Structure de la Personnalité Approche Lacanienne

Structure of the Personality
Lacan's theory approach

(for French, click on the flag)

Why to be interested here in the psychoanalysis?

First of all because a theory (to see the endpaper) putting in the foreground the presence of an observer within its representation of the World, can with difficulty escape the problem of the representation of this observer himself. In that case, from which place could we envisage the description of this one?
Then, we shall see that the psychoanalysis envisages the progressive constitution of the individual as the emergence of a Part within a Whole, in the same way which drove us in the choice of the senaire structure.
It would seem, in a certain way that the individual constitutes himself in answer to a problem of partition, as well that the observation of a phenomenon forms himself as emergence of a peculiarity on the bottom of an undifferentiated whole.
In third place, the Lacan's aphorism " the unconscious is structured as a language " returns us closer of our anthropomorphic approach.
There is an evident parallel between the incapacity of the language to report about itself (refer to Gödel), -the famous " I am a liar "- and the fact, as says by Lacan that the individual is the missing part of his proper speech about himself; where from the appeal to the description of the individual by a structure.
There is obviously some misunderstanding in lacan about the meaning of what is a meta language, so Lacan refuses this concept. We will go back to this point, but only at the end of our route, having explained what is a fractal structure.
How finally to refuse to envisage in terms of structures, a theory which appeared, with Lacan, so obviously structuralist?

It is not a question, in the lines which follow to promote, or to expose a psychoanalytical thesis, but only to transcribe some key concepts, of Freud and Lacan in terms of system.
The interest, of our point of view will be so to sketch a solution of continuity between the structure of the observer and its vision of the World.

For the psychoanalyst to the eyes of whom this exercise would seem a game without stake, out of any clinical context, we shall make present of a new problem:
What about the time dimension in this progressive structuration which constitutes the emergence of a consciousness?

Is there, in particular a link between this progressive complexification of the individual and the slowing down of the processes of perception and adaptation, of his creative faculties?
Are there quantifiable temporal relations between the various constituents of the individual?

We shall try here to describe the Man (such as he offers himself to the psychoanalyst) by a structure in 3 levels.
We shall see then, having clarified the syntax of the senaire structure, how to report the dysfunctions appearing at every change of level.
We shall see finally, how the fractal approach of the senaire structure allows to define a particular state, which one can call, in reference to the physical sciences " critical " state. The crucial experiment which we shall submit then to the attention of the psychoanalysts (who would follow us to there) will be to characterize the "enjoyment", in the lacan's sense as a critical state of the individual.

We shall tempt first of all, to articulate among them the constituent elements of the personality (that / I / superego / object A/....) with a particular place for the concept of "phallus" then to represent in the structure so obtained various processes identified by the psychoanalysts (complex of Oedipus / castration / mirror state / identification / debarment / narcissism / expulsion /....).

Let us remind here that our objective is not to act as a psychoanalyst, but simply to show the possibility of transcribing the psychoanalytical language in terms of senaire model. There is no inconvenience to see there, at the moment, only a simple stylistic composition.


  1. The emergence of the "I"
    1. The "mirror" stage
    2. Imaginary level:
      1. The mother and the child
      2. First reflection (the stage of the mirror)
    3. Symbolic level:
      1. First phase ( narcissistic stage)
      2. Second phase (Oedipus complex)
      3. Third phase (Constitution of the "Superego")
  2. The constitution of the subject of the unconscious:
  3. The structure of the Subject:

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1/The emergence of the "I":

1.1 The stage of the "mirror":

This stage is a fact of observation analyzed by the psychologist Henri Wallon.
Between 6 and 18 months, the child shows his jubilation, his interest in front of an image in a mirror where he looks or in the one sent back to him by any other person, in whom he recognizes himself and becomes identified.

