From Žižek’s Metastases of Enjoyment:

The ultimate paradox of the strict psychoanalytic notion of symbolic identification is that it is by definition a misidentification, the identification with the way the Others(s) misperceive(s) me. Let us take the most elementary example: as a father, I know I am an unprincipled weakling; but, at the same time, I do not want to disappoint my son, who sees in me what I am not: a person of dignity and strong principles, ready to take risks for a just cause – so I identify with this misperception of me, and truly ‘become myself’ when I, in effect, start to act according to this misperception (ashamed to appear to my son as I really am, I actually accomplish heroic acts). In other words, if we are to account for symbolic identification, it is not enough to refer to the opposition between the way I  appear to others and the way I really am: symbolic identification occurs when the way I appear to others becomes more important to me than the psychological reality ‘beneath my social mask’, forcing me to do things I would never be able to accomplish ‘from within myself’ (45).

Thus by identifying myself as that which I already am for others, I begin to see my capacity for negating any particular identity (i.e., my capacity to deny association with any one group and to know myself as pure “potential”) as a problem or liability to be overcome in pursuit of some greater social purpose/Cause. Here we see the paradoxical temporal loop in which I see myself as pure potential but only in relation to what I might be, not in terms of what I cannot ever be: I am always “not yet” wholly that which I already am, not yet equal to my sociosymbolic identity/status… I remain unsatisfied with any current state-of-self, since this can only go so far toward matching satisfactorily my already-expected/known sociosymbolic identity.

But this state of non-satisfaction is simply the universal condition of human existence; it is the state of desire, and as such not inherently “evil” or “coercive.” Without desire, who would we be? Here is the psychoanalytic/Hegelian answer: a non-desiring being is no being at all; it is inert matter, with no particular emotional attunement toward anything in the world, no directional motion, and thus no reactionary capability (one of the several necessary qualities of “life” as defined by biologists). Without imagination, without creative thought about what might be, what might have been, etc., we could not exist – imagination is what makes human beings distinct as a species.

The irony is that in the same formal gesture one can begin to be motivated to accomplish both heroic acts (as in Žižek’s above example), as well as atrocious acts of violence; it all depends on what symbolic space has been established in one’s own community – it depends, in other words, on what sort of superego demands are at work, whether that superego takes the form of a social pressure to end economic disparity, or a social pressure to carry out acts of violence against Muslims…

Hence why democracy is the riskiest form of government: there is no guarantee that any one course of action will take place, that any one kind of society will take shape; all that we have is the capacity to influence those societal/symbolic features collectively, through communication with one another about the ideas we want to pay attention to – ideas shared online, in books, through art and music, etc.; all of these provoke a re-imagining of the world.