Terms Used by Psychoanalysis
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
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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.
||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.
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"
||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
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
(cathexes, to cathect):
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
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.
||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 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.
||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
||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"
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.
||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
||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,
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).
||The ideal of perfection that the ego strives to emulate. For Freud,
the ego-ideal is closely bound up with our 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"
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 childhood narcissism
(the belief in one's own perfection), which in adulthood can take
as its substitute
the perfection of the 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
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.
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"
||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"
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
This term is closely related to regression.
See also Freud: Module I on psychosexual
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 staring back 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
Four Fundamental 92). See the
Lacan module on the Gaze.
||"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
In this way, the individual enters adulthood and ensures the survival
of the species. For Freud, a desire for oral
pleasure constitutes a fixation
on or a regression
to an earlier stage in one's psychosexual
||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).
||The id is the great reservoir of the libido,
from which the ego
seeks to distinguish itself through various mechanisms of repression.
Because of that repression,
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"
also Freud Module I on psychosexual
||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 authorityand 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 the object
of his choice, he wants to have him, to possess him"
("New Introductory Lectures" 22.63).
||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
symbolic order. Indeed, the imaginary and the symbolic
are, according to Lacan, inextricably intertwined and work in tension
with the Real.
See the Lacan module
on the structure of the psyche.
||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
||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.
||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.
||Definition on its way.
||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
||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.
||Depression. Freud read melancholia as an example of how the super-ego
could go overboard and cause harm to the individual subject; the
becomes over-severe, abuses the poor ego,
humiliates it and ill-treats it, threatens it with the direst punishments"
("New Introductory Lectures" 22.61).
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||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 repressed
but, 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 also
Freud Module 3 on repression and Freud
Module 1 on psychosexual development.
||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
||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
||The pursuit of "abnormal" sexual objects
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 abnormaland only does so through the process
of education. For this reason, he calls children "polymorphously
perverse" (Introductory Lectures
||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
||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:
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
||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.
||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 repressed
is 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
||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..
||A mental condition whereby the patient completely loses touch
with reality. Freud originally distinguished between neurosis
and psychosis in the following way: in neurosis
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).
||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 the id
by creating an antithetical formation that blocks repressed
For example, someone who feels homosexual desire might repress
that desire by turning it into hatred for all homosexuals. See
||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.
||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).
||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.
mechanism for suppressing and forgetting its instinctual
impulses. See Freud Module III
||Definition on its way.
||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
||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 toand
fear ofhis 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 displacement.
||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
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 the Oedipus
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
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 egoin
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
||Elements in the world that have come to hold specific, if repressed,
sexual meaning for the human species. According to Freud, the displacements
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.
||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.
||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
("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
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.
||See Freud Module II on the
||Definition on its way.
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