What is Imaginary, Symbolic, Reality?June 27, 2021
The main concepts of Lacan’s theoretical psychoanalysis can be stated as Imaginary, Symbolic and Reality. Lacan evaluates these concepts while explaining the way of the human offspring, which is a biological being, to being human, that is to be a cultural subject.
The ego and its lifeworld originally belonged to the Imaginary realm. This is a phase in which one is not detached from what is more natural. Then the imaginary is suppressed with the intervention of the Name of the Father, that is, the Symbolic structure. Symbolic here refers to the symbol system of the Cultural Order. The unconscious is the result of this. Reality (“true reality”, in this sense, remains beyond the Symbolic as distinct from the reality established by the symbolic. Reality is expressed as the place/or point of deficiency that remains beyond the Abyss as a result of the Symbolic repression. In this context, a bridge from the Symbolic to Reality or Reality has remained beyond Unconscious Desire. Satisfaction of Unconscious Desire cannot be possible because Reality will never be attained. Desire is in this sense the place of incompleteness resulting from original repression, which can never be reached and completed.
Instincts, in Lacan’s sense, are innate biological needs. These are satisfied by the mother, but this relationship of immediate gratification is intervened at a certain point by the Symbolic Law, and the natural instincts are henceforth given the meaning of Sexual Identity. It is about the symbolic system coming into play, that is, the emergence of the Law of the Father. With the operation of the Sex Prohibition, a biological instinct that has no meaning in itself takes the name of sexuality, and thus biological instincts come to be understood as sexuality. Thus the instincts are established as unconscious desires. This is what Lacan calls humanizing castration. (Castration: Cruelty, castration.) It is this castration that transforms the human offspring from being a biological creature to being a cultural subject.