Agalma

Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Dublin

Agalma is an ancient Greek term for a pleasing gift presented to the gods as a votive offering. The agalma was intended to woo the gods, to dazzle them with its wondrous features and so gain favour for its bearer. The agalma, therefore, was endowed with magical powers beyond its apparent superficial value. Over time, the term ‘agalma’ has come to mean an iconic image, something beautiful – an object to be treasured. This is the context in which Jacques Lacan used the term ‘agalma’.

Lacan introduced the term in his Seminar VIII (1960-1961), writing on Socrates' Symposium. The agalma is defined by love; it is the inestimable object of desire which ignites our desire. Relating this to the analytic setting, Lacan proposed that the ‘agalma’ is the treasure which we seek in analysis, the unconscious truth we wish to know.

In psychoanalysis, the analyst seeks to establish a transference with the subject. Within this transference, a discourse develops, a discourse between the client as speaking subject and the analyst as the Other. The transference relationship is what defines the agalma. It is the agalma, the inestimable object of desire, that becomes the agent of the transference relationship. The promise of this beloved object supports the client through the analysis. Seeking to discover this treasure, the client avows his or her desire, as manifested in the discourse.

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