Lack of Object
Lack in the Real of a Symbolic Object
According to Freud, when children realize that some people (women) do not have a penis, this is a traumatic moment which produces different effects in the boy and in the girl (see castration complex).
The girl blames the mother for depriving her of a penis, and redirects her affections to the father in the hope that he will provide her with a child as a symbolic substitute for the penis she lacks.
Its symbolic nature is confirmed by the fact that it can be substituted by a child in the girl's unconscious; in appeasing her penis envy by desiring a child, Freud argues, the girl "slips - along the lines of a symbolic equation, one might say - from the penis to a baby."
However, these two accounts are not necessarily incompatible.
Girl and Mother
Even though the girl may at first resent the mother for depriving her of a penis and turn to the father in the hope that he will provide her with a symbolic substitute, she later turns her resentment against the father when he fails to provide her with the desired child.
Freud argues that penis envy persists into adulthood, manifesting itself both in the desire to enjoy the penis in sexual intercourse, and in the desire to have a child (since the father has failed to provide her with a child, the woman turns to another man instead).
The mother's basic dissatisfaction is perceived by the child from very early on; he realizes that she has a desire that aims at something beyond her dual relationship with him - the imaginary phallus.
- Freud, Sigmund. (1924d) An Autobiographical Study. SE XX, 3.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 218
- Freud, Sigmund. (1924d) "The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex." SE XIX, 178-9
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 194