In the work of Jacques Lacan, the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary are a central set of references. The imaginary is the field of the ego.
The imaginary order is based on the formation of the ego in the mirror stage by identification with the counterpart (or specular image). The dual relation between the ego and the counterpart is characterized by alienation and narcissism.
The imaginary is the realm of image and imagination, deception and lure. The principal illusions of the imaginary are those of wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality and, above all, similarity.
The imaginary is the dimension of the human subject which is most closely linked to animal psychology, yet it is structured by the symbolic, and this means that "in man, the imaginary relation has deviated [from the realm of nature]."
Lacan accused the major psychoanalytic schools of reducing psychoanalysis to the imaginary order.
- ↑ Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 210