Dual relation

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French: relation duelle

Imaginary Order[edit | edit source]

Duality and dual relations are essential characteristics of the imaginary order.

Dyads[edit | edit source]

The paradigmatic dual relation is the relation between the ego and the specular image (a a') which Lacan analyzes in his concept of the mirror stage.

Symmetry[edit | edit source]

The dual relation is always characterized by illusions of similarity, symmetry and reciprocity.

Symbolic Order[edit | edit source]

In contrast to the duality of the imaginary order, the symbolic order is characterised by triads.

Triads[edit | edit source]

In the symbolic order all relations involve not two but three terms; the third term is the big Other, which mediates all imaginary dual relations.

Non-Symmetry[edit | edit source]

The illusion of reciprocity in the imaginary dual relationship contrasts with the symbolic, which is the realm of "absolute non-reciprocity."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 774</ref>

Oedipus Complex[edit | edit source]

The Oedipus complex is the paradigmatic triangular structure, since the father is introduced into the dual relation between mother and child as a third term.

Structure[edit | edit source]

The Oedipal passage from a dual relation to a triangular structure is none other than the passage from the imaginary to the symbolic order.

Indeed, the very concept of structure itself involves a minimum of three terms; "there are always three terms in the structure."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.218</ref>

"Imaginary Triad"[edit | edit source]

The opposition between imaginary dyads and symbolic triads is complicated by Lacan's discussion of the "imaginary triad."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 197; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 29</ref>

The imaginary triad is Lacan's attempt to theorize the preoedipal stage in terms other than those of a merely dual relationship, and refers to the moment preceding the Oedipus complex, when a third element (the imaginary phallus) circulates between the mother and infant.

When the father intervenes in the Oedipus complex he can therefore be seen either as a third element (between mother and child) or as a fourth element (in addition to mother, child and phallus).

It is for this reason that Lacan writes that in the Oedipus complex "it is not a question of a father-mother-child triangle, but of a triangle (father)-phallus-mother-child."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.319</ref>

Psychoanalytic Treatment[edit | edit source]

One of Lacan's most frequent criticisms of the psychoanalytic theory of his day is that it constantly fails to theorise the role of the symbolic, and thus reduces the psychoanalytic encounter to an imaginary dual relationship between analyst and analysand.

In particular, it reduces analytic treatment to an ego-to-ego encounter which, because of the aggressivity inherent in all imaginary dual relations, often degenerates into a "fight to the death" between analyst and analysand, a power struggle in which they are "at daggers drawn."

Other[edit | edit source]

Against such a misconception, Lacan insists on the function of the symbolic in the analytic process, which introduces the Other as the third term in the analytic encounter.

"It is within a three- rather than two-term relation that we have to formulate the analytic experience."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 11</ref>

Rather than seeing the treatment as a power struggle in which the analyst must overcome the patient's resistance, which is not psychoanalysis but suggestion, the analyst must realise that both he and the patient are equally subjected to the power of a third term: language itself.

Jacques Lacan[edit | edit source]

Lacan's rejection of duality can also be seen in his rejection of all dualistic schemes of thought in favour of triadic schemes.

"All two-sided relationships are always stamped with the style of the imaginary."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. "Fetishism: The Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real" (with W. Granoff), in M. Balint (ed.), Perversions: Psychodynamics and Therapy, New York: Random House, London: Tavistock, 1956b. p. 274</ref>

More Triads[edit | edit source]

For example instead of the traditional binary opposition between what is real and what is imaginary, Lacan proposes a tripartite model of real, imaginary and symbolic.

Other such triadic schemes are the three clinical structures of neurosis, psychosis and perversion; the three formations of the ego (ego-ideal, ideal ego and superego); the triad nature-culture-society; etc.

Quaternary[edit | edit source]

However, as if to counteract this trend, Lacan also emphasised the importance of schemes involving four elements (see quaternary).

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]