Jacques Lacan had made of this stage of the development of the child the stage of development of the "I", in a conference of 1936,  resumed in 1949: " The Stage of the mirror as formative of the function of the I ".
The enjoyment of the child would come from the identification in this image which is sent back to him. This image forms the mould capable of organizing, of structuring all his fragmentary experiences.
This identification would be a first answer brought to the chaotic experiments which offer themselves to the child.
Presented with the terminology which we clarified, one could advance the hypothesis that the child infers of this image which is sent back to him that he constitutes an entity arising out of an undifferentiated whole (and which in his immediate nearness is essentially his mother).

It is only after the awareness of its individuality, appearing from a whole that another problem will be established: the question of the limits, the interfaces between this hardly dreaded entity "I" and the outside.
The main cuts which are going to be experimented will be for the main part:

The placenta / breast / excrements / glance / voice

The psychoanalysis granting a particular development in 2
nd and 3rd cuts.

The mother and the child:

The first cut is situated at the level of the womb: "I" is extracted from the World by the breast which escapes.

First "reflection":

The second cut, is excrements: "I" is with regard to the breast as its excrements with regard to him.

To dread these two cuts simultaneously and to define himself as being "in the middle", absent part of these experiments, requires the child to establish himself as "I", and doing so, to change level.
Here is, we could say, the first elementary system and the original links which connect "I" to the World.
The important is the fact of having established two different levels:

The one, the field of imagination, which connects the individual with the reality in his most worldly experience, such as he fantasizes the World through its experiment, always fragmentary and in which he refuses to be dissolved eventually. This field, finally structured his identity.
We shall define this level as that where we " represent the reality ", of course, it is a fantasized reality, the World being always perceived -mediatized- by our senses and our affects. The demonstrations of the individual being interpreted, in posteriori as meaning.
The other one, the field of symbol, the place of evolution of this "I", imagined, by the individual as federative cause of its experiments (referent, meant in posteriori).

If we keep on mind what was exposed concerning the passage from a level to the other one (refer to diachronism), we find, here , in a clinical practice a theoretical fact, namely the loss of information during a level change:

That it is about the induction of "bits" of experience in the constitution of "I",
Or fantasies of the same "I" who interpret the experience (deduction).

Once again, we explain nothing, but we just point out an equivalence between the experience and its representation. Our interest goes on the description and not on its object.

1.2/Imaginary level:

1.21/The mother and the child

In this plan, we find the child connected with the world by the link which connects his mouth to the chest of his mother.
Before the stage of the mirror, the "body" of the child is still only a collection of sensations, affects, desires or need, without a real  consciousness of an constituted entity as individual: the body is defined rather, in this stage as a " collection of states ", in extension and not in " understanding.

On the same way, alone the breast of the mother distinguishes itself from the environment.
The mother, in an instant of the sucking, is not distinguished clearly by the baby from the unclear bottom of the World.
But, the proposed plan infers, of itself, the following remark:
What could be the feed back of this action?
Because finally, the action of the sucking has indeed an impact on the mother, who reacts on her child.
This reaction, this recognition of the child by the mother helps in the work of structuralization of the child: it is by the glance of other than the child will eventually become identified as individual.
Of a collection of states, the child will infer the existence of the "I".
As says Lacan, the "I" is always the absentee of the speech, at this level of explanation.

1.22/First reflection (the stage of the mirror):

By a reversal of perspective, the child is going to discover that he is, with regard to his mother, as his excrements with regard to himself.

There is, in this reversal, the same mechanism, the same "catastrophic" plan as that leading Newton to think that the apple is in the same report of proportion with the Earth as the Earth itself with the Sun.
The important, for what interests us here, the constitution of the "I", it is that the child finds his marks between this double cut off the World.

A dialectic is established then between the individualization growth, and the desire to merge in the whole, the enjoyment forbidden at the risk of annihilation.

The "objects" from which extracts gradually the child are characterized by their pre-eminent shape.
The parts of the body from which they get loose are, as says J.D. NASIO of " pound crack openings ". Now, these edges pound if they are animated by the stream of an energy which goes through them, an energy called "enjoyment".
The "pound" term marks for us the raid of time in the forming of the individual.
Say that an opening pounds, it is to consider the temporal succession of states opened / closed.

