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The Imaginary (psychoanalysis)

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The Imaginary order is one of a triptych of terms in the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, along with the symbolic and the real. The basis of the Imaginary order is the formation of the ego in the "mirror stage". Since the ego is formed by identifying with the counterpart or specular image, "identification" is an important aspect of the imaginary. The relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification is a locus of "alienation", which is another feature of the imaginary, and is fundamentally narcissistic. The imaginary, a realm of surface appearances which are deceptive, is structured by the symbolic order. It also involves a linguistic dimension: whereas the signifier is the foundation of the symbolic, the "signified" and "signification" belong to the imaginary. Thus language has both symbolic and imaginary aspects. Based on the specular image, the imaginary is rooted in the subject's relationship to the body (the image of the body). The philosopher Deleuze defines the imaginary "by games of mirroring, of duplication, of reversed identification and projection, always in the mode of the double."[1]

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