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What is the Oedipus Complex?

What is the Oedipus Complex?



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  • 1 Origin of the Oedipus Complex
  • 2 Where does the name of Oedipus come from?
  • 3 What is the Freud Oedipus complex?
  • 4 Electra complex and penis envy
  • 5 Criticisms of Freud's psychosexual theory
  • 6 How is the Oedipus complex resolved?
  • 7 What happens if the Oedipus complex is not overcome?

Origin of the Oedipus Complex

The Oedipus complex is a term coined by Sigmund Freud in his theory of the psychosexual stages of development to describe feelings of desire of a child for his parent of the opposite sex, and jealousy and anger towards the same-sex parent. It basically means that the boy feels that he is competing with his father for his mother's possession, while a girl feels that he is competing with his mother for his father's affection.

According to Freud, Children see their father of the same sex as a rival for the attention and affection of the father of the opposite sex.

Freud first proposed the concept of the Oedipus complex in his 1899 book The interpretation of dreams, although he did not formally begin using the term Oedipus complex until 1910.

Where does the name of Oedipus come from?

Freud puts this name to the complex as a result of Sophocles' character from Greek mythology, who kills King Oedipus, who is his father and marries his mother. In legend, Oedipus is abandoned at birth and therefore does not know who his parents are. It is only after he has killed his father to marry his mother, that he discovers their true identities.

What is the Freud Oedipus complex?

In psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex refers to the child's desire to have a sexual relationship with the father of the opposite sex, but above all it refers to the erotic attention of a male child to his mother. This desire remains in the unconscious through repression, but Freud believed that this feeling still exerts a strong influence on the child's behavior and plays an important role in child development.

Freud claimed that the Oedipus complex had an important role in the phallic stage of psychosexual development, between 3 and 5 years. He also believed that the successful completion of this stage consisted of identification with the same-sex father, which ultimately leads to the development of a mature sexual identity.

According to Freud, the child wishes to possess his mother and replace his father, as he sees him as a rival in achieving the mother's affection.

Some manifestations of the behavior of this complex could involve a child expressing possession towards his mother's figure, telling his father not to hug or kiss his mother. Girls at this age can say they plan to marry their parents when they are older.

Electra complex and penis envy

The analogous stage for girls is known as the Electra complex in which girls feel the desire of their fathers and jealousy of their mothers. The term Electra complex was introduced by Carl Jung to describe how this complex manifests itself in girls. Freud, however, defines the complex term of Oedipus to refer to both boys and girls, although he believed that each sex experiences this stage differently.

Freud also suggests that when girls discover they don't have a penis, They develop penis envy and resentment towards their mothers for "sending them to the world insufficiently equipped." Over time, this resentment gives way to identification with your mother and the process of internalization of the attributes and characteristics of your same-sex parent.

Criticisms of Freud's psychosexual theory

These views of Freud on female sexuality were intensely criticized. Psychoanalyst Karen Horney completely refuted the concept of Freud's penis envy, and instead suggested that men experience belly envy due to their inability to have children.

Freud himself admitted that his understanding of the woman was perhaps the least successful. "We know less about girls' sex lives than boys," he explained. "But we don't have to feel ashamed of this distinction. After all, the sexual life of adult women is a 'black continent' for psychology."

How is the Oedipus complex resolved?

At each stage of Freud's psychosexual development theory, children face a developmental conflict that must be resolved in order to form a healthy adult personality.

In order to become a successful adult with a healthy identity, the child must identify with the same-sex father in order to resolve the phallic stage conflict.

So how does the child solve the Oedipus complex? Freud suggested that while at first the It wants to eliminate the father, the I, much more realistic, knows that the father is much stronger. This, as we know, is the primary source of energy that seeks to immediately satisfy all unconscious impulses. The I is the part of the personality that emerges after mediating between the impulses of the id and the demands of reality.

Castration Anguish

According to Freud, the boy experiences next what he called castration anxiety or fear of castration, both literal and figurative. Freud believed that as the child becomes aware of the physical differences between men and women, he assumes that the female penis has been removed and that his father can also castrate him as punishment for wishing his mother.

This is when the Super-I is formed. The Super-I becomes a kind of internal moral authority, which internalizes the figure of the father and strives to repress the impulses of the It.

The child's superego is the one that finally represses the Oedipus Complex. External influences, including social norms, religious teachings, and other cultural influences help contribute to the repression of the Oedipus complex.

It is from this whole process that is when the child's awareness arises, or his general sense of right and wrong. In some cases, however, Freud also suggests that these repressed feelings could also lead to an unconscious feeling of guilt.

What happens if the Oedipus complex is not overcome?

According to Freud, as conflicts in other psychosexual stages are not resolved, a fixation remains at that point in child development. Freud suggests that boys who do not overcome this conflict effectively are left with a "maternal fixation," while girls generate an "obsession for the father." Later, as adults, these individuals will look for sentimental partners that resemble their parent of the opposite sex.

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