Explaining the Real in the Work of Julia Kristeva and Jacques Lacan

The art of Gabriel von Max, “The Anatomist,” Realism (1869)

The closest we come to “the Real” is in our neonatal experience following birth at a time before language. In our neonatal experience, we do not understand word meanings. Words are not yet understood because our capacity to express and understand language has not been formed yet. The neonatal experience is based on feelings and sensations the body and our mirror provides us. Thus, the time before language creates the unconscious in our human experience of conscious awareness. The only experience connecting us remotely to another through language is based on Winnicott’s concept of the mirror. Mommy smiles at us and we smile back. Mommy squeezes a squeaky toy and we laugh uncontrollably or become frightened depending on the nature of the child. We are hungry or wet and we cry. Mommy grimaces a “what’s the matter look” as she places a bottle in our mouths or changes our diaper. This neonatal experience is perceived as a shared union, in symbiosis with the mother as his “mirror.” This is all we understand of language in the neonatal experience. Thus, the Real is connected to the neonatal experience with the maternal body. As the child grows and begins to experience the world, he or she begins to realize that mommy and he are two separate individuals and not the same person.

Because the nature of human language can be flawed through the loss of meaning in our communication, Jacques Lacan theorized this concept of “the Real.” We can lose the conscious meaning of communication when it falls into the crevices of our unconscious mind unnoticed or ill-understood during our waking reality, the latter being the case in our neonatal experience with mommy, the infant body, and the environment at a time before language. Thus, we can receive these unnoticed or ill-understood communications along with their meaning in dream symbolism. When this happens, the meaning of lost communication, unnoticed or ill-understood or otherwise, gets captured by the unconscious mind and the language and meaning comes back to us through dream signs. This concept sets up the possibility for the anal sadistic universe to be expressed in dreams as well because the creation of the anal sadistic universe is part of some individual’s communication repertoire. In trauma patients who cannot process their traumatic and violent experiences consciously, it may, as one aspect of the unconscious in psychoanalytic thought, come back to them in dreams or be experience in psychic hallucinations seen in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here I am only explaining the eruptions of “the Real” in dreams as part of the unconscious. I cannot explain them as hallucinations that erupt in PTSD.

Not only can the meaning of communication become lost, but it can also become confusing. Another aspect of language is its capacity to confound through mixed signals, and an example of confusing communication is when someone tells you they love you, and they follow up this statement with actions and behaviors that don’t support the statement. This often happens in cases of battered women when their husbands are at times loving and caring, and then at other times, suffer psychotic breaks and physically or sexually assault them. It is during these times of psychotic foreclosure meaning falls away. This is part of the abjection of being “cast down by another,” which is part of “the real.” Many times, people witness or hear about violent acts of aggression they cannot wrap their head around because the meaning behind why someone would want to commit such bloody acts of mass shootings, committing murder is because meaning has fallen away from language. That is, the ability to express oneself, through language, in a coherent non-violent way has been disrupted and has fallen away.

Sigmund Freud gave us his theory of “Fort-da” in which he theorized, after observing a child playing with a toy, repeatedly through it down and cast it away from him and his crib. Freud postulated this was the child’s way of managing his separation anxiety he felt when his mother left him. This is a state of abjection or casting down of another. In dream eruptions of the Real, the state of abjection and/or casting down is symbolized most commonly as a corpse because the corpse represents the horror and disgust of severance. Much like the horror and disgust of the little child when severance from mother occurs. The severance or castrating death from the living is feared and repudiated by all men. This is part of “the Real” in states of abjection or in states of casting down and away and it is connected with pre-Oedipal relations and the maternal body, and with the separation-individuation phase (rapprochement) phase of childhood.

