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What Is Oedipus Complex In Psychology

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How Does The Oedipus Complex Work

What is Psychoanalysis? Part 3: The Oedipus Complex

In psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex refers to the child’s desire for sexual involvement with the opposite sex parent, particularly a boy’s erotic attention to his mother. This desire is kept out of conscious awareness through repression, but Freud believed that it still had an influence over a child’s behavior and played a role in development.

Freud suggested that the Oedipus complex played an important role in the phallic stage of psychosexual development. He also believed that successful completion of this stage involved identifying with the same-sex parent which ultimately would lead to developing a mature sexual identity.

According to Freud, the boy wishes to possess his mother and replace his father, who the child views as a rival for the mother’s affections.

The Oedipal complex occurs in the phallic stage of psychosexual development between the ages of three and five. The phallic stage serves as an important point in forming sexual identity.

During this stage of development, Freud suggested that the child develops a sexual attraction to his or her opposite-sex parent and hostility toward the same-sex parent.

How Is The Oedipus Complex Resolved

At each stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, children face a developmental conflict that must be resolved in order to form a healthy adult personality. In order to develop into a successful adult with a healthy identity, the child must identify with the same-sex parent in order to resolve the conflict of the phallic stage.

So how does the child go about resolving the Oedipus complex? Freud suggested that while the primal id wants to eliminate the father, the more realistic ego knows that the father is much stronger. In addition, the boy also has a positive attachment to the father.

The id, as you may recall, is the primal source of energy that seeks to immediately satisfy all of the unconscious urges. The ego is the part of the personality that emerges to mediate between the urges of the id and the demands of reality.

According to Freud, the boy then experiences what he called castration anxiety which is a fear of both literal and figurative emasculation. Freud believed that as the child becomes aware of the physical differences between males and females, he assumes that the female’s penis has been removed and that his father will also castrate him as a punishment for desiring his mother.

In The Ego and the Id, Freud explained the child’s superego retains the character of the child’s father and that the strong feelings of the Oedipus complex are then repressed.

The Oedipus Complex In Children

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Oedipal complex, also known as the Oedipus complex, is a term used by Sigmund Freud in his theory of psychosexual stages of development to describe a child’s feelings of desire for his or her opposite-sex parent and jealousy and anger toward his or her same-sex parent.

Essentially, a boy feels that he is competing with his father for possession of his mother, while a girl feels that she is competing with her mother for her father’s affections. According to Freud, children view their same-sex parent as a rival for the opposite-sex parent’s attention and affections.

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Critiques Of The Oedipus Complex

Popular culture often portrays Freud as overly focused on sexual influences and his theory of the Oedipus Complex is often considered untenable. However, there have been many critiques of the Oedipus complex among the psychoanalysts and philosophers who acquaint themselves with the work of Freud.

Alfred Adler contended with Freud’s belief over the dominance of the sex drive and whether ego drives were libidinal he also attacked Freud’s ideas over repression. Adler believed that the repression theory should be replaced with the concept of ego-defensive tendencies – compared to the neurotic state derived from inferiority feelings and overcompensation of the masculine protest, Oedipal complexes were to him insignificant. Although Freud believed that the Oedipus complex takes place around the age of five, Melanie Klein believed it took place far earlier, possibly in the first two years of a child’s life. There have also been criticisms from anthropologists such as BronisÅaw Malinowski and Edvard Westermarck. Research such as that of Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands is often cited as a challenge to Freud’s conviction that the Oedipus complex is a universal phenomenon.Within feminism, there is critique regarding the interpretation of Freud’s penis envy .

Origins Of The Complex: What Is The Oedipus Complex

Simply Psychology: Oedipus Complex

Oedipus complex is a set of psychodynamic conflicts triggered in a male child, often between the ages of three and five, as a result of an unconscious desire to be the mothers favored love object and a desire to eradicate the paternal competition.

Oedipus complex, a concept proposed by Sigmund Freud, is the psychological condition in which children unconsciously have loving and sexual wishes toward parents of the same sex, and angry and repugnant wishes toward their opposite-sex parents.

He said it peaked during the ages three and seven. He had a name for this duration of psychosexual development: The phallic phase of a child.

According to the Britannica, The Oedipus complex is a psychoanalytic theory proposing that children have possessive sexual desires for their opposite-sex parent while viewing their same-sex parent as a rival and that the complex is resolved when children overcome their incestuous and competitive emotions and begin to view their same-sex parent as a role model.

When Oedipus complex is positive, the childs rival is the parent of the same sex, and, according to Freud, the young guy wishes to have sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex.

When it is negative Oedipus complex, the childs competitor is the opposite-sex parent, and the child desires the same-sex parent.

Shakespeares Hamlet is a literary example of a boy who could never overcome his Oedipus complex, even though he hated her for killing his father and re-marrying.

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Freud And Oedipus: Does Either Still Matter

History has not been kind to Sigmund Freud. In fact, if Freud, once believed to be among the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, could see what some people today are doing to his legacy to the very idea of psychoanalysis, his baby well, he’d probably accuse them of penis envy or something. Castration anxiety. It would not be pretty.

If ol’ Sigmund were somehow around today , everybody in the room would probably be trying to act as if he wasn’t there, treating him like that crazy old uncle, rolling their eyes at his embarrassing and soooo politically incorrect ramblings.

“Again with the Oedipus complex, Uncle Sigmund? Why don’t you come over here and sit down in the corner. Have another ham ‘n’ cheese pinwheel.”

