Desire has no object; this means that we don’t desire things, but desire is a force that drives existence. We think we desire things, and we grasp at them with the fervor of scarcity. However, inevitably, their retrieval yields abounding dissatisfaction.
For example, when I joined TikTok, I thought I desired a growing audience. I have that, and still, I am dissatisfied. I experienced explosive growth with the virility of an early video, and the virility, combined with the explosive growth, served only to exacerbate my anxiety. Who’d have thunk?!
The sudden boost of engagement with my account triggered an obsessive compulsive spiral. I became obsessed with the stats and began to compulsively check–for what? To see the numbers climb, out of fear of an inevitable plateau.
This is why desire has no object. The clawing after things or towards the illusive destination is self-destructive because attainment and/or arrival never satisfies. There is no enough that resolves the problem of desire.
Why is it, then, that we mistake the life force (desire) for a finite object of possession?
Bruce Fink, in his text A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, suggests this has something to do with the formative dynamics of the parent/child relationship.
“Their desire is what makes us tick, makes us do things in the world; it brings our desire to life.”Bruce Fink
Children crave the love, attention, and acceptance of their parents (guardians) above all else. As kids, we want to be the object of our parents’ desire, yet since desire has no object (and therefore fails to satisfy), as children, we convert our parents’ desires into demands.
“They are our primary source of attention and affection, and we often attempt to win their approval and love by conforming to their wishes. The better we satisfy their demands, the more approval we are likely to obtain. The more completely we satisfy their wishes, the more love we are likely to win from them.”Bruce Fink
This is the point at which interpretation comes to the fore. What must I do to get my parents’ love and attention? The answer to this question (entirely based on subjective interpretation of their words and deeds) becomes the demand by which we structure desire. It becomes the foundation upon which the unconscious constructs our purpose, and therefore, our drive to act and be.
Desire has no object.
Desire is a force that compels.