Imported from an old blog.
If I recall correctly, Lacanian psychoanalysis posits a moment in youth when the child looks out to the world and seeks an individual or entity that provides the gateway to interaction with the external world. This individual or entity plants the seeds of language that structure understanding. In the usual model a graph is drawn of the development of the psyche. The child follows an arc from birth, traveling past identification with the mother to an encounter with the father that establishes the basis for values, truth, perception and integration with the rest of humanity.
If this goes smoothly the child ends up as a well integrated member of society and generally accepts the duties and obligations that are presented: get a job, get married, believe in established truths and get on with being a part of world that has some definition and thus exists.
If this doesn't go smoothly the child is left with a questing for meaning and truth that may or may not lead to "inappropriate" beliefs and values. Neurosis some might call it, or maybe narcissism. With externalities lacking substance, the already accepted truth of self gains status.
Setting aside for a moment that I could be completely misremembering Lacan and that he's privileging the role of the male, this model has some goodness-of-fit for my own behavior and why, in some ways, despite my reluctance, I'm relating to Chris/Alex McCandless in Into the Wild.
The going out to nature to find the real truth strikes me as an effort to replace the frustration and anxiety of interacting with a society that was never made fully real with a tangible, responsive existence. The heat of fire, the cold of ice, the need of hunger, these are all things that eventually cannot be denied. Much of what makes up society, without that early moment of "fatherly" gravitation, is ephemeral.
I think it is obvious that there are no simple answers--perception is the result of a complex of many influences--but at the same time teasing out each of the influences is a worthwhile pursuit. This paragraph brought to you by the department of forestalling people who like to say there are no simple answers, etc.
There's more to say on this.