The Quest for a Symbolic Father

A paper I presented at the California Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT) Conference a few months ago. I have edited out some sections and all case studies for reasons of ethics and confidentiality.

Neurons contain representation the way a poem contains alphabets – Freud


What do Saddam HussainJeffery DahmerCharles Manson, Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper and Bin Ladin have in common? They were all raised in households where the father was either absent, or was castrated. The father had little influence.

In this day and age, a large number of children are rendered fatherless through easy dissolution of marital commitments. An absent father is not inexistent – he still leaves a mark. How do such father’s effect affect the psyche of the child thru their absence?

The paper is divided into five distinct sections. In the first section I will present a few case histories and dreams of my clients. These dreams will form the backbone of the therapeutic aspect of this session. The second section uses the work of Marco Blanco to explore how the two hemispheres of the brain function. The third section explores Carl Jung’s work on the symbolic significance of the father. The fourth section explores Jacques Lacan and Andre Green’s psychoanalytic work on the mechanism through which the symbols that were referred to in Jung’s work, are created in the realm of the personal consciousness and then transmitted intergenerationally. The fifth section integrates these theories into a coherent framework which illuminates the problems that we encounter in our everyday work – what is the effect of the absence of a masculine container on our clients ? What are the symptoms our clients reveal in therapeutic sessions ? We also discuss the implications for treatment and the process of therapy and the role of the therapist in addressing these deficits.  We have only an hour, and so this is a very brief exploration of this subject. I would be happy to answer any questions at the end, or after the session.

Section III : Jungian Approach

Archetypes, Complexes and Symbols

When we study physics, we have to hypothize a working model for the atomic structure, because we cannot observe electrons and because the reality of the materials defies comprehension. Similarly, the totality of the psyche defies any direct observation. We are confronted with a pattern of wholeness that can only be described symbolically.

Jung defines a symbol as “the best description, or formula, of a relatively unknown fact; a fact which is nonetheless recognized or postulated as existing. . .expressing something suprahuman and only partly conceivable. It embarks us on the search for significance, for meaning.” The symbolic represents the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown thing which cannot be more clearly represented.  In contrast, a sign is an expression that stands for a known thing.  A symbolic mode of comprehension uses metaphors.

Psychological functioning used to be taken as an activity of the ego. The Freudian unconscious was acknowledged, but was labeled as irrational, chaotic and senseless. Jung redrew the map of the psyche and called Freudian unconscious as personal, subjective unconscious, a small part of the total psyche. He created a concept of an a priori part of the psyche and called it the collective unconscious or the objective psyche, a psychic dna that is passed onto us intergenerationally. In this part of the psyche, information is stored in the form of images or symbols that correspond to the images found in the mythology of the culture that the person belongs to. Each of these images contains an energy field that is powerful enough to compel us to act in a certain way. These pre-ordained ways of acting, the blueprints of are called archetypes. There are various archetypes like that of The Great Mother, The dragon slaying Hero, and the Father. We are instinctually drawn to these ways of behaving.

Jung also created a concept of “complex” – which resides in the personal or subjective conscious and is the consequence of a wound that we may have developed somewhere in own lifetime. It is also a magnetic black hole that sucks all energy and action towards itself, leaving the libido impoverished, affecting rational thinking abilities. So a person who has had a unique relationship with his father will have a positive or a negative father complex.

The Father Archetype

The archetype of the great father pertains to the realm of light and spirit. It is the personification of the masculine principle of consciousness symbolized by the upper solar region of heaven. From this region comes the wind, a symbol of spirit. Sun and rain likewise represent the masculine principle as fertilizing forces, which impregnate the receptive earth. Images of piercing and penetration such as phallus, knife, spear, arrow and ray all pertain to the spiritual father. All imagery involving flying, light, or illumination, king, eagle pertains to the masculine principle, as opposed to the dark earthiness of the great mother.

