• Published 1st May 2016
  • 2,409 Views, 68 Comments

Displacement - Bad Horse

How I found the emptiness of unbeing in my subjective destitution after I dressed up for a costume party as the semiotic psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

  • ...

Traversing the fundamental fantasy with my anamorphotic object

Author's Note:

The opening scene is pre-"Crusaders of the Lost Mark", because I wrote it before “Crusaders of the Lost Mark.” So sue me.

Thanks to Themaskedferret for pre-reading! And to Pre-reader 63.546 for finding a distressing number of grammatical errors. He's probably glaring at that "and" right now.

I rubbed my shoe over the algebraic diagram I had drawn in the dirt with a stick. “Let me begin again,” I said to the three small horses before me. “These—how do you say, ‘cutie marks’? A mark, you understand, is a signifier, which points to the signified. The thing signified is your identity as constructed through the mirror of The Other.”

“The Other?” the white one gasped, looking around in fright.

“Your parents, your friends, the entire symbolic structure of your society, is the Other.” I stabbed the stick into the ground, making a dot, then drew an ‘O’ next to it. “It is through your perceptions of the apparent wholeness of the Other that you conceptualize of yourself as a unified ego.” I drew a line leading out to the left of it and punctuated its terminus with another dot.

“I already told you, I’m not an eagle,” the orange one grumbled.

“The ego,” I continued, “is a fiction, an imagined wholeness.” I drew a third line, up and to the right, terminating above the first point. “It fixates itself on one Other in particular, the Big Other, the objet petit ‘a’.” I drew a lowercase ‘o’ next to the third point.

“Enough lines,” the yellow one said. “Where’s this mirror we gotta look through?” It peered down at my diagram. “It’s by this big ‘O’, right?” It lifted its head and scanned the trees around us, as if expecting to see a large capital ‘O’ in their midst.

“No, no, no!” I said. “You must find your Big Other.”

“I think he’s in the south orchard,” it said.

“Your Big Other, your master signifier,” I continued, and drew a fourth line out to the left of the third point. “Once you see it is nothing but your own narcissistic projections misrecognized as fullness, you will find the emptiness of unbeing in your subjective destitution.” I drew an ‘S’ at the final point.

The three tiny equines clustered around my diagram and snuffled at it. It was incomplete, but one can pour only so much water into a cracked cup. I waited for the lesson to sink in.

The white one raised its head. “The stained-glass window way up on the side of City Hall looks kind of like a big ‘O’!” it exclaimed. There was a rumbling and a cloud of dust, and when it cleared, I saw them running away in the distance.

“Excuse me,” a voice called. I turned, and that was when I first saw her. My Big Other. My fundamental fantasy, in the flesh. Horseflesh, as it turned out.

When I’d opened the front door that day, Josh had been standing there wearing a red wig and a string of loaves of Wonder Bread around his neck. His scratched-up old Scion idled in the driveway. The ugly cube kind, not the sportscar kind.

“Dude!” he said, staring at me. He puckered one side of his mouth like he does when he’s trying to be funny. “It’s a best-costume party, not a biggest-nerd party. Who are you, Orville Redenbacher?”

Just for that, I decided not to ask him what his costume was. “We’ll see who’s laughing when the women flock around me to be psychoanalyzed,” I said as I walked out to the car. I held out one arm of my suit. “That’s real tweed, you know.”

“Uh-huh,” he said. He sniffed. “Does real tweed usually smell like cat urine?”

I pulled my arm back quickly. “That’s cologne, you idiot.” I might have given the suit a few too many sprays. I’d been trying to cover up the musty Salvation Army smell.

He turned to me once we were sitting in his car. “I’m the ginger bread man! Get it?”

“Of course I got it.” I hadn’t, but at least I managed not to crack a smile for him. “One final touch,” I said, and reached into my suit jacket’s front left pocket. The jacket and white band-collar shirt had been easy to find in a local thrift shop. The bow-tie and grey shock wig I got off eBay. What made the costume come together, though, were the glasses. Old-school wire-rims, somewhere between Freud and John Lennon.

