The stream of thought is a rather constant phenomenon. We can deduce from that statement and from what we said earlier that it manifests an attempt to recreate a very specific situation that would permit a demanding social conduct to carry on. What we will be proposing here is that we can learn from the idea of the third-party, developed by Jacques Lacan to introduce the symbolic into the development of the psyche at the child age.
Who does the stream of thought address ? It addresses somebody who would listen. In fact, when we physically speak to someone, our neural system is busy producing the body conditions for speech. It means that we suppose that at the moment that we speak, the person we are speaking to would listen or at least, not prevent us from speaking. The fact that we would anticipate that the other would let us speak and wait for us or not makes us quite vulnerable.
That implies that we are in fact very and even too receptive to what would happen in the case we wouldn’t be listened to, left behind and not included, in the same way that we have to be responsible to the call or injunctions of others. We keep ourselves constantly ready to a response. It means that we hope to recreate the conditions of speech, where we would be listened to, that would mean that we have been approved to the situation of the speaker, that we have been evaluated fit to occupy this position that we ready ourselves for. In this position, we are safe, because we checked the required features that would enable us to be both exposed and left sound.
The idea of the third-party
The idea idea of the third-party is originally that when the child sees themself in the mirror, they will anchor the meeting of their own image in the symbolic through the eye of a witness. The other person looking at the same image that is like me (my reflection in the mirror) will describe it as some normal event and support this experience with comment. They will help sustain the experience and make it last, filling it and organising it in formalised sentences and interactions.
In fact, they will authorise the child to think themself as a subject and the source of an object of interest for others. The first speech is the situation that we occupy between the other and the image that we send. To be spoken to, I have to be me and at the same time the ‘me’ that the others see, and adjust to that. Then we spend our life adjusting the connection between the me that experiences things and the me that communicates. The me that wonders and the me that works at stabilising their position in the social space. When we speak to others, we hope that we could be sure that the other agrees that we would speak, claim the right to be at that place and create enough distance so they would not be pushed away but still listening.
The idea of the third-party helps us think that simultaneously, we keep a mental situation where we are busy with the physical production of the speech and at the same time vigilant on the stability of the conventional structure. Again, as I speak, I suppose that I am given the right to do so and being waited until I finish.
The stream of thought
What happens in the stream of thought ? Mostly, we recreate this setting : someone is speaking and being listened to, because as long as it is so, it means that the conditions of speech are still valid. We are accepted as the speaker and we are authorised to be listened to. We are not likely to be attacked nor told off because of that. We recreate and maintain a safety space around us and at the same time, we keep our mind busy, that means that we spend our energy out of social conduct for something.
The stream of thought mostly prevents the meaning and necessity for social conduct from collapsing. We agree to comply to the ways we should behave because we suppose it grants us the right to benefit from social support. It is a contract that we should honour, to occupy a delimited space for self-expression and not exceed it, or we would be a source of worry to others, stepping out of the preset and predictible pattern.
In this context, the stream of thought merely contains and regulates body energy in order to keep ready for responding to sollicitation, but also vigilant about social permission to benefit from a certain space of liberty. This space is set under conditions of predictibility according to a pre-defined social and moral order.
But the important thing is that we maintain that tension to the outside, to the others that we hope eventually would be listeners to us, and the necessity to derive tension from containing body energy from expressing without restraint. We find balance by mentally recreating this situation where we would be a speaker with willing and consenting listeners.
We delay the time for a proper response to our demanding environments by imaginarily anticipating the resolution of the tension that this specific situation would permit. We often want so much to communicate but cannot without worrying people around us, that we have to silently derive it from its original purpose.
Tackling the unconscious
In this case, the question of the unconscious appears clearer. We evidently hide from the situation we work constantly on recreating inwards what we perceive as a threat to the autorisation to be listened to and supported. The more what we anticipate that would be the expectations of others towards our conduct is consistent with the original scene of a traumatic refusal, the more likely we would be to strengthen a virtual scene where we would eventually find support.
The heroic phantasy of the saviour is a good example of that, as the heroe is supposed to stand alone above the crowd, not in need of any more approval but then fully supported by the homogenous mass of the others. Someone trying to be the heroe to all is mostly someone afraid to be rejected by some (and often very precise) people. This again supports the necessary criticism we would have to make of patriarchy and the teaching of a toxic masculinity, as it tends to crush the singularities of others by fear of being removed the right to be listened to in an unequivocal way.
In fact, we are often the heroe of our mental speech in the stream of our thoughts, even through the voice of other people leaving their mark on us. It only confirms that this constant rolling of thoughts that we keep firmly on comes to help and tame the anguish of being refused the right to speak by people having authority on us.
As speech organises the convention about how to behave in the social space, that is taught to us since childhood, it is quite natural that the right to speak and be heard is essential to find meaning. Tackling the unconscious cannot go without addressing what is going on with our thoughts, who is speaking and who we try to be speaking to.
Unconscious thoughts are just a downside. They are the result and body imprint of a system of control.