By considering the previous plan, the question that we can settle is to know if the sequence breast / mouth / anus / excrements does not request a certain harmony between the frequency of palpitation of the month and that of the anus.
More exactly, it is possible that, the education of the child, by the progressive decrease of the number of sucking, and the later learning of the neatness, have role in the awareness of the link which connects the mouth and the anus. Could it be the connection updated in the image of the other one at the stage of the mirror?

1.3/Symbolic level:

All these experiences of partial detachment during the phase of the mirror, whereas he manages to recognize the "other one", allow the child to constitute himself as an independent "I".
We can then consider a second level of structuralization of the personality: that of the game of the "I" and the "others".
The place of exchanges, however the symbolic animal we are, will essentially be the place of the language, or rather "Lalangue ", to continue to follow Lacan.
This level is going to serve as scene in the oedipal crisis.
This crisis here also can be presented as a new problem of partition; but centered this time on the ownership or not of a "phallus".

13. 1/First phase:

There is a faith in the universal ownership of a phallus (girl or boy).
The plan of the relation among the child and his mother can define itself as a symbolic representation of the previous plan.
To do it, it is necessary that the interest of the child goes towards this new erogenous zone that is the penis (or the clitoris: in this undifferentiated stage, the anatomical difference is not discriminate.
The previous exchange symbolizes then as a transfer of the phallus between Mother and child (the child seeing himself, for the mother as the phallus intended to fill her desire, his envy for phallus sublimated in envy for the child).

The mother breast-feeds him, as he looks himself to her (this is the second reflection of the child: the narcissistic one, constituent of the "I").

The danger of this exchange, if it came to be total, would be the disappearance of the "I" by fusion with the Mother: it is the impossible Enjoyment of the Other one.
This plan can be only precarious:
The Mother is not only representative of the World in front of "I": the father intervenes then.

1. 3 .2/Second phase:

It opens on the observation that certain "fellow men" have a penis, and the others not. For the little boy and under the threats of his Father, the penis becomes a detachable part of his body threatened with castration.

1. 3 .3/Third phase:

It holds the discovery that the Mother has no phallus, and the location of the child with regard to this revelation.
For the boy, this position is conditioned by a social prohibition, expressed by the father, new figure in the field of the consciousness.

The conflict with which is confronted the child can come down to the following equation:

If "I" try to dissolve his personality by consuming the incest (i.e.: to enjoy the other one at the same time as he) fills his desire,
Then the Father ( the social order) will take him his penis.

" The paternal word which embodies the symbolic law, accomplished so a double castration: castrate the Other one maternal, to have the phallus, and castrate the child, to be the phallus ".

The phallus is the significant of the law, what Lacan formulates so:

The castration is symbolic and its object is imaginary.

The castration is not so much a threat or an envy but an act of cut,
This act concerns rather a link than a person
This act aims at an object, at the imaginary phallus, at object wished by the mother with which the child becomes identified
The act of castration, even assumed by the father is not the fact, really , of a physical person but the symbolic operation of the paternal word.
The act of the castration is the work of the law to which the father as subject himself is inevitably subjected.

There is also a reversal between the report mother / child and child / phallus

The solution of the conflict passes by an internal reversal within the dipole "I"-< - > "penis".
From a submission of the "I" in his drives, the child goes to the submissions of this one to "I".
To be socially acceptable, the desire, once under control should turn to another object, abandon the Mother to be interested in the other feminine figures

The last consequence finally of this conflict, it is the recognition of the part socially accepted of the "I" by the Father, that replaces the recognition of desire by the Mother.
This inversion can be even institutionalized by an initiatory ceremony. This second detachment of the Mother, in any initiation is likened to a death follow-up of a revival: a new cycle opens then to the child.
The resolution of this conflict introduces the differentiation between the "I" and the "Superego", finishing to  structure the symbolic level:

For Lacan, the object "a" is a word intended to represent this Other one imperceptible. It is the Other one " for me ", from whom the essence escapes me
The image of the father represents the social order, the standard which limits my drives.



