Psychology

The Mirror-Stage

The Mirror-stage, as defined by Jacques Lacan in his essay “The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience” (1949), is a “particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality – or as they say, between the innenwelt[inside word] and the Umwelt[the outside world].” (4). Lacan’s essay describes how the mirror stageis a crucial experience in developmental psychology, specifically in a child’s discovery of the “I”. By approaching the human subject from a psychoanalytical standpoint, Libidal dynamism[the connection between psychic and instinctual drives] and the egobecome relevant anchors in his claims (2).

According to Lacan, “we have only to understand the mirror stage as anidentification, in the full sense that analysis gives the term: namely, the transformation that takes place in a subject when he assumes an image.” (2); specifically, the “image” that influences behavior and thought, both, constructing a strong understanding of what this subject is in unity to the world, and simultaneously, how the subject is individualized (4). By comparing the psychology of a human with the psychologies of other animals, such as the locus and pigeon, we are given insight into the sensitivity of our understanding of the “I”; Lacan describes the essence of this sensitivity as pertaining to the “inexhaustible quadrature of the ego’s verifications.” (4). Our egos battle between what our instinctual drives tell us is right, and what absorbed social customs expect us to do. 

In Julia Kristeva’s essay “The System and the Speaking Subject” (1973), the “I”is evolved into the speaking subject, in which linguistics and semiotics become a relevant factor in describing an individual’s [subject’s] mode of communication. Kristeva describes “this ‘speaking subject’ … to be the transcendental ego” (77); an evolved version of the ego that is able to “[break off] its connection with … social, natural or [the] unconscious”. In reference to Lacan’s excerpt, Kristeva describes what, in a perfect world, comes after the mirror stageas she theorizes what a disconnection from the external world denotes. 

Both Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva touch base on how the perception of ourselves is established and affected [mirror stage], or developed [through a presumed transcendental ego] respectively. Through psychoanalysis, Lacan describes our ego ‘fighting back’ through dreams, as an aggressive tactic in expressing its true instincts as a form of dismemberment. Perhaps, on a larger scale, suggesting the corruptive nature of social constructs on our natural, biological drives [LibidalDynamism]; specifically initiated at the mirror stageof our development. 

BIG PROP II, 2014    Anthony Gormley

BIG PROP II, 2014

Anthony Gormley

WEAVE, 2014    Anthony Gormley

WEAVE, 2014

Anthony Gormley


Sources

Lacan, Jacques. “The mirror stage as a formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience” (1949), In Écrit: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (NY, W.W. Norton, 1982), 1-7.

Kristeva, Julia. “The System and the Speaking Subject” (1973), In A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, 77-80.

A Fragmented Body

Lost in the words of others, I am not that ‘man’ in the mirror; he is but a fragmented body with jutting shards that have been acknowledged ferociously by those around him – a glitched figure, some would say. It’s hard to get away from him, he’s everywhere; whether through the reflective window of a coffee shop, or in the forefront of the washroom, he’s always there, and I’m forced to face him. But what if I never had to? In my ideal realm, where reflective frames are absent, imagination takes the wheel on a journey of self-discovery.

The mirror, to some, is an essential part of human development; the Mirror-stage, for instance, “a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality – or as they say, between the innenwelt [inside word] and the Umwelt [the outside world]” (Lacan 4), seems evidently essential in the understanding of the self. But what happens if that connection is not established? What if the organism’s self is but a manifestation imposed upon it by its surrounding world – a victim of fabricated images? According to Magnolia Pauker, if the mirror-stage is unsuccessful, “you’re fucked” (Who are I? The Uses of Psychoanalysis); and in all my ‘fucked-ness’ emerges a disjointed self, in an attempt to destroy the mirror.

Empathy, “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (“Empathy”), occurs in the disabling of one’s own mirror; in the power of overcoming one’s own reflection, transpires a transcendent connection between one’s self and another. Absorption occurs, through imaginative thinking, as the self is situated in the mirror of the other. In Daehyun Kim’s drawing Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow (2015), empathy is illustrated as two subjects sharing a shadow in hopes of reconciliation; a galactic veil is transferred from one figure to the other. The notion of acceptance seems evident in the subject’s willingness to share a mirror, a reflection of an inner reflection; the gestures of the hands demonstrate an act of giving – an offering of the self, to one, and an offering of the suffering self, to another.

Empathy, therefore, becomes a tool of deconstruction, a temporary elimination of the mirror, an entry into love.

Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow   (2015)  Ink on Korean Paper 26 x 69 cm   Daehyun Kim

Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow (2015)

Ink on Korean Paper
26 x 69 cm

Daehyun Kim


I can’t see past your kind mask’


Sources:

“Empathy”. Random House Dictionary, Random House, 2016. Dictionary.com,http://www.dictionary.com/browse/empathy. Accessed: 09 October 2018.

Lacan, Jacques. “The mirror stage as a formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience” (1949), In Écrit: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan. NY, W.W. Norton, 1982. 1-7. Rpt. In SOCS 201: Introduction to Cultural Theory Coursepack.Ed. Magnolia Pauker. Vancouver: Emily Carr University of Art + Design, 2016. Print.

Pauker, Magnolia. “Who are I? The Uses of Psychoanalysis”, Lecture. Social Science 201: Introduction to Cultural Theory. Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design. Vancouver. 4 Oct. 2016.