Spirit is the active principle, standing in opposition to matter and materiality, an immaterial substance that can, at its purest level, be also called God. Spirit represents the sum total of all phenomenon of rational thought, intellect, will, memory, imagination, creative power, aspirations motivated by ideals. The objective spirit is the intellectual and religious achievements of culture. The spirit is always an active, wind natured, winged, swift moving being as well as that which vivifies, stimulates, incites, fires and inspires. It is the dynamic principle forming the classical antithesis of the stasis and inertia that represents matter, mother and the soul. The contrast between nature and spirit is such that nature appears to be dead when contrasted with the spirit.

The hallmarks of spirit are :

1) principle of spontaneous movement and activity;

2) the ability to produce images independent of sense perception,

3) the autonomous and sovereign manipulation of these images.

The spirit appears in dreams, meditation and creative work as a father from whom the decisive convictions, prohibitions and wise counsel emanates, with a certain spiritual essence. Often it may simply be an authoritative voice which passes final judgments, or it may be a wise old man, or even a real spirit, the ghost of a dead person.

As we move futher along this discussion, I would ask you to ponder on the question – If the relationship with the father is associated with the spirit – what all might happen when this relationship is impoverished ? What would such a person be like? How might he defend, compensate for or accept this deficit in the external world? What would happen if the relationship has been overstimulating? What might such a person look like? What problems may he encounter in the world?

Symbolic Function of Father

Every child is born pure, and exists in blissful union with the mother. The two exist in a Participation Mystique, where though the bodies are separated, the child’s self still resides in the mother, and is only gradually extracted from her. The infant lives thru the mother on the psychic plane. In this symbiotic union, the duo is absolute and requires no “other” for completion.

However, the mother cannot continue this merger for long, and the symbiotic unity fails sooner or later fails. The paternal presence creates a division  – the happy incestuous duo is forced to separate. Unity gives way to duality, and thru this duality the child becomes aware of itself as being separate from the mother, of being an “other.” It acquires an ability to become rather than just be.  The active agency allows for the ego/self to emerge.

In symbolic terms, the archetype of the father is responsible for the child’s activity and dynamic movement. The father becomes associated with duality, separation, individuality, consciousness/self awareness and the process of individuation, with action, activity and the ability to be independent, to be autonomous and to break away from the symbiotic collective of the mother-child duo, and later the collective of the society. Metaphorically, the sun penetrates the darkness and ushers in the dawn, and the light of consciousness illuminates that which was unconscious. An active doing world takes over from the  beingness of the passive, inactive symbiotic relationship.

In terms of brain structures discussed above, the father represents the left brain processes, while the uroborotic relationship with the mother is representative of the right brain functioning.

Since Father’s presence serves as a boundary that enforces taboos on the symbiotic and incestuous mother-child relationship, therefore all boundaries, virtues of morality and ethics, are associated with the father. The father’s obligation to protect and provide for the family are absorbed by the psyche and hence duty, responsibility and autonomy are associated with the father. Whereas the feminine/mother represents the beginnings, and the process of birthing, unity and unifying, loving, forgiving, eros, nurturing and regenerative aspect of existence, the masculine represents law, order, justice, religion, god, consciousness, discipline, political and social authority, war, strife, death and destruction, and all endings and terminations. A healthy balance of the mother and the father, and their representations, is needed to maintain the continuity of life. All aspects turn negative when this balance is lost.

We usually introject the feminine aspects of our existence through our relationship with the mothers, and the masculine aspects of our personality through our relationship with our fathers. However, in unnatural circumstances, both the feminine and the masculine aspects may be provided by a single caregiver. To delve deeper into the personal subjective psyche, the following section explores the psychoanalytic approach towards the role of the father thru the lens of Jacques Lacan and Andre Green. But again, as we are moving into the deeper realms of the psyche, I ask you to ponder on the question – If the relationship with the father engenders these associations as we just discussed – how would the person be affected by the lack of a proper fathering-container ? What would his personality and character look like?

