Lacan’s vision of the self is defined as the ‘mirror stage’, in which he illustrates how the child yields a duped perception of character through identifying with reflections and images. During the first few months of babyhood, the infant is in disarray. Moving on to the mirror stage, when the infant is aged 6 to 18 months, the infant recognises its own behaviour mirrored in the body language and signals of adults, children and also in mirrors.
Intrigued by this mirroring, the child mistakes the identity of themselves as a complete individual for the first time. The child views themselves as a whole person, which signals to the child that they will gain complete control over their body. When this happens, the ego i.e. the sense of self forms. The mirror helps to communicate the child’s sense of self identity.
A sense of self is gained via a reflection, or from imagination. Identity is gained from mis-recognition, an untrue vision of the self, which remains as the ‘ideal ego’ for the rest of one’s life. Therefore, the mirror provides the first signified, and the infant itself behaves as the first signifier.
Putting theory into action:
Alison represents Andie’s former self: who was careless and rebellious. Yet similarly, she also represents the idealised version of who Andie would want to be: effortless and unflawed.
Vanheule, S. (2011). Lacan’s Construction and Deconstruction of the Double-Mirror Device. Frontiers in Psychology, 2.