Ideal-I

In the mirror stage, the encounter with the imago of a whole, stable, autonomous self presents the infant with an ideal image of him- or herself that does not correspond with the infant's present experiential reality. In making a "connection" to this ideal image through identification, the infant enters a lifelong quest to correspond wholly with this Ideal-I. According to Lacan, this quest can never be fulfilled, because human existence is in essence a striving for a never-attainable perfection. Lacan does not put a positive spin on this observation: while the mirror stage allows human individuals to come to know themselves as "I", by establishing a permanent split within the subject's self-image, this process also lays the foundation for forms of psychic distress such as anxiety, neurosis, and psychosis.