2/The constitution of the subject of the unconscious:

Naturally, the dialectic so established between Me and Superego is not perfect: certain actions, slips of the tongue, mean something which escapes the plan.

It is the rehearsal of the significant that makes system towards the analyst.

This last one adopts a particular position with regard to the individual he tries to understand: he is not any more in position of "other one", in the sense that is not directly affected by the word of his patient.
To use our vocabulary, he is situated in position " meta " with regard to the speech of the patient.

The word of the analysis is a speech on the speech of the patient, it is so formally about a meta speech.

Whereas the "I" constitutes himself under the glance of the Other one and the Father, the subject of the unconscious shows himself under the glance of the analyst.
If the "I" is "narcissistic", that is a reflection setting itself for object, the subject shows himself by reflecting this reflection.
This is, after the stage of the mirror, and then the narcissistic phase, the third "reflection" of the subject.

Beyond the common acts under control of the consciousness, appear peculiarities which amaze: subconsciously deliberate mistakes, slip of the tongue coming too well conveniently for being only a bungling without meaning of the reason.
By chance, when by the means of a third party we can have a new glance at ourselves, then certain peculiarities of our life organize themselves in a repetitive way: why for example our partners  show some common feature, which very often escapes us: a size, a look, a stamp of voice, some element of the body of the other whom attaches us more than we can say.

Behind these significant features, the analyst can suppose the presence of one meant.

How to characterize one meant by definition unspeakable because unconscious?

What bases the idea of an unconscious is the obstinacy of significant features, revealed by the privileged observer whom is the psychoanalyst.
When Lacan says that there is no Unconscious without the presence of an analysis, he does not notice the other thing.
There is in it no essential difference between the psychoanalytical approach and quite other scientific observation.

What makes difficult the observation, is that the incriminated phenomena occur on a different, unexpected rhythm.

The analyst has for task, to tune the rhythm of observation of the patient to this much slower, unknown rhythm. By pointing out the significant of the speech, he presents to the patient a sort of film in accelerated of the significants.
To schematize the observation of the analyst, we shall say that he is facing a subject, the conscious part of whom asserts its dominion upon an entity which lives in himself. This unspeakable entity, it is the nature which pushes its horn in us, which continues through and in spite of us, and for which the "I" makes dam. This vital raid in us, Freud calls it the "that".

This vision that the analyst made of the other one can not be assumed, passed on, except if he experimented it himself, as far as he submitted himself to a psychoanalysis.
The unconscious is not only inside the subject in analysis, but rather in between the subject and the analyst, the level where takes place the analysis.

The " that " of the subject in analysis is revealed by its influence on "I". This influence is translated by a lot of "significants" which do not enter in the economy of the speech of the patient and surprise the analyst.
The work of the analyst will consist in returning in the light what this "signifiants" provokes in him, and to make a formulation of it for the address of the patient.

However, this representation unfinished by the fact that we have no idea of what there are behind the words which define the poles of the structure.
We have not, indeed any idea of what is the "that", because by definition it is outside the field of the consciousness.

We have no means to "understand" this concept in itself, we can just there perceive some of its effects, the "significants" which impose themselves upon our perception in "extension".
Here still, there is no fundamentally different method between science and psychoanalysis: in front of the impossibility "to understand", the analyst contents with ordering a taxonomy.

S2 is all the significants that the subject can produce (respectively the analyst)
S1 is a particular signifiaant which appears.

The role of the analyst is then to make the significant circulate.

For Lacan, the subject of the unconscious is the name of the abstract relation between a particular significant and a complete set of significants.

3/The structure of the subject:

We structured our subject in three levels which we can define as:

Level 1: Field of the imagination

Level of the contact with the reality, in the form of elementary experiments.
These experiments are understood according to our needs, and the perception which we have of it remains in the field of our imagination. We have, obviously, no direct contact with the reality.

