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The Other

 

Explanations > Identity > The Other

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

In searching for and creating our identity, we create 'the other'. The other is 'not me' or 'not us' and thus helps us to understand, create and define ourselves.

The other is outside us, showing first that there is existence outside our bodies.

Others may reflect us, so we can see ourselves from the third-person perspective. Otherness thus creates familiarity and attraction.

Others may be not-us, and so we can see how we are different from others. Otherness thus creates alienation and fear.

What we see in the other tells us what is right and wrong, good and bad, perfect and imperfect.

Others can be imagined people. Thus we may define an ideal prototype personality to which we aspire and use this as a comparison.

There can be multiple others each giving us a perspective on ourselves.

Our own image is a special form of other, as we know that it is us, yet it does not seem to be us.

When the other interpellates us, we are created as subjects. Accepting that creation means accepting the other as superior and creator and hence deifying them. This Other may be capitalized, to signify its omnipotence.

When we see ourselves in an other, we realize that we are divided and not whole. This creates a deep and lifelong desire to become whole again.

All recognition comes through contrast, which opposites provide. In all sensory recognition, difference enables us to separate and name. An other person does the same for identity. It shows us where our own boundary is.

Objects can be others too, as we see ourselves in relation to and reflected in the things around us.

Discussion

Because otherness is not like us, we can never truly understand it. This causes chronic anxiety as it constantly creates the tension of uncertainty. Yet because it is not like us it affirms us and so also creates certainty. We hence cling to the other to know what we are not and so complete our defining boundary.

Lacan described how the Other is discovered in his Mirror phase, where we first see our own image.

Laplanche described primal seduction as the offering of a message by a parent to a child. Communication from an other entices the child away from its state of one-ness with the mother.

Winnicott described the transition object, which is typically a doll or blanket that represents not-me for the child. When it is removed, it is as if a part of the child is removed and they feel a sense of loss. This attachment to objects continues throughout our lives.

Other-ness is a key element of dualism, where the world is seen as a set of pairs, where one thing is understood only in terms of its opposite. The thing also creates its opposite, as in the dynamic oscillation of the Taoist yin and yang.

The ego and id (and the ego and super-ego) may be consider others to one another, each creating the other.

See also

Mirror phase, Interpellation, Looking-glass Self

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