The Symbolic

Warning: This post is not only philosophical, but contains some notes on (likely outmoded) psychoanalytic theory I learned in my English courses in college.

Through phases of human growth as children and beyond, different characteristics of mentality become the focus of the individual. According to Jacques Lacan, who I read in the aforementioned college courses, people can move between the phases of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real.

I don’t want to go into all the nutty details of these three phases, but here is a brief explanation:

The Imaginary is a phase where the person identifies primarily through comparison to the self, usually observable among young children according to Lacan. The Imaginary is egotistical and emerges from the realization that one is an individual.

The Real is a state wherein one accepts objective reality. This is the one I’m most skeptical of as a phase of human development.

The Symbolic phase is where one falls into categories and hierarchies. The self is placed within the world rather than existing in dominant isolation.

(These definitions are simplified, and possibly not totally accurate to a standard definition, so keep that in mind)

As someone who has created hierarchies and still tends to rank people and things instinctively, I feel stuck in the symbolic sometimes. Fighting the rigidity of imposed ego is not easy for me. But it must be done, especially when I find myself ranking other human beings into an order of favorites and unfavorites. The feast of life need not be so ordered. And it hurts to do it.

When I started writing I started with books featuring many characters and perspectives. And every character was ranked by importance to the story as either main, major, minor, or walk-on. While that’s not all bad, it afflicted me with the issue of seeing side characters as less than the ones the story is about. I’m still recovering from that phase, but recover I must. In my view, each character must be treated by a writer as their own most vital person, and the central role in their own story.

But, all writing aside, I still form hierarchies sometimes out of habit. This problems has diminished in my day to day life with time, but when I dream it comes back, and within those dreams I’m often very angry, and that anger is turned on the other actors within. And when I wake up I’m hurt and confused. The most fearsome monster in my nightmares these days is me.

Time to press on. Time to recover, as I try to do every morning.

* * *

Thought for the day: Pain is a warning system, but not all warnings should be heeded.

Animal of the day: The Cheetah
Because a light build assists the ability to sprint.

Yesterday’s Words:
They advanced into the cell. The MPs kept their weapons trained on the tyrant, but the prisoner made no move to escape or fight. No matter how large and arrogant, the creature knew he couldn’t win against all of them together.

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