In the apparatus of the psyche, the Thing represents the secret center of human desire, the nucleus of pleasure/unpleasure. This nucleus is opposed to the reality principle, which it threatens to undermine. The Thing, also called the "lost object," acts as the cause of desire and a sign of longing for an impossible reunion with the object.
Sigmund Freud first referred to the Thing in 1895, in "A Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1950a). He used the term again in 1925 in his essay "Negation." Jacques Lacan fully elaborated this Freudian notion in his seminar The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1992).
An instance of the Thing develops from a complex set of cathected perceptions and memory images that have given pleasure in the past. This set includes a stable kernel, called the Thing, and a variable element, or predicate. The Thing arises in the primordial relation between the infant seeking fulfillment of its vital needs and the primary caregiver, the "fellow being," who is also the first hostile object. The kernel or nucleus is inaccessible to judgment, while the predicate is the object of a judgment that must verify whether the memory image corresponds to reality. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, this process of judging forms the basis for the ego.
The Thing is situated in the unconscious articulation of desire. In its origin, it posits the Other as unconscious, as the force withholding the signifier of satisfaction, while reality is subverted by the symbolic function of memory traces of the lost object, from which the subject's desire is alienated.
See also: "Negation"; Other, the; Subject's desire; Unary trait.
Freud, Sigmund. (1925h). Negation. SE, 19: 233-239.
——. (1950c ). A project for a scientific psychology. SE, 1: 281-387.
"Thing, The." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/thing
"Thing, The." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved February 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/thing
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.