Level 2: Field of Symbolism and the language

This field - specifically human - of the reflection of the existence on itself. There is level where our personality is formed, in answer to stimuli coming from levels lower and superior. It is the level of the socialization of the individual. It is finally the only level which can serve as model in the two others; Because contrary to the two others, it is the domain of the consciousness.

Level 3: Field of the unconscious

At the level 1, the individual parts gradually from the nature and he constitutes this nature as outside of him at the level 2.
This nature re-appeared at the level 3, as from the outside. The life, pushed away at the level 1, crosses the level 2 to re-appear at the level 3 and show itself there intact in its essence.

(Remark: this 3 levels model can quite easily be seen as a Chinese's hexagram. Refer to my page I Ching)

The conscious thought appears as the fragile surface separating the Part ( the individual) of the Whole.
Consciousness strictly dependent on its means of expression:

The man is a symbolic animal

It is because our conscious is structured as our language that  we use on the levels 1 and 3 the structure of the level 2. There is however a perceptible difference between both extreme levels: it is the difference of rhythm of the actions the theater of which they are.

We can use these differences of rhythm to elaborate strategies of flight, strategies of evasion of the personality:

On the bottom, by trying to increase the rhythm of the exchanges: game strategy where the player forgets his existence, forgets everything except the present instant;
By the height by evacuating any thought, as in the contemplative techniques, when the rhythm of the thoughts is slow up to  the stop.

The man, always absent in our speech, can be situated on the axis crossing the various levels where join his contacts with the environment.

Axis steered by the level 1 at the level 3 because by rising from a level to the other one the essence of the man asserts itself.
Although from the level 3, it is not completely sure any more than we can speak about the Man, but rather about "Humanity" because the unconscious shows itself in a relation implying either two partners (Lacan), or a whole society (Jung).

The man would be the track of the axis connecting the levels 1 and 3 on the level 2:
The track of an ideal point left in his speech.


Note 1:
The notion of phallus is different from that, physical, of penis.
According to Freud in " The Sexual Life " P.U.F, 1969 , p112 (quoted by J.D.NASIO education of 7 crusial concepts of the PSYCHOANALYSIS), the phallus is a detachable and substitutable object.

" The penis is then recognized as something that one can separate from the body and is identified as analogue of the excrement which was the first detail of physical substance which one should give up ".

On the concept of phallus:

There are 3 levels (about the phallus):
Level of the physical penis (but it is always about a representation of the reality, not of the object in itself
Level of the imaginary phallus
Level of the symbolic phallus
The castration is conceived fundamentally as the original separation of with the Mother: separation of the Part from the Whole. Return

Note 2
In this definition of the meta speech, nothing says that its structure differs from the common language.
In the same way as
we can speak about the syntax of a language with the words of this language itself. It is in this way - in my opinion- that we can agree on Lacan's formula:

" There is no meta language "

What denies indeed Lacan it is the existence of a different or specific structure for the conscious and unconscious parts of the personality.
What we understand here by m
eta language, refers to the object of the speech, but doesn't infers a difference of structure.
The negation does not so concern the same proposition.

Note 3

Let us remind, for those that arrive directly on this page, that the general subject of this theory is about a systematic approach of the " Absolute Structure " of Raymond Abellio.

Our theoretical definition of this structure (which goes away from that of Abellio) is presented in the synchronic analysis of the systems. A fast presentation of its functioning can be seen in the analysis of the bureaucratic dysfunctions.

For the dreamers, finally: I introduced this method when young person still, I dreamed about what could indeed be a theory of the "psycho-history", such as described by Asimov in "Foundation". The most interesting, maybe, is that I managed by many bends to move closer this famous Senaire (or Absolute) structure from hexagrams of I Ching.

To leave the psycho-history to arrive at I Ching by adopting a structuralist method represents a long walk, the lacan's stage of which is not the least fascinating.


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page updated on 12/11/02
author : Alain SIMON
© copyright 1998 Alain SIMON
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