Section IV : Psychoanalytical Approach

Mother’s Desire

Lacan contends that during the first few years of its life, the child desires the mom, and the mom desires the child. The child devotes itself to trying to understand what it is that the mother desires of him, and tries to make itself a fully satisfying love-object for the mother. At around the fifth or sixth birthday the father intervenes and thwarts this Oedipal aspiration. This situation is frightening because the child’s fantasy is nothing but what he is supposed to think at the command of the mother and he sincerely believes that the mother wants to remain fused with him and will retailiate if he turns towards the father.

The father gives himself as a compensation, as another being to love and being loved, thus creating a template for the child’s later compensatory relationships. The interposition of the body between the mother and the child, by offering his own person as a compensation for the loss of another, by tolerating the aggression that such act exacts from the child, by allowing himself to be hated because he has disallowed for something to be continued indefinitely creates necessary points of reference for establishment of a conflictual situation. Thus the father introduces the idea of negation.  A violent rejection of this intervening third occurs with a fierce desire to maintain earlier situation, to keep the fusional relationship going, because in the child’s mind, the mother desires him as much as he desires the mother, is afraid that the mother may retaliate if the child abandons the mother by accepting the father. He forces himself to admit that outside the mother no relationship can be helpful if openly manifested.

This renunciation of the aspiration to be everything for the mother is called castration. It is not any physical event or its threat – as it felt for Freud –  but a symbolic function to which children are normally submitted.

Even though the child’s acceptance of its castration marks the resolution of the Oedipal complex, the Oedipal child tries to remain committed to the mother. It accordingly perceives the father as a rival and threat to its dearest aspirations – a “struggle to the death for pure recognition”. In this struggle the child invariably loses, but the child’s adult life will depend on whether this loss constitutes a violent humiliation for the child or whether its resolution involves the founding of a pact between the parties, bound by the solemnification of mutually recognised Law.

The castration complex normalizes the child ensuing a relationship with the father if the child can perceive that what satisfies or orders the desire of the mother is not any physical attributes of the father, but that the desire of the mother is itself tamed by a Law that exceeds both of them. This law is what Lacan famously dubs the Name of the Father, father’s verbalization of the incest taboo – NO!

Father thus stands for the prohibition, and protection, and the child’s ability to accept boundaries. The later relationship between male and females is built on a prohibition and boundaries which is the Lacanian law. If this law, which represents the symbolic, is removed from the scene, all symbolic meaning collapses. Nothing means anything at all, including language. Let us explore how that may be so.

Rewards of Prohibition : Language, Thoughts, Moral Consciousness, Society and Culture

In Michaelgelo’s creation of Adam we see man and God lying facing each other, both pointing their index fingers at one another. A very small but visible space separates both fingers. This space is of extreme importance, forbidding any fusion between god and man, and compelling us to think of discontinuities between the deity and humanity, but also between people – especially our fathers.

Peter Fonagy and Mary Target (1995) envisioned the role of the father as being the witness to the relationship between the mother and the child, fostering in the child the capacity to reflect on his position in the relationship.

Hence the desire for the mother is an essence of all wanting, and all sacrifice, of language, thoughts, culture and civilization. This wanting is kept at bay thru the prohibition brought about by the father. Moral consciousness and ethical codes are facilitated thru our symbolic relationship with the father. The symbolic father intervenes as the delegate and spokesperson of a body of social Law and convention that is also recognized by the mother, as being decisive. Although the child accedes to the impossibility of directly satisfying its incestous wish, but knows that when the time comes – and if it plays by the rules –  it can at least have a satisfying substitute for its first lost love-object. Lacanian desire is structured as a metonymy. In metonymy, one designates a whole object (for example, a car) by naming one part of it (for example: “a set of wheels”). Lacan argues that since castration denies us full access to our first love object, our choice of subsequent love objects is the choice of a series of objects that each resemble in part the lost object, the mother. Perhaps they have the same hair, or look at him/her the same way the mother did.

