From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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Lacan also formulated the concepts of the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic, which he used to describe the elements of the psychic structure. Lacan's notion of the Real is a very difficult concept which he, in his later years, worked to present in a structured, set-theory fashion, as mathemes. The Imaginary, or non-linguistic aspect of the psyche, formulates human primitive self-knowledge while the Symbolic, his term for linguistic collaboration, generates a community-wide reflection of primitive self-knowledge and creates the very first set of rules that govern behavior. The Real is the unspeakable reality, always present but continually mediated through the imaginary and the symbolic.

The Imaginary is the realm of spatial identification that begins with the mirror stage (see above), and is instrumental in the development of psychic agency. As discussed, it is here that the emerging subject is able to identify his or her mirror image as 'self', as distinguished from 'other'. However, this process entails a certain structural alienation in that what is designated as 'self' is formed through what is Other – namely, the mirror image. What becomes the Subject proper is made through inception into the Symbolic order, which is when the infant acquires the ability to use language – that is, to realise his or her desire through speech.