Jacques Lacan (1966, 1977) – Character is completely enmeshed in the symbolic (language-based) structures of the culture as laid down and/or repressed in the person's unconscious. The ego, based on identifications and ideals,acts as a system of defenses that serves as a barrier to the individual's access to his unconscious, the understanding and managing of which (desires, drives) is ultimately essential to achieving true selfhood or subjectivity (in the speaking being). Lacan relates all clinical structures to difficulties in the Oedipus complex. He described three “times” following the mirror stage. Since it is impossible to resolve the complex completely, a completely non-pathological position does not exist. The closest thing is a neurotic structure.
The neurotic has come though all three times of the Oedipus complex, and there is no such thing as a neurosis without Oedipus. On the other hand, psychosis, perversion and phobia result when 'something is essentially incomplete in the Oedipus complex'. (SII) In psychosis there is a fundamental blockage even before the first time of the Oedipus complex. In perversion, the complex is carried through to the third time, but instead of identifying with the father, the subject identifies with the mother and/or the imaginary phallus, thus harking back to the imaginary preoedipal triangle. A phobia arises when the subject cannot make the transition from the second time of the Oedipus complex to the third time because the real father does not intervene; the phobia then functions as a substitute for the intervention of the real father, thus permitting the subject to make the passage to the third time of the Oedipus complex (though often in an atypical way).
Lacan divides the clinical picture into three types: neurotic/normal; perverse; psychotic; they can also be differentiated on the basis of the person's relation to the Name-of-the-father (the paternal metaphor; castration). The structure cannot be altered, but through analysis there can be an alteration of the subject's position vis-à-vis their character type. In the normal/neurotic character, the Name-of-the-father is installed, although in individual ways depending on development (experience and constitution). The structure of neurosis is essentially a question, a question that 'being' poses for the subject. The question of the hysteric is "Am I a man or a woman?" which relates to one's sex. The question of the obsessional is "To be or not to be?” or, “Am I alive or dead?” which relates to the contingency of one's existence. These two ultimate questions have no solution in the signifier (cannot be answered sufficiently in language). The person with perversion has no question; his acts, about which he has no doubt, serve the jouissance of the big Other. He disavows castration, that is, he disavows the effect on him of the Name-of-the-father, and locates himself/herself as the object of the drive, the position of the object-instrument of the will-to-enjoy which is not his own will but that of the big Other. In the person with psychosis, the Name-of-the-father is foreclosed, not integrated in his symbolic universe with the result that a hole is left in the symbolic order. The unconscious is not functioning. In the Oedipus complex, the paternal function (symbolic) is reduced to the image of the father (imaginary); there is constant slippage of the signified under the signifier; a signifier can be taken for a signified; finally the signifier and the signified are stabilized in the delusional metaphor.