Weirdly, I’d gotten them first. Some old guy in DuPont Circle had been selling bits of costumes off a card table, mostly wigs and capes and cheap-looking superhero crap. I saw these glasses lying on the table and thought they were his, but he was already wearing glasses. He saw me looking, smiled, and moved one arm towards them, palm-up, inviting me to try them on.

I thought they looked goofy, but I picked them up anyway, and when I put them on, I felt a tingling in my head, and swear I heard a voice whisper, “Jacques Lacan.” Which was weird, since I wasn’t aware that I’d ever heard of the guy. But I guess I must have heard about him on the Discovery Channel or something, because when I looked him up on my phone there was a Wikipedia page about him.

So that was creepy. But at the time all I knew was that the old guy only wanted, like, three bucks for them, so I figured, why not?

This time, though, when I put them on, I got more than a tingling. There was a bright light, and a high-pitched whining, and I grabbed my head and Josh was screaming and I was screaming and suddenly I was lying face-up in a clearing in a forest, looking at bits of blue sky between the branches far above me.

I sat up, rubbed my head, and tried to say, “What the HOLY HELL just happened?” What came out was, “What sliding signifiers have so radically decentered my subjectivity?”

That was more-or-less how I had found myself in a forest, instructing three very small horses in semiotic psychoanalysis. Which takes us to the moment when I met her.

There was no shock of attraction. I didn’t know she was a “her” then. I could only guess she was an adult. Her coat was a pale lavender. I don’t know what that signifies. A spiral phallus protruded from her head.

Sorry, I mean a horn. I’m still a little… in and out. When I’m thinking about what happened that day, I speak with a French accent.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you the… person… who told Miss Cheerilee—let me see if I’ve got this straight—that she had to ‘tell Travis her fondest fantasy’?”

“Traverse her fundamental fantasy,” I corrected.

“I see. And you told Big Macintosh that he had to be, um…” She blushed. “Castrated?”


“Did you specify that?”

“I thought it was implicit,” I said.

“I see. Well, Mister, um...”

“Lacan,” I said, and offered her a hand, which she merely sniffed at. I pulled it back. “But you may call me Doctor Lacan.”

“Twilight Sparkle. Princess Twilight Sparkle. Charmed. Doctor Lacan, I’d like you to come to my castle and tell me about these… treatments of yours.”

“A castle! A metaphor that spontaneously arises in obsessional neurosis. No doubt it has a keep at the center, a fortified redoubt that signifies the impenetrable id. This grows more and more interesting. By all means take me there, Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

She began leading me out of the forest where I had come to visit my most-recent patients. I mean, where I found all these crazy brightly-colored horses. Her steps slowed, until finally she stopped and asked, “You really think I have obsessional neurosis?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said. “I have seen many cases.” It seemed true when I said it.

She sighed, then resumed walking.

“In fact,” I went on, “I am afraid that is the least of your problems. You have separated yourself from the accepted discourse.”

“There’s nothing wrong with reading books!” she exclaimed. There was a nervous edge to her voice.

“This identity you have constructed for yourself fits nowhere in the symbolic structure of modern society.” I gestured at her wings, her hooves.

She stopped again and turned her head toward me. I saw tears in her ridiculously large eyes.

“Oh, Doctor!” she said. “You’re so right!”

I shook my head sadly. “Many people here have fallen into psychosis,” I told her. “It is a most unusual case. They need help. No doubt that is why they see me as Jacques Lacan, the world’s greatest psychoanalyst.”

“Can you help me?” she cried.

I stroked my chin. “With patience, dedication, and courage… possibly.”

She rose up and I thought she was going to trample me, but she threw her front legs around my shoulders in a most anatomically-improbable manner and cried grateful tears. I said comforting words, and began thinking of possible titles for the talk I would give to the International Psychoanalytic Association about her.

The castle was obtrusively ugly, a sure sign that she was already aware on some level of her neurosis. Probably my presence was already therapeutic.

We sat on the edge of a large map table, in a cavernous room that bounced echoes back at us when we spoke. I could not discern how she was able to sit.

“The first problem,” I told her, “is that you aren’t married.”

She narrowed her eyes defensively. “That’s… not the solution to everything, you know.”

“I don’t mean for you.” I gestured out towards the great doors through which we had entered the room, towards the outside world. “I mean for these other people. They are all suffering from psychosis.”

“Hey! They… they’re not so bad once you get to know them.”

Just then, a pink horse zipped into the room without any leg ambulation or other apparent method of locomotion and said, “Twilight-I-have-to-hide-from-my-shadow Gummy-will-finish-the-decorating!” Then she dropped what looked like a toy alligator on the table and zipped back out.

We both looked at the alligator. It blinked.

After a pause, I continued. “Their psychosis is, I’m afraid, your fault.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I knew it.” She stood up and began pacing around the room. “Of course it’s my fault. I’m their princess.” The hair in her mane spontaneously tangled itself in a way that seemed iconographic of mental derangement.

“Correct,” I said. “As their princess, you are their mother figure in this social hierarchy. They will feel an Oedipal attraction to you. You must have a bond to a masculine figure who will intervene and symbolically castrate them, to free them from this forbidden Oedipal love so that they can pursue their own desires.”

She thought that over for a while. “I’m not sure that makes any sense.”

“Madame,” I said in my sternest voice, “I am a lecturer at the École Normale Supérieure.”

“Oh! You are?”

I nodded and hurried on before she could put up further resistance. “You have conceived of yourself as a purple winged unicorn. Without a masculine figure to symbolically castrate your citizens, many of them have likewise conceived of themselves as brightly-colored equines, to provide you with the equine phallus they believe you desire.”

Her cheeks reddened. “Um… not that I have anything against phalluses… phalli? But… what exactly is the problem here?”

I strode to the window, threw open the casement, and gestured out at the oddly colored horses trotting by beyond. “These people think they are horses!”

“Ponies,” she corrected. “They think they’re ponies. Because they are ponies.”

“Within this discourse, they are,” I agreed. “But think: Is it not suspicious that the people who call you princess, and they alone, appear to be ponies?”

“No… everypony here is a pony. I mean, everypony who isn’t a zebra or a cow or, well, look, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. What else would they be?”

I looked into her honest face, and then it hit me. I sat down heavily in a chair and threw one hand to my forehead.

“I,” I said, “I am the delusional one.”

“I think that makes more sense,” she said encouragingly, then patted me on my back. “If it helps any, you’re still saner than most ponies here.”

“In order to maintain my own self-identity as a man, I have had to restructure my internal discourse so radically that the distortion causes everyone else to appear to me as ponies.” I shook my head. “I must be a monster.”

She shook her head slowly. “We’re really ponies. Have been as long as I remember.” She held up one hoof and waved it in front of my face. “See?”

I looked up at her. Her crown glinted in the light of the candelabra.

“I see,” I said. Then, “I see!”

“Oh, thank goodness!”

I leapt to my feet. “I have conceived of you as a princess, because you are my princess! You are my objet petit ‘a’!

“Um. Thanks?”

“There is only one way to cure me.”

“Oh! What is it? Wait, maybe I should get my notebook—”

“We must make love,” I said, in a French accent, and strode toward her.

“Um. You mean, like, be really good friends?”

Love,” I repeated, even more Frenchly, so that my meaning would be unmistakable.

She began backing away. “You seem like a nice, whatever you are, Doctor,” she said, “but maybe we should… I mean, I don’t…”

“You don’t love me as I wish to be loved, you are not the perfection whose image I see. Yes! I know!” I took a step closer. “But only on possessing you can I comprehend your flaws.” We were circling the table, she walking backwards and I following her. “Such as the slight coating of grease in your mane,” I said. My new accent was settling in, and each soft French syllable trickled jouissance into her large, leafy ears. Its effects on the mare were dramatic. She walked more and more slowly as her eyes widened, and her steps began to falter. I could see her resistance draining away. Or perhaps it was the cologne. It was starting to give me a headache.

“The smell of damp horse sweat,” I went on. She whinnied—a sigh of pleasure, no doubt—and stumbled over a throne someone had left pulled out. Why were there so many thrones? She fell to the ground before me. I bent down and leaned against her flank. “The tiny clumps of golden wax in your ear.” I put an arm lovingly around her head. Then I leaned in close and whispered, “The sight of the pores in your face seen up close… yes! It is almost nauseating enough for me to reject you now!”

“Doctor,” she whispered, then closed her eyes, her nose twitching in what I assume was anticipation.

“We must only consummate our false love, and then I can cast you away forever in disgust!”

What?!” a voice called from behind me.

I turned. A winged pony stood in the doorway, sky blue, with many more colors slathered about its head and tail, as if it had been drawn by a pre-schooler with a box full of neon crayons and an attention deficit disorder. It glowered at me suspiciously. I presumed from its aggressiveness that it was a male. I felt a surge of answering mortido within me and rose to my feet, ready for combat.

Torn between the desire to consummate my obsession, and to thrash the intruder for his rude interruption, I vacillated long enough for the cheval de l'air to add another word to his discours:


Ah, the fatal attraction of that word! Lust and rage both fell away on being tempted with the one thing a Frenchman can never resist: the opportunity to explain himself.

“Because,” I said, “only thus can I be free of her.”

He cocked his head at me, frowned, and scratched his nose.

“Why?” he asked again.

I could see this new pony was no mean thinker satisfied with shallow answers.

“It will be very therapeutic for me.”


So incisive! He cut to the heart of the matter, this blue pony. Why, indeed, would freeing myself of a person I had never met be therapeutic?

“Because she is the false idol at the heart of the phantasm of my ideal ego!”

At this he looked confused, and stared at the prone purple pony, who had opened her eyes after I’d stepped away from her, and was blinking at me with a dazed look.


I thought about this for a long time. How had I, in fact, found my fundamental fantasy so fast? How did this condensation appear before me in the horseflesh, instead of in its proper realm of fairy dust and dreams?

“Because,” I said slowly, “instead of constructing fictional narratives to explore my real potentials, I seek a substitute fulfillment within my own narratives.”

“Why?” he said yet again, forcing me to confront the final level of analysis.

“Because I don’t dare try to achieve them in reality. My ambitions have all been…” I swallowed. “Displaced.”

I hung my head in shame. Oh, cruel, wise, blue pony, to have unravelled my secret!

I pushed past the blue pony and ran from the room. I found myself in a maze of corridors, all red carpet and violet walls, and lined with tall glass doors. I ran, but the maze went on and on. I pulled a door open at random and went in.

It was a tiny room, or a large closet, empty except for a tall mirror at its other end. I say mirror, for its shape and the frilly lattice-work at its edges declared it such, but instead of seeing my image, I saw only a glowing, pink spiral on its surface. I shut the door behind me, and the room was dimly illuminated by its girlish light.

A voice came to me from the mirror, speaking slowly, like from a record spinning too slowly:

Dude? You okay, dude?

I shut my eyes and stepped into the sissy spiral.

There was a crack like a lightning strike, and a flash. I found myself sitting in Josh’s car. The air smelled like ozone. The broken glasses fell from my face in two pieces.

“Dude,” Josh said. His face was white. “Are you okay?”

“No,” I said. “I am not okay.” I picked up the broken glasses and put them back in my pocket. “I don’t want to go to this party right now.”

“Okay.” We sat in the car for a few moments.

“What do you want?” he asked.

I opened the door and got out. Then I leaned back down to look at Josh. “A purple pegacorn princess,” I said, and shut the door.

I still have my expensive cable, my slacker friends, no girlfriend, and a shitty job doing customer support. I use bigger words than before. Sometimes I find myself speaking French to the customers. Sometimes they speak French back. But I don’t understand French. I just speak it.

I super-glued the glasses back together. They do nothing.

I often think about what the blue pony said. I try to have healthy dreams, not too grand, not too small. I try. I talk to the guys at work. The girls, even, sometimes. I think about the future. Real futures. I gave my Legion of Super-Heroes comic books to my kid brother.

Not all of them. That one where Braniac builds a cyborg clone of Supergirl in his sleep? I’m keeping that one.

Sometimes I think of my purple pony princess, and wonder: is it so bad if I don’t despise her? And I re-read The Four Fundamental Concepts, searching for clues as to how to drive myself mad once more.

Comments ( 68 )
Estee #1 · May 1st, 2016 · · ·

Feeling ambitious today, are we?

*reads story*

...I plead understatement.

And headache.

Mostly headache.

Make that "migraine."


You got through Lacan without a flamethrower?

Did you... is this a parody of both Displaced fics and psychoanalysis?

You're a strange fellow, Bad Horse. But I'm very glad that I chose to follow you.

Estee #6 · May 1st, 2016 · · ·

*looks at downvote total*

I see we have Jungians among us.

And automatic Displaced story downvoters.

There may be a tiny degree of overlap.

7177513 I'm honestly curious whether someone is anal enough to have built a human-tag downvoter bot yet.

It's very liberating to see this psychoanalysis crap ridiculed that language teachers back in high school loved.
Never read a displaced mlp fanfic before, though, so that parody was kind of lost on me.

Upvoting for the sheer audacity of it.

Might actually read it later, too :rainbowlaugh:


btw, might want to update that image source to the REAL source:


And more importantly, if they have, what does it say about their relationship with their mother?

Hey! You posted this! :twilightsmile:

You are, of course, nuts for writing this but, ah, if only we all had your brand of insanity. It would be a much better world. Certainly more interesting. :pinkiehappy:

7177617 I had to rewrite the ending first. Which of course took 8 months, bcoz :derpytongue2:.

True story: my dad once went to a costume party dressed as a giant S&H Green Stamp:


It was the 1950's and he was in college and utterly penniless. So he got himself two pieces of poster board and some green, red and black magic markers and re-created an S&H Green Stamp in exquisite, line-by-line detail (they were engraved in those days). Oh, and under it he wore a green body stocking.

My mother decide she loved him in spite of this. Or because of it. Either way, I'm their first-born son.

I'm not sure whether you should laugh at me or fear me. Probably a little of both. Just to be on the safe side.

I don't know the context for Lacan's brand of psychoanalysis, but that was highly entertaining. Didn't expect it to be as much of a rollercoaster as it was.

This has no right to be this funny. Well done.


Nah, knowing my mom it was probably more like:

"Have him washed and sent to my tent."

(Okay, are you uncomfortable enough about this? Because I'm uncomfortable enough about this)

I have the most bizarre deja vu when looking at the cover picture, like I have seen this story description already, but did not read it...

Now I did read it, but the dejavu remained.

Also, what's Mr. Bean doing with Wolverine's hair? He'd better give it back.


Actually, Lacan's image is the more likely culprit...

7178204 Your dad is fortunate he didn't buy his materials from the Merchant.

7177625 It does explain why it's rolling out this long after people finally succeeded in forgetting "displaced" was ever a thing. That, or you're out to reassert your claim to villainy by reminding us.:trixieshiftright:

“No, no, no!” I said. “You must find your Big Other.”
“I think he’s in the south orchard,” it said.

... Had to stop reading to upvote.

You just made me upvote a DISPLACED fic, Bad Horse! :raritydespair: Clearly this is why you run the League, and the rest of us just try to outdo each other for your favor.


“I think that makes more sense,” she said encouragingly, then patted me on my back. “If it helps any, you’re still saner than most ponies here.”

“There is only one way to cure me.”
“Oh! What is it? Wait, maybe I should get my notebook—”

Oh sweet pony master signifier, this is beautiful. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks.

Ah yes, I remember this one. Fantastic work, especially the final deconstruction of pseudo-Lacan's ambitions. Thank you for bringing it to Fimfiction.

7179307 Thanks, but... but I only wrote it to get a story on your "Your method of interpersonal communication, while novel, will never catch on" bookshelf. :ajsleepy:

I don't know Lacan and I've never read a Displaced story. Welp, let's give this a look-see!

That was really good. I liked it, I hope for more philosophically stories.

I have read neither Lacan nor any displaced story, but this still had me busting my stitches in laughter. Truly resplendent,

Damn I love phsyco babble.

7181155 I'm giving your comment a thumbs-up for your avatar.

This is a thing of beauty. :pinkiehappy:

BTW, was it too low-hanging fruit (um, sorry) to have Twilight offer the psychoanalyst a couch to lie on when she mentioned getting her notebook? :twilightoops:


I need to rethink my life


My knowledge of Lacan is super (ie, college) old, but I'm pretty certain that objet petit a doesn't mean any of the two different meanings you used for it. It is like a fantasized ideal, you approach a specific woman as she represents the ideal of woman, this ideal is the objet petit a.
Also, you didn't make any puns about toilets, which is a huge mistake with a name like La Can, and you didn't make the obvious joke about physics envy when he was drawing those stupid graphs, and this story was longer than 6 minutes, which is the limit of a session of Lacanian psychoanalysis.

7184623 I did confuse the objet petit a and the Big Other. The 'a' is from the French 'autre' (other), and "petit a" is supposed to distinguish it from the Big A (Big Other).

Bother. I think, though, that I used the objet petit a correctly, as the fantasized ideal--it is the thing you seek, but on attaining what you thought was the objet petit a, you discover it was not that at all, and that is the discovery that triggers subjective destitution, which is a good thing in Lacanian analysis. I think it's the Big Other I got wrong.

The objet petit a is not the other, though.

As I recall, we have
The other = just some guy, you know?
The Other = God, or some equivilent absolute judgement,
Difference being that a snazzy outfif impresses the other, whereas the Other is those things you do to avoid or direct divine retribution.

The objet petit a, includes some aspect of the Other and the other, because one of the impossible things we long for is some genuine justice, and also we long to be judged worthy of respect by our peers.
The difference your missing is that the objet petit a is something you seek from the other(s) but it is not actually them.

7184881 I think the "objet petit a" is exactly the same as the "little other" ("autre"). That's what the 'a' stands for. Lacan would draw a lowercase 'a' on his diagrams for the "little other" and an uppercase 'A' for the big Other.

(This drawing is not actually by Lacan)

The a is the ego, which is our real desire, and the a' is the objet petit a, which I think is the displacement of our desire for our own ego. We unknowingly direct our desire for the a' onto some a'' that we mistake for a'. I think.

He might still have another other, though. In either case the objet petit a is something you seek which, when you think you have it, you find out you don't have. (I would just say "it is impossible to obtain", but Lacan never says it that way.)

I ought to clear up the other/Other distinction in the story, but it's not at the top of my things-to-do list now.

I'm not denying the connection, but just that petit autre and objet petit a are the same thing,
And you could never think you had the objet petit a, it is the thing behind the thing.

The man who wants wealth can chase every dollar down, but no dollar is the thing he chases. What he wants (a particular relation to other people, like complete power and respect) does not really exist.
Or, probably more Lacanian, you seek the perfect woman who will relate to you as the perfect man, and this perfect relationship is is objet petit a that you can never find. The difficult of expressing the objet petit a is part of the point.

7185029 Ah. Comparing that to this explanation, it sounds like you're giving Lacan's 1960 interpretation. I did not pick up on the distinction between petit autre and objet petit a. I think you just explained that better in 3 sentences than Lacan ever did.

Thanks for explaining, though I'm dismayed at the thought of rewriting this. :fluttershbad:

This is the finest trollfic ever written.


This...sounds an awful lot like Platonism. But I suspect that saying so would make one unwelcome on the Left Bank.

(Then again, the Left Bank is probably all shopping and Planet Hollywood these days)

Author Interviewer

Sliding signifiers, Batmare!

It's probably for the best that I have no words to describe this. :B

I do CX debate and so I'm slightly familiar with Lacan, and this was absolutely hilarious. Mlp and Lacan were two concepts I never thought I'd see combined.
(If anything would be crossed with Lacan, I feel like it would be Undertale, specifically Asriel traversing Frisk's pacifist fantasy in the final boss battle.)

Strangely therapeutic.

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