The quaternary system so fundamental to the impasses, the insolubilities in the lie situation of neurotics, has a structure quite different from the one traditionally given—the incestuous desire for the mother, the father’s prohibition, its obstructive effects, and, around all that, the more or less luxuriant proliferation of symptoms. I think that this difference ought to lead us to question the general anthropology derived from analytic doctrine as it has been taught up to the present. In short, the whole oedipal schema needs to be re-examined. I cannot undertake that now, but I cannot refrain from trying to introduce here the fourth element at issue.
We submit that the most normalizing situation in the early experience of the modern subject, in the condensed form represented by the conjugal family, is linked to the fact that the father is the representative, the incarnation, of a symbolic function which concentrates in itself those things most essential in other cultural structures: namely, the tranquil, or rather, symbolic, enjoyment, culturally determined and established, of the mother’s love, that is to say, of the pole to which the subject is linked by a bond that is irrefutably natural. The assumption of the father’s function presupposes a single symbolic relation in which the symbolic and the real would fully coincide. The father would have to be not only the name-of-the-father, but also the representative, in all its fullness, of the symbolic value crystallized in his function. Now, it is clear that this coincidence of the symbolic and the real is totally elusive. At least in a social structure like ours, the father is always in one way or another in disharmony with regard to his function, a deficient father, a humiliated father, as Claudel would say. There is always an extremely obvious discrepancy between the symbolic function and what is perceived by the subject in the sphere of experience. In this divergence lies the source of the effects of the oedipus complex which are not at all normalizing, but rather most often pathogenic.
But saying that does not advance us very far. The following step, which brings us to an understanding of what is at issue in the quaternary structure, is this—and it is the second great discovery of psychoanalysis, no less important than the symbolic function of the oedipus complex—the narcissistic relation.