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Identification

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French: identification
Sigmund Freud
Human Subjectivity

In Freud's work the term "identification" denotes a process whereby one subject adopts as his own one or more attributes of another subject.

In his later work, as Freud developed the idea that the ego and the superego are constructed on the basis of a series of identifications, the concept of identification eventually came to denote "the operation itself whereby the human subject is constituted."[1]

Psychoanalytic Theory

It is thus a concept of central importance in psychoanalytic theory.

However, it is also a concept which raises important theoretical problems.

One of the most important of these problems, which Freud himself struggled with, is the difficulty of establishing the precise relationship between identification and object-love.

Jacques Lacan

The concept of identification occupies an equally important position in ­Lacan's work.

Image

Lacan places a special emphasis on the role of the image, defining identification as "the transformation that takes place in the subject ­when he assumes an image."[2]

To "assume" an image is to recognize oneself in the image, and to appropriate the image as oneself.

Imaginary and Symbolic

From early on in his work, Lacan distinguishes between imaginary identification and symbolic identification.

Imaginary Identification

Imaginary identification is the mechanism by which the ego is created in the mirror stage; it belongs absolutely to the imaginary order.

When the human infant sees its reflection in the mirror, it identifies with that image.

Aggressivity and Alienation

The constitution of the ego by identification with something which is outside (and even against) the subject is what "structures the subject as a rival with himself"[3] and thus involves aggressivity and alienation.

Ideal Ego

The mirror stage constitutes the "primary identification", and gives birth to the ideal ego.

Symbolic Identification

Symbolic identification is the identification with the father in the final stage of the Oedipus complex which gives rise to the formation of the ego-ideal.

Ego-Ideal

It is by means of this secondary identification that the subject trans­cends the aggressivity inherent in primary identification,[4] and thus can be said to represent a certain "libidinal normalisation."[5]

Although this identification is called "symbolic", it is still a "secondary identification"[6] modelled on primary identification and thus, like all identification, partakes of the imaginary; it is only called "symbolic" because it represents the completion of the subject's passage into the symbolic order.

Development of the Term

Lacan's ideas on the nature of symbolic identification undergo complex changes during the course of his work.

In 1948 he sees it in terms of the "introjection of the imago of the parent of the same sex,"[7] whereas by 1958 he has moved on to seeing it in terms of the identification with the real father in the third time of the Oedipus complex.

Types of Identification

In 1961, Lacan goes on to describe symbolic identification as an identifica­tion with the signifier.

He finds support for this idea in the catalogue of three types of identification which Freud presents in chapter seven of "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego."[8]

In the first two types of identification (with a love object or with a rival), the subject may often express the identification purely and simply by developing a symptom iden­tical to the symptom suffered by the person with whom he identifies.

In such cases, "the identification is a partial and extremely limited one and only borrows a single trait [nur einen einzigen Zug] from the person who is its object."[9]

"Unitary Trait"

This "[[identification|single trait" (in French, trait unaire -- which English translations of Lacan render variously as "unbroken line", "single-stroke" or "unitary trait") is taken by Lacan to be a primordial symbolic term which is introjected to produce the ego-ideal.

Though this trait may originate as a sign, it becomes a signifier when incorporated into a signifying system (S8, 413-14).

In 1964, Lacan links the single trait to the first signifier (S1), and compares it to the notch that primitive man made on a stick to signify that he had killed one animal.[10]

End of Analysis

Lacan is firmly opposed to those writers who claim that identification with the analyst is the end of analysis; on the contrary, Lacan insists not only that "the crossing of the plane of identification is possible,"[11] but also that this is a necessary condition of true psychoanalysis.

Thus the end of analysis is conceived of by Lacan as the destitution of the subject, a moment when the subject's identifications are placed under question in such a way that these identifications can no longer be maintained in the same way as before.

Identification with the Symptom

However, while the end of analysis is precisely not a question of identification with the analyst, Lacan argues that it is possible to speak about identification at the end of analysis in a different sense: identifica­tion with the symptom.

See Also

References

  1. Laplanche, Jean and Pontalis, Jean-Bertrand. The Language of Psycho-Analysis, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1973 [1967]. p. 206
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 2
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 22
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 23
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 2
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 22
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 22
  8. Freud, Sigmund. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1921c: SE XVIII, 107
  9. Freud, Sigmund. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1921c: SE XVIII, 107
  10. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 141, 256
  11. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 273