For Jacques Lacan the psyche is divided among three orders, domains or registers: the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic. The Imaginary, though rooted in the prelinguistic/presymbolic, refers not to our imagination in the conventional understanding of the term but to the object world, the images of objects, the outlines and separations among objects (missing in the Real). In the imaginary (the mirror phase), the child sees an image of the self, recognizes the self and makes demands. The infant in this stage is without speech, without bodily coordination or motor control. With the recognition of separateness from the mother and the world, and the resulting sense of a lost world (i.e. the real), the child feels anxiety. In this register demand replaces need; demand, unlike need (which in the Real is satisfied), however, is aimed at making the Other part of the self (as experienced in the now lost state of nature). And because demand (i.e. while needs can be realized, demands are necessarily and always unsatisfiable) cannot be realized it is a continual reminder of loss and lack. In the mirror stage, the child mis recognizes or mistakes the image for a complete, whole, stable, coherent self, which cannot correspond to the actual child. The image, impossible to realize, is a fantasy functioning to compensate for the sense of lack or loss. Lacan calls this the ‘Ideal-I’ or ‘ideal ego’.
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