Shattering the Mirror Stage

Usually we conflate the Other and the other. There are two moments in the formation of the psyche. The most foundational and important is with the other – usually accomplished in relation to the mother. This is the moment of primary narcissism and libidinal incorporation I have spoken of – and Lacan’s mirror stage. One thing we have to remember is that this all takes place in the first two or three years of life and so the paradox or cruel joke is that all that is most important about who we really are takes place before we are conscious. What I have come to discover in my work is that the mirror state is shattered for most – and increasingly in our times as I will elaborate in the future. The point is that Drive or Spirit which precedes and exceeds the embodied subject of life (and which Jung wanted to call the one Libido) must come to be incorporated in some way by the embodied subject as its “I.” Various losses and traumas regarding the child’s relation to the mother affect how well this can happen. In its absence phantasy is forged in all kinds of multiple and dissociated ways channeling the disembodied drives of primal psychic and atavistic information – and leading to aspects of schizophrenia, multiple personality, mania, melancholy, sociopathy, pathological narcissism and other coping strategies.

What is “shattering the mirror stage”: separation from the Mother makes room for God – divine and mad – and it pre-empts the Father in his cut: in-sanity, un-sanity, hyper-sanity circumventing the mother-as-object and father-as-phallus.

It now falls upon secondary narcissism or the ego to shore up this place. For me the ego is not the I. Rather the I is what might ideally be forged in the primary encounter with the other – though usually instead there remain a multiplicity of delusions – shards of the shattered mirror. The ego is the false self that get’s constructed for the demand of the Other in order to live with this confusing if not terrifying multiplicity – to receive a secondary love to shore up the absence of unconditional primary love. If the I has been formed as a first person singular place from which to steer amongst the flux of the real in the primary phase or can be later on, then the secondary phase can also be optimized as not the ego but rather a series of masks by which to perform and enjoy from the other to the Other. Nietzsche spoke of this and attempted to achieve it himself. To revisit his primordial libidinal drives proximal to Drive itself and forge this I at the center of chaos such that he could then perform the world as a series of masks. In the end he went mad but showed the way before hand. The one that really understood this and elaborated a theory and method of it was Pierre Klossowski – philosopher, artist, priest – in his work Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle among other others.

The difficulty of this achievement is too great for most, so they accept the Other’s judgement, castration, and punishment even if they complain about it. Victims seeking an index or identity today continue to decry the patriarchy more and more even as it exists less and less. In the case of the Other of child development – the proper function of the father is not so much the demand but the cut. This is why the cut of punishment if it is not unnecessary or vindictive is usually met with love by the child for setting boundary and containment where the libido remains dispersed and overwhelming. And yet there are forms of cut and containment much more refined than punishment. This is also the place where the sacred and profane can be refined by positive forms of ritual often inevitably “violent” in that they structure or destucure us in ways we do not expect. If we do not practice these actively then they will take place unconsciously as Bataille warns. The subject can be aided in his construction by a familial circle that has its own conscious logic like that of an ancient tribe. Here we still have much to learn from Levi-Strauss and other anthropologists regarding the psyche on earth – not to mention the thousands of tribes disappearing as we scramble to document them all. This is also the project Deleuze and Guattari began in extending their work of schizoanalysis. In this future each community, each family, each subject becomes a culture of their own.

So what am I saying – about anyone. Maybe something obvious and simple. Our mother could not love us enough and our father could not be strong enough. But I say “could not” because of their own history. Blame does not help here but an insight that leads to an act does. This is why it is necessary to go back in the kinship in order to map the story of understanding. Of course it is not easy to change the ever unconscious foundation. But for what ever inexplicable reason sometimes when we talk and listen in a certain way something deep happens. There is a moment when all feels different and something new can happen. These feelings of hope and excitement are often shut down by addictions or set back by everyday life and the old programs so hard to change. But that’s all we have. There is no miracle cure. Not even in psychoanalysis.