The father’s law forbids identification with the mother and promotes identification with the object of the mother’s desire. A chain of identifications with the objects of others’ desires begins when the child becomes rational. Hence a rational culture is built on and through the Name of the Father. The father’s law is thus law of the culture.

Thru prohibition, the child’s ideal ego is transformed to a symbolic identification with an “ego ideal” –  something within that cannot be seen, touched, devoured, or mastered: namely, the words, norms and directives of its given cultural collective. Just as we desire through the Other, for this reason Lacanian theory also maintains that belief is always belief through an Other. (For example, in the Christian religion, priests would be the designated Others supposed to know the meaning of the Christian mystery vouchsafing believers’ faith.)

So again, in light of the insights into the role of the father, the underlying question remains – what is the consequence of the dead (unavailable) father? What kind of symptoms do our clients exhibit and what can we do to provide a developmental corrective?

Section V – Treatment Issues


“The symptom arises where the world failed, where the circuit of symbolic communication was broken: it is a kind of “prolongation of communication by other means’”

The symptom bears upon the subject’s past relations to others and can be dissolved by an  interpretation because it is formed for this reason – it is formed so that it may be interpreted. The symptom wants to be known. It is addressed to anOther who is supposed to know its truth, as an appeal to him to deliver its hidden message. The meaning of transference is this supposition that there is an Other supposed to know the truth of my communicative acts. Transference thus is the condition that creates possibility of meaning.  In therapy the unformed, failed, repressed word-symbol articulates itself in a coded, ciphered form.

In a symptom, an unconscious desire seeks to make itself manifest. The symptom is either told, or repeated in the session. An interpretation by the analyst recognizes or symbolizes the force of the desire that works thru the symptom, and the symptom disappears.  The recognition of a desire at the same time satisfies the desire. The unconscious desire given voice in the symptom is simply a desire for recognition.

The Dead Father

It is the symbolic that structures our experience and language. Everything gets to have a meaning beyond the concrete. The child is inserted into the ‘symbolic order’ through an Oedipal crisis, facilitated by the father, with the symbolic rules being represented as the ‘Name of the Father’ or ‘Law of the Father’. In this pattern, the father may have no relation whatever to the physical fact of any individual father. He may well be involved, but the principle is that the child gets introduced, through language, to cultural codes. This phase breaks the early relationship with the mother as language and social codes take over as the major source of meaning for the child. And just as a religion denies consideration of things outside its belief system, so language excludes thoughts which are not named. Hence Lacan’s belief that language even structures the unconscious, or that the psyche is structured in the image of language. If the child doesn’t obey the father’s law, the child cannot move forward developmentally, cannot distinguish itself from the others; in the absence of the rules imposed by the symbolic, the language does not develop any meaningful constructs, hence thoughts can not cohere. The process leads of psychosis. To learn a language is to learn a set of rules or laws for the use and combination of words. There is a lasting link between the capacity of subjects to perceive the world as a set of discrete identifiable objects, and their acceptance of the unconditional authority of a body of convention.

The dead father does not necessarily mean that the father is dead, but that the father is symbolically dead. Such a father is unavailable to the psyche – dead because he is unable to fulfil the role that the psyche demands of him.

We already discussed the areas that are affected by the absence of the father so I will only briefly recount these.  The dead father creates a hole in the psyche and the child’s  inner core may become devoid of all the qualities the qualities associated with the masculine. The unconscious is well aware of this deficit, and gravitates the child towards an ideal image, or symbol, to overcomes this deficit in an effort to transform the ideal ego into an ego ideal.

Language and thoughts are not developed as well, and the ability to articulate and verbalize is underdeveloped. Hence cognition is underdeveloped as well. Since the father stands for the spirit, such people will be weighed down by the earthiness of the mother. They lack in the active, doing aspect, lack of drive, ambition, inspiration, creativity, knowledge, self and other consciousness.

A powerful external object – religion, god, ideology, politics, education, gang, cult or an authority figure – may be used to provide a surrogate paternal symbol whom the person will idealize like a child idealizes the father at a certain stage of life. Such idealization has a developmental goal of building internal psychological structures that enable virtues.

