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Recognition and Comfort: The Case of the Child’s Medal

Today, one of my nephews had an unpleasant experience at school. One of his so-called friends told him that his handwriting wasn’t very good and then the other children started copying the criticism. When he got home from school, his mother said that he had been crying and had said that he didn’t want to go back to school.

When he came over to the house after this moment of loneliness and despair, he brought an atypical object with him. A few months ago, he had won a medal at school for being a bright student. Now, he wouldn’t let go of the medal and took it everywhere that he went when he was at the house.

The experience at school had been an encounter with the perspective of the other. The child says that he is not interested in learning and education, so he was not upset at having bad handwriting. What had upset him was being seen in the eyes of the other as having bad handwriting, the eyes of his peers. The medal was a concrete example of a time that he had been recognised in the eyes of the other (the teacher) as being a good student. He had therefore turned to this concrete example of a positive perspective of himself which countered the damage to his self-esteem that the perspective of his peers had forced on him.

And, as Lacan writes, it is this desire to be recognised or validated as good rather than bad – to see oneself in the perspective of the other – that drives most of our motivations later in life.



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