Lacan is another psychoanalyst who reworks on Freud in connection with poststructuralist theories, which refuses the concept of objectivity and, as Lacan would want us to believe, that subjectivity is the truth—the, for instance, subjects who say: “I play football,” doesn’t refer to himself or the ego but the one that plays the football; therefore, the player is subjected to ‘I’ that is used to refer him—nothing more than that. In doing so, he challenges, condemns and appreciates Freud.
Importantly, Lacan maintains a strong position in favour of the concept of the Unconscious. It is around this concept that his theories revolve. Lacan introduces three terms related to the human mind: imaginary, symbolic and real.
The Imaginary Phase
The imaginary phase exists before the process of ‘Oedipus Complex’ takes place, the time, as Freud also mentions, when the child doesn’t separate him/herself from the body of the mother.
In this phase, the child isn’t aware of his individual self that exist outside the mother’s body; and, hence, doesn’t understand his/her relationship with his surroundings. The phase is called ‘imaginary for the child imagines his own world outside his real existence.
The Symbolic Phase
Second phase is called the ‘symbolic’ phase. At the end of the imaginary phase, the child encounters the mirror phase, in which he discovers himself as being a distinct and separate personality from the mother. This realization that occurs by seeing oneself in the mirror (not a real one) gets extends into the ‘symbolic’ phase.
‘Symbolic phase’ is symbolic for it is the phase of social and moral constructs and, particularly, for being the phase of language. Language, as we understand from poststructuralist discourses, is always symbolic and never literal, becomes the central point of Lacanian psychoanalytical theory.
The Real Phase
The real phase refers to an experience that will cease to become real if articulated through language because, as has been mentioned earlier, language in itself not real.
Here, Lacan is talking about ‘common consciousness’ that exist, in all, pre-mirror stage. The real, in fact, for Lacan means something that cannot be brought into what we perceive a real.