Key Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
The Symbolic The Symbolic is one of the three registers that structures human existence, next to the Imaginary and the Real. It refers to the implicit laws that govern social exchange relations. Since the most basic form of exchange is speech, the Symbolic is essentially a linguistic dimension. The signifier is the elementary building block of the Symbolic.
The Imaginary The Imaginary is one of the three registers that structures human existence, next to the Symbolic and the Real. The imaginary is the field of the ego, which aims at building images of the world. It is the realm of imagination and illusions. The principal illusions of the imaginary are those of wholeness, synthesis, duality, and similarity.
Signifier and signified Lacan takes the term signifier from the work of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It is the phonological element of the linguistic sign; not the actual sound but the mental representation of such a sound. A signifier is connected to a signified, which is the idea the linguistic sign expresses. At the level of the unconscious, signifiers play an important role: one signifier might be related to several signifieds.
Signifying chain In making up words from linguistic signs, and in articulating sentences, signifiers are combined in so-called signifying chains.
Desire People express themselves via speech, but language never finally denotes what we want. A remainder always remains unarticulated, which gives rise to desire. A key desire Lacan recognizes is that humans want to be desired by others. Unconscious desire takes shape through defences against articulating ideas and impulses. In the analytic experience, desire “must be taken literally,” as it is through the unveiling of the signifiers that support it, that desire can be made clear. Desires that have not be recognized and valued will insist through specific signifiers that recurrently pop up in speech. Desires that have been repressed—that is: actively excluded from conscious thought—typically get expressed in symptoms. This process is called the return of the repressed.
Transference In Freud’s theory transference mainly refers to the patient’s relationship
to the analyst as it develops in the treatment. He subsequently used
it to explain how, in psychoanalysis, the relationship between patient
and analyst is affected by patients’ previous relational experiences.
Lacan discerns a symbolic and an imaginary component to transference.
The images the patient constructs about himself or herself, and about
the analyst, make up imaginary transference. Affective reactions also
belong to imaginary transference. Symbolic transference concerns
the articulation of desire through signifiers. The broader the patient’s
associations, and to more insisting signifiers come to the fore, the
better the symbolic transference. Symbolic transference is fueled by
a subject supposed to know. This means that it implies the belief that
behind the insisting signifiers in the patient’s discourse an as yet hidden
piece of truth about the patient can be found.
Stijn Vanheule and Gilles Arnaud, - Working With Symbolic Transference: A Lacanian Perspective. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science.
Overview of Key Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Based on No Subject, an Online Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis That Provides More Extensive Descriptions: www.nosubject.com.