Since the father enables the child to maintain boundaries, a fatherless person would also lack the abilities to either set boundaries or to adhere to most boundaries – be it personal boundaries, or boundaries with anger, hostility, ethics, morality and the like. The submission to the desire of the desired has not been achieved, hence in such an adult we see a reluctance to submit to the law,  order, societal norms and conventions. As a consequence, the concepts of loyalty, commitment and responsibilities may be affected. Symbols of death, destruction that are associated with the masculine, may become over-compensated for,  causing aggression, hostility, narcissism and even psychosis in some cases.

Association with god or authority figures also becomes another way of filling this perceived deficit, and a sense of morality, duty, ethics can be created thru this intervention. The extreme humility and compassion of a religious and/or spiritual person is as much a compensatory behavior as the extreme hostility and aggression of a gang member. At both these extremes are fatherless children attempting to find in the external environment  a role model who they can emulate, and who will help them assimilate internal structures that would have been enabled by the father.

Ineffective Father

Where father is ineffective,  the child does have a core, but the core usually takes up a position that is in opposition to every paternal symbolic association. Such a person may project his derision for his father on god, or political entities, authority figures, idealogies, etc.

Gender Issues

Lacan argues that desire is structured as a metonymy. In metonymy, one designates a whole object (for example, a car) by naming one part of it (for example: “a set of wheels”). So what Lacan says is that when a girl or a woman desires in later life, her choice unconsciously is the choice of a series of objects that each resemble in part the lost object (perhaps they have the same hair, or look at him/her the same way the mother did …).

If the father is missing, there is no symbol – in language or thought, that can verbalize the metonymy. An idealized image of a partner derived from the media may be used instead, which leaves her vulnerable to an ideal ego rather than an ego ideal.

Girls with an ineffective father may be pushed into early parentification, and learn to mother such fathers, rendering their own psyche vulnerable to being exploited. This may may cause disconnection with sex, and with their own sexuality. A deep rooted melancholic depressive isolation may set in as they become the metaphorical surrogate mothers.

If the mother is nurturing and available, the ineffective father may create an internal denigration of the paternal symbol, and push daughters towards an early onset of menarche, leading to early sexual relationships, and in some cases, promiscuity.

Unlike daughters, boys acquire their identity from their fathers. They experience themselves as being “different” from their mothers, and “same” as their fathers. A weak father poses a threat to the masculine identity of the male offspring who will inherit his mother’s identity and personality, no matter how unstable and irrational that may be, because there appears to be no evolutionary or survival oriented advantage from emulating a weak father.

Their psycho-sexual development may be compromised if they remain cathected to their mothers thru adolescence. The only way they can remain connected and escape the unconscious sexual aggression of their mothers is by sacrificing their masculinity. In cases where relationship with mother is also compromised, they – like fatherless daughters – do not have a template for their own masculinity, not do they have a template for relating with the contrasexual parent. Relationship problems, lack of connection with men and women may bring such people into therapy. An ideal may arise to fill this gap, and life may be lived by cognitively understood ego-ideals and goals. The fullness of life is never experienced, nor explored.

These above, are thus symptoms of a deeper malaise eventhough many times they are mistaken for causes themselves and treated.

Treatment Implications : The Analytical Frame

Although the therapist may interpret in the here and now, but he and patient returns to a remote and lost time where the therapist as father can listen and be heard. The analytical frame, or the setting, represents the father. Verbalising interpretations is equivalent to introducing the father into the material, literal references to father are not necessary, the analytical frame itself is experienced as symbolic system that stands for the father because the analyst introduces differentiation, ad separations into a psychic territory that was previously experienced as being chaotic and undifferentiated. Thus the therapist is creating a paternal function and breaking the symbiotic fusion with the mother.

