Article thumbnail

Lacan’s Construction and Deconstruction of the Double-Mirror Device

By Stijn Vanheule


In the 1950s Jacques Lacan developed a set-up with a concave mirror and a plane mirror, based on which he described the nature of human identification. He also formulated ideas on how psychoanalysis, qua clinical practice, responds to identification. In this paper Lacan’s schema of the two mirrors is described in detail and the theoretical line of reasoning he aimed to articulate with aid of this spatial model is discussed. It is argued that Lacan developed his double-mirror device to clarify the relationship between the drive, the ego, the ideal ego, the ego-ideal, the other, and the Other. This model helped Lacan describe the dynamics of identification and explain how psychoanalytic treatment works. He argued that by working with free association, psychoanalysis aims to articulate unconscious desire, and bypass the tendency of the ego for misrecognition. The reasons why Lacan stressed the limits of his double-mirror model and no longer considered it useful from the early 1960s onward are examined. It is argued that his concept of the gaze, which he qualifies as a so-called “object a,” prompted Lacan move away from his double-mirror set-up. In those years Lacan gradually began to study the tension between drive and signifier. The schema of the two mirrors, by contrast, focused on the tension between image and signifier, and missed the point Lacan aimed to address in this new era of his work

Topics: Psychology
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.

Suggested articles


  1. (2006). Beyond the ‘reality principle’,”
  2. (1966). Commentary on the graphs,”in Écrits,
  3. (1932). De la Psychose Paranoïaque dans ses Rapports avec la Personnalité. Paris: Seuil. Lacan,J.(1953).Somereflectionsonthe ego.
  4. (1987). Des idéaux de la personne. Cahiers de Lectures freudiennes 15/16,
  5. (2009). Identity through a psychoanalytic looking glass.
  6. (2004). Introduction to reading Jacques Lacan’s seminar on anxiety.
  7. (1994). Jacques Lacan.
  8. (2008). Jacques Lacan’s theory of perception.
  9. (1986). La place de l’angoisse.
  10. (1996). Lacan and LéviStrauss,” in Reading seminars I and II – Lacan’s Return to Freud, eds
  11. (2011). Lacan’s construction and deconstruction of the double-mirror device. Front. Psychology 2:209. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00209 This article was submitted to Frontiers in PsychoanalysisandNeuropsychoanalysis, a specialty of Frontiers
  12. (1985). Lacan’s mirror stage.
  13. (1985). Le schéma optique.
  14. (2001). Le Séminaire 1960-1961, Livre VIII, Le transfert [1960– 1961]. Paris: Seuil.
  15. (2004). Le Séminaire 1962-1963, Livre X: L‘Angoisse [1962– 1963].
  16. (1998). Life and death in the glass: a new look at the mirror stage,”
  17. Nobus (London: Rebus Press), 190–218. Conflict of Interest Statement: The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
  18. (1970). Of structure as an immixing of an otherness prerequisite to any subject whatever,”
  19. (2004). On Being Normal and Other Disorders.N e wY o r k :
  20. (1947). Optique et photométrie dites géométriques.
  21. (2000). origins and selfserving functions of the ego,” in T h eS u b j e c to fL a c a n–aL acanian Reader for Psychologists, e d sK .R .
  22. (2011). paper pending published: 07
  23. (2005). Professional burnout in the mirror: a qualitative study from a Lacanian perspective.
  24. (2003). Psychoanalysis: a treatment, a cure...or much more than that?
  25. (2002). Pure psychoanalysis, applied psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.
  26. (2006). Remarks on Daniel Lagache’s presentation: ‘psychoanalysis and personality structure’,”
  27. (2003). Stroke hemiplegia and specular image: lessons from selfportraits.
  28. (2006). The direction of treatment and the principles of its power,”in Écrits [1961], e d sJ .L a c a n
  29. (2006). The instance of the letter in the unconscious or reason since freud,”
  30. (2006). The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I,”
  31. (1996). The subject and the other’s desire,” in Reading seminars I and II – Lacan’s Return to Freud, eds
  32. (2011). The Subject of Psychosis: A Lacanian Perspective.L o n -don: