From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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Ego-Ideal and "ideal ego"(Lacan): Lacan makes a distinction between the "ideal ego" and the "ego ideal," the former of which he associates with the imaginary order, the latter of which he associates with the symbolic order. Lacan's "ideal ego" is the ideal of perfection that the ego strives to emulate; it first affected the subject when he saw himself in a mirror during the mirror stage, which occurs around 6-18 months of age (see the Lacan module on psychosexual development). Seeing that image of oneself established a discord between the idealizing image in the mirror (bounded, whole, complete) and the chaotic reality of the one's body between 6-18 months, thus setting up the logic of the imaginary's fantasy construction that would dominate the subject's psychic life ever after. For Lacan, the "ego-ideal," by contrast, is when the subject looks at himself as if from that ideal point; to look at oneself from that point of perfection is to see one's life as vain and useless. The effect, then, is to invert one's "normal" life, to see it as suddenly repulsive.