Since it is law that produces the unlawful, since it is repression that forms the unconscious, it follows that for a symbolic order to exist, there must be fantasies supporting it. When these fantasies are explored in therapy to fully appreciate the symbolic and the law, when the law is experienced and understood, the ability to symbolize, to create abstractions increases, and with it the language begins to evolve, and change because words themselves are symbols. With the ability use word symbols, comes the ability to think rationally.  Turning from mother thus points to a victory of intellectuality over sensuality, which is an advance in civilization. This “omnipotence of thoughts,” linked to speech, and is a precursor of Kohlberg moral development.

The relationship with father, his presence, is felt more like a return of the repressed, a reaction carrying the forbidden wish to get rid of him as an obstacle. All symbolism linked with his power –  the fear, respect, love and awe is linked to the distance that exists between a child and the father. Distance is necessary to worship him. He is the keeper of the sacred order. Father figure is more subject to unconscious fantasy than the mother is. Father’s are not pals. Even playing games with children emphasizes rules, and the necessity to adhere to rules.

What about fathers that have a closer relationship to the child’s body? They becomes doubles of the mother rather than provide what is expected of them as a father.

15 responses to “The Quest for a Symbolic Father”

  1. Dear Madhu Sameer, i really enjoy reading this article. It has a lot of stuff in my domain of research.
    I will be grateful is you can put up the bibliographic references of the theoretical review. Thanks so much.

    1. Do not forget to direct your readers on how to cite the article.

  2. abraham hempel Avatar
    abraham hempel

    It wasn’t until I began reading Lacan that I had an idea of how the structure of my psyche, or lack there of, was constituted in such a way that I was predisposed to psychosis. As a child I was told my father died when I was a toddler, and I was told later that he had killed himself and only later to discover he actually just left a note and vanished into oblivion. To further complicate things, he was a respected Pentecostal pastor who began to mysteriously suffer from delusions and refused medical assistance before his vanishing. To sum it up, the whole situation was a disaster for me, and his family saw me as the heir to his religious “legacy”, which I wanted little to do with. So, there I was at a young age dealing suicide/disappearance, religious fundamentalism and not single soul confide in save my mother who was unable to be helpful. The men my mother married seemed to have no interest in talking to me much less fathering.

    Fast forward a little, and I move to Austin, TX as an 18 yr.old and get an entry level job with a local carpet business. After three months, I was sitting at home alone in my room reading books on spirituality and I said to myself, ” Is this all there is to life working and then coming home alone?” I then heard a voice ( the only voice I have ever heard) say ” Go to the streets!” I felt the voice was a message for my ‘destiny” so I quit my job and left all my belongings in my apartment and lived on the streets as a vagrant. The rest of life followed this trajectory of homelessness by choice, then some semblance of stability. I looked at other men and didnt understand how they kept it together and maintained strong connections. I felt like I was at sea with no rudder. I read all types of self-help books and such but just couldnt locate any source. It was like I had no idea that “work” and “love”, as Freud said, were what made life worth it. I was completely lost on the most basic tenets of the social bonds they seemed evident to everyone else. Most my actions were a deliberate unconscious attempts to undue my relations. Ok I said enough. Thanks for the article

    1. Hi Abraham,
      The psyche doesn’t really talk human language. Human language is limited to humans, the universe has its own language. So the mistake one makes in such circumstances is to take literally what is said in a dream, or as a “voice”.

      The people suffering from psychosis do not talk gibberish, as many believe. They are sensible and coherent, to someone who understands the symbolic. If someone talked to you in French, and you did not understand French, you would not call them mad. You’d simply put it down to your inability to understand. However, when someone talks symbolic, instead of acknowledging our inability to understand, we jump to conclusions.

      The voice that spoke to you may not have offered advice to be taken literally. It may have had a symbolic meaning. The psyche is smart, more intelligent than we give it credit. In Hinduism, it is considered synonymous with God. Jung understood this, and called it the Self – which has the highest potential, the potential to rise to godhood – as it did with Jesus, as it did with Buddha. So it would not guide you wrong.

