself and the external world or the world of others. For this reason, Lacan sometimes represents this state of nature as a time of fullness or completeness that is subsequently lost through the entrance into language. The primordial animal need for copulation (for example, when animals are in heat) similarly corresponds to this state of nature. There is a need followed by a search for satisfaction. As far as humans are concerned, however, “the real is impossible,” as Lacan was fond of saying. It is impossible in so far as we cannot express it in language because the very entrance into language marks our irrevocable separation from the real. Still, the real continues to exert its influence throughout our adult lives since it is the rock against which all our fantasies and linguistic structures ultimately fail. The real for example continues to erupt whenever we are made to acknowledge the materiality of our existence, an acknowledgement that is usually perceived as traumatic (since it threatens our very “reality”), although it also drives Lacan’s sense of jouissance. The Real works in tension with the imaginary order and the symbolic order. See the Lacan module on the structure of the psyche.
Regression:
The psychic reversion to childhood desires. When normally functioning desire meets with powerful external obstacles, which prevent satisfaction of those desires, the subject sometimes regresses to an earlier phase in normal psychosexual development.”Regression,” as a term, is closely connected to the term,fixation; the stronger one’s fixations on earlier sexual objects (eg. the mouth, the anus), the more likely that, when a subject is confronted with obstacles to heterosexual satisfaction, that subject will respond by way of regression to an earlier phase. Example: a normally functioning woman is dumped by her boyfriend and starts over-eating (thus regressing to the oral phase). Regression can result either in neurosis (if accompanied by repression) or in perversion: “A regression of the libido without repression would never produce a neurosis but would lead to a perversion” (Introductory Lectures 16.344). In our example, the neurotic begins over-eating; the pervert gives up men and becomes a lesbian (a sexual identity that Freud saw as perversion, though many have since critiqued him on this point).
Repetition Compulsion :
The mind’s tendency to repeat traumatic events in order to deal with them. The repetition can take the form of dreams, storytelling, or even hallucination. This compulsion is closely tied up with the death drive. See Freud Module V on transference and trauma.
Repression:
The ego‘s mechanism for suppressing and forgetting its instinctual impulses. See Freud Module III on repression.
Retroaction:
Definition on its way.
S
Sublimation:
The redirection of sexual desire to “higher” aims. Freud saw sublimation as a protection against illness, since it allowed the subject to respond to sexual frustration (lack of gratification of the sexual impulse) by taking a new aim that, though still “genetically” (Introductory Lectures 16.345) related to the sexual impulse, is no longer properly sexual but social. In this way, civilization has been able to place “social aims higher than the sexual ones, which are at bottom self-interested” (Introductory Lectures 16.345). This is not to say that the “free mobility of the libido” (Introductory Lectures 16.346) is ever fully contained: “sublimation is never able to deal with more than a certain fraction of libido” (Introductory Lectures 16.346).
Substitute-Formation:
A substitute-formation is a result of repression and the subsequent return of the repressed in an alternate form. For example, in childhood anxiety-hysteria, the child is often working through his libidinal attitude to—and fear of—his or her father: “After repression, this impulse vanishes out of consciousness: the father does not appear in consciousness as an object for the libido. As a substitute for him we find in a corresponding situation some animal which is more or less suited to be an object of dread” (“Repression” 426). The substitute-formation thus follows the path of displacementSee also reaction-formation.
Super-Ego:
The super-ego is the faculty that seeks to police what it deems unacceptable desires; it represents all moral restrictions and is the “advocate of a striving towards perfection” (“New Introductory Lectures” 22.67). Originally, the super-ego had the task of repressing the Oedipus complex and, so, is closely caught up in the psychodramas of the id; it is, in fact, a reaction-formation against the primitive object-choices of the id, specifically those connected with theOedipus complex. The young heterosexual male deals with the Oedipus complex by identifying with and internalizing the father and his prohibitions: “The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more intense the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of discipline, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the more exacting later on is the domination of the super-ego over the ego—in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt” (“Ego and the Id” 706). Given its intimate connection with the Oedipus complex, the super-ego is associated with the dread of castration. As we grow into adulthood, various other individuals or organizations will take over the place of the father and his prohibitions (the church, the law, the police, the government). Because of its connection to the id, the superego has the ability to become excessively moral and thus lead to destructive effects. The super-ego is closely connected to the “ego ideal.”
Symbols:
Elements in the world that have come to hold specific, if repressed, sexual meaning for the human species. According to Freud, the displacements andcondensations effected by repression can sometimes take on such rigid form that that take on the quality of symbols, which, according to Freud, have similar meanings for all humans. In other words, such repressions become phylogenetic: they speak to the whole development of the human race and constitute a racial heritage. For this reason, Freud sometimes referred to the id as the inheritance of the species. C. G. Jung broke from Freud in 1913 and pursued this aspect of psychoanalytical theory, in particular.
Symbolic Order (Lacan):
The social world of linguistic communication, intersubjective relations, knowledge of ideological conventions, and the acceptance of the law (also called the “big Other”). Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others. The acceptance of language’s rules is aligned with the Oedipus complex, according to Lacan. The symbolic is made possible because of your acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, those laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication. Through recognition of the Name-of-the-Father, you are able to enter into a community of others. The symbolic, through language, is “the pact which links… subjects together in one action. The human action par excellence is originally founded on the existence of the world of the symbol, namely on laws and contracts” (Freud’s Papers 230). The symbolic order works in tension with the imaginary order and the Real. It is closely bound up with the superego and the phallus. See the Lacan module on the structure of the psyche.
Symptoms:
Behaviors or bodily abnormalities that are caused by the return of the repressed. According to psychoanalysis, insistent desires that the individual feels s/he must repress will often find alternative paths toward satisfaction and therefore manifest themselves as symptoms. Freud defines a symptom thus: “A symptom is a sign of, and a substitute for, an instinctual satisfaction which has remained in abeyance; it is a consequence of the process of repression” (“Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety” 20.91). Symptoms tend to be activities that are detrimental or perhaps only useless to one’s life. In extreme cases, such symptoms “can result in an extraordinary impoverishment of the subject in regard to the mental energy available to him and so in paralysing him for all the important tasks of life” (Introductory Lectures 16.358).
T
Transference:
The displacement of one’s unresolved conflicts, dependencies, and aggressions onto a substitute object (e.g. substituting a lover, spouse, etc. for one’s parent). This operation can also occur in the psychoanalytical cure, when a patient transfers onto the analyst feelings that were previously directed to another object. By working through this transference of feelings onto the analyst, the patient can come to grips with the actual cause of his or her feelings. See Freud Module V on transference and trauma.
U
The Unconscious:
See Freud Module II on the unconscious.
V
W
Wish-Fulfillment:
Definition on its way.
X
Y
Z
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