So, what does it mean when we dream of death? The answer. It means something a little different for everyone. Most commonly it symbolizes brokenness, transformation, and new change, starting a new chapter in one’s life, a new beginning, separation, or end, or it could actually symbolize mortal death itself. For me, in my eruption dream of the Real, I theorize that since the neonatal experience also encompasses a time before the infant has learned the capacity for concern and empathy, something that is shaped through language, communication, and the human experience. I have theorized “the corpse” symbolized in my dream represents the clandestine veiled assaults of electronic torture and electronic targeting, and as such, establishes its connection to the psychopathic state of the perpetrator. As is the case with psychotic foreclosure, or as in the case of certain personality disorders and establishing psychopathic identities through reading silence. Because during states of psychotic foreclosure, the psychopath exists in a void of emotion, because he/she does not have the capacity to love or to feel concern or empathy for his or her victims. This state places him or her outside of language, in an emotionless state, similar to death or the symbol of “the corpse” in my eruption of the Real dream. Because emotion allows for the capacity for feeling sentiment, that is passionate love or happiness for another, this person seems to present him or herself as someone existing outside of language who might exhibit shallow effect or cyclical abusive behaviors towards others. To describe the difference between passionate love and lack of emotion, let’s consider the movement of a symphony or song with musical tones and pitches similar to the movement of an ocean that rocks back and forth the movement of the water. This description contrasts greatly from that of a mill pond that is flat in tone, lacking movement, and is completely still. In psychotic foreclosure, a person may feel passionate hatred or anger towards another when violence erupts, but this is where meaning falls away in language because its spoken communication lacks the capacity to coherently express itself in a civil and orderly way.

Another element that can be brought into my eruption of the Real dream analysis, was that I received two requests from two different publishers over Medium.com to have one of my writings published. The article was published in one of the online publications called “The Startup” on February 14th. This caused an increase in activity on that day over my Medium website. This particular writing was viewed close to 400 times and then was followed by a lull. So, the graph that details the number of times a reader read my Medium website increased significantly on February 14th making the graph that represents activity over my medium website have one large phallic column on this particular day. This could have further stimulated my unconscious in terms of “castrating death” and “the corpse” because it was on February 14, 2003, my nephew was tragically killed at the young age 19 in a car accident. Combining my perceptions regarding this with the intent of clandestine electronic targeted assaults and electronic torture, you can come to an understanding how dreaming of “death” or a “corpse” will have different meanings for everyone because everyone’s life experiences are different and everyone’s perceptions are different too. Bringing in another aspect, I also had a boyfriend in late adolescence who was rather well endowed (the large phallic column?) and his birthday was on February 14th, Valentine’s Day.

Another connection to my eruption of the Real dream was a previous dream I experienced and had remembered to write down. I titled the dream “The Demonic Wizard Dream” and in this dream, I was forced to watch the torture of a loved one by a demonic male Wizard, who also happened to have blue eyes and blonde hair, similar to the corpse in my eruption of the Real dream. I called this male “the Wizard” because in my dream he possessed “magical” powers. This connects to the repetitive viewing of “the corpse” (Death) in my eruption of the Real dream connecting this dream to an actual state of abjection, the casting down and away of another through “magical powers” that violently assault. Thus, I theorized that “the corpse” actually, more truthfully, represents the electronic targeted assaults and torture in the psychotic state of foreclosure in the mind of the “demonic wizard” (psychopath/state of psychotic foreclosure) as it exists outside of language, lacking a civilized, coherent meaning that is ordered through civil communication.

Because my eruption of the Real dream involved the death of a stranger, this indicates that there are changes going on around me but I feel completely detached from them. This is connected with my feelings of separation and isolation in my estrangement from my family which was imposed on me by some of my family members.

In Tarot Card readings, the Death card does not generally mean physical death. It usually signifies spiritual transformation and a time of change and new beginnings. The change that Death can bring can be difficult, unexpected, sudden, or even traumatic but it will bring with it a new lease of life. The transformation brought through the Death card can be a bit of a shock to the system but ultimately, it’s supposed to be a positive one. I don’t feel this way about my two dreams since this is not a tarot card reading but a forensic psychoanalysis in the interpretation of two nightmares.



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