      Or perhaps it did guide you along the right path. But you did not take it to the end. Neither Buddha, nor Jesus has “work” or “love”. Yet they achieved the peak of human potential. Being homeless is not a bad thing if you’re on the path to self actualization. It is a bad thing if you are not, if you are still connected to the world, to the desires, and desperately seek connections, and possessions. So you see, perhaps the voice had a meaning. Perhaps it was leading you to a higher place. By reading Freud, and clinging to Freud, and being tethered to the desire for bonds, for work, for connections – you may have forfeited that higher place.

      There is a seed of equivalent benefit in every sacrifice. However, if we refuse to accept that seed, there is nothing that the universe can do. But the universe always moves us ahead, to a higher place of learning. Being average is inertia. It represents the death of the higher self, it represents slumber, stagnation. You have more than that. You are alive, reflecting, growing, free.

      Live in the moment. Forget Freud. Reflect on what you have achieved, what life has offered, not what you have lost. Like they say, when you think life is throwinglemons at you, make lemonade, drink lemonade, sell lemonade and make your millions with those lemons. Life throws lemons to make you successful, to make you grow.

      One of my patients with psychosis once told me “Mountains are glorious and majestic, but we grow most in the valleys.” She was absolutely right. Mountains are for the mundane, the ordinary, the mediocre, the nobodies. Go to the streets. Go to the valleys. And grow. Expand your consciousness. Acknowledge the growth.

      May the force of the creator be with you.

  3. When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new
    comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment.
    There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

    1. There is no author called see on any of my subscriptions, so unfortunately I am not able to remove from subscriptions. I’m sure if you look around, you’ll be able to find a way to unsubscribe.

      As you can see for yourself, there haven’t been that many comments on this blogpost – so I am unsure of what you are trying to achieve thru posting this comment…

      I have removed your email and url from the response, just in case you are a spammer and only wish to draw attention to yourself thru this post…

  4. Edson de Jesus Melo Cunha Avatar
    Edson de Jesus Melo Cunha

    Dear Madhu Sameer

    Your paper is very interesting. I’ve been working on a project related to the father figure on the formation of the child’s identity. Will you know any source of study which deals with Lacan’s “Seduction of the Father”? I’ve been looking for it high and low but have found nothing. If you know something about it, could you please send it to my e-mail? Greetings!

    1. Hi Edson,

      Thanks a lot for reading, commenting and liking. Its certainly a toned down, understandable version of Lacan. I don’t know of any place you can find that stuff in US – Lacan is not very popular here. Perhaps the Lacan Institute in LA, or SFO may be able to help you ?

      All the best for your paper.


  5. […] conscious, symbolic world.  The law of the father forms the basis for civilization (see Quest for the Symbolic Father).  If our legal, political, and social systems did not develop the way they did, our lives were […]

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  7. WOW!! This is amazing. My current boyfriend – I believe – has a sort of enmeshment with his mother. She is extremely domineering and controlling. His father is very quiet, weak, passive. And my boyfriend didn’t say his first word until he was three years old!! He definitely also has weak boundaries and narcissistic tendencies, as well as a fear of engulfment. :-/

    1. I’m glad you found this useful.

      Bear in mind, the terms mother and father used in this piece always are meant to represent symbolic mothers and fathers. A mother can, and often does provide a fathering container, and that fathering container then passes off as a father symbol. And the article would then apply to the deficits and benefits of that father symbol, although expressed by the mother.

      In short, the psyche does not understand genders. It understands the masculine and the feminine principle. And a parent of any gender can provide those principles in balance, or in an unbalanced way.

      So your boyfriend’s case needs to be analyzed before a sweeping analysis can be made. However, it seems that the mother provided the masculine principle, and there was either no feminine principle in action, or perhaps the father provided the mothering. Such applications are deviations from the norm, and the effects are unpredictable, and unique for each case….

      1. thats actually quite reassuring. Is there anyway you can delete my comments since for some reason i could only comment with my facebook account and it posts my full name? Thank you

  8. This is the information that we need to have good relationships!

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