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the man who introduced us to the id, the ego and the superego, the man who offered up ideas like repression and defense mechanisms and, yes, penis envy is not the towering figure he once was. Still, as much as some might try, we still can’t seem to shake entirely clear of him or his ideas.

Oedipus, anyone?

Putting Freuds Theory To The Test

Sigmund Freud is a controversial figure in the history of psychology, and perhaps none of his ideas is more contentious than his theory of the Oedipus complex.

Freud believed that humans are sexual beings from birth, in the sense that highly pleasurable sensual experiences, such as caressing, cuddling, and kissing are essential for normal development in infancy.

Freud also believed that preschool children were naturally curious about sexuality, including the question of where babies come from. During this time, he claimed, children develop sexual fantasies involving the opposite sex parent.

But they also fear the jealous wrath of the same-sex parent, and so they learn to repress their incestuous desires. This, then, is the beginning of the childs superegoFreuds version of a conscience or sense of morality.

During the time that children are working through the Oedipus complex, according to the theory, a particularly traumatizing experience is witnessing the primal sceneFreuds term for seeing your parents having sex.

Its not the observation of a sexual act per se thats damaging to the child. Rather, its that these children experience the primal scene as an act of sexual infidelity. Although memories of the Oepidus complex are repressed, their effects supposedly still influence adult attitudes toward sexuality.

Its this aspect of Freuds theory that psychologist Lawrence Josephs and his colleagues tried to test in the laboratory.

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This Is A Significant

Although Freud developed stages of psychosexual development, the Oedipal Complex rarely begins and is completed in a span of three, neat years. In 1917, Freud said These tasks are set to everyone. And it is remarkable how seldom they are dealt with in an ideal manner.

Its certainly not easy for a child to accept their lust for one parent and despise for another. A child doesnt even know what they want. They dont know what sex is. They barely know about their own genitalia.

Freud believed that the Oedipal Complex was about more than just sexuality or parent-child relationships. He believed that this time also allowed a child to explore and discover their gender identity. Thats a lot for a child to learn!

The Oedipus Complex Examples From Real Life

Simply Psychology: Oedipus Complex
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  • Everyone has heard of the Oedipus complex. In this article, we will explore in further detail this controversial, yet enduring concept introduced by Sigmund Freud.

    The Oedipus complex or Oedipal complex is a term used by Freud in the theory of psychosexual stages of development. It describes a situation in which a boy feels jealousy towards his father and desire for his mother. In its essence, the complex is about the feeling of competition between father and son for the attention and presence of the mother. A boy feels as though his father is a rival for the affections of his mom.

    Freuds theory refers to the sexual desire a child has for the parent of the opposite gender, especially the erotic attention boys have for their mother.

    According to the famous philosopher, the Oedipus complex has an important role during the stages of psychosexual development and the phallic stage in particular. He believed that to develop a mature sexual identity a boy has to complete this stage by identifying with the parent from the same sex.

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    Legacy Of The Oedipus Complex

    The Oedipus Complex was developed and accepted in the early 1900s. Weve learned a lot since then about gender identity, sexuality, and gender roles. We still have a lot more to learn. What we do know, however, is that the Oedipus Complex leaves much to be desired in terms of explaining gender, sexuality, and other issues within childhood development.

    Even Freud himself denounced the Electra Complex, a theory meant to be the Oedipus Complex for girls. Carl Jung first introduced the Electra Complex in 1913. Although it attempted to answer questions about a young girls development, many other questions were left unanswered.

    Plus, Freuds theories were not developed from research studies or data. And if you want to tell patients that their problems are coming from an unresolved desire to have sex with their parent, you probably need some hard data to back that up.

    Still, its important to understand this idea. It, along with the Psychosexual Stages of Development and other ideas within psychodynamic theory, seriously shaped the world of psychology forever.

    The Origins Of The Oedipus Complex

    Freud first proposed the concept of the Oedipal complex in his 1899 book The Interpretation of Dreams, although he did not formally begin using the term Oedipus complex until the year 1910. The concept became increasingly important as he continued to develop his concept of psychosexual development.

    Freud named the complex after the character in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex who accidentally kills his father and marries his mother.

    In the Greek myth, Oedipus is abandoned at birth and thus does not know who his parents are. It is only after he had killed his father and married his mother that he learns their true identities.

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    What Are The Signs Of Oedipus Complex In Children And Adults

    While the Oedipus Complex no longer holds sway in clinical psychological settings, it has undergirds many of our cultural narratives and remains a common thematic symbol. Its not uncommon for young children to experience profound affection for their parents. They may make comments like saying they want to marry their mom or dad or that mom or dad is their girlfriend/boyfriend, says Arzt. They may become clingy and demand attention if youre the opposite-sex parent. Likewise, they may show some jealousy or possessiveness if other children or people demand attention.

    She explains that children naturally bond with their parents and are often trying out or playing at adult relationships they witness. More recent research suggests that children with secure attachments build a sense of innate connection and safety with their caretakers, which could be a more modern approach to examining this complex, says Arzt.

    When seeking out relationships in adulthood, childhood experiences often impact who we choose to be with.

    Someone who lacked warmth and affection in infancy and toddlerhood may seek affection from people who have not earned their trust, while others raised in a similar environment may mature to also be distant, says Drosdick-Sigafoos.

    Is The Oedipus Complex Real


    Many aspects of the Oedipus complex have been criticized. Critics argue that the theory was established with minimal evidence, making it difficult to justify as a universal phenomenon without consideration for differing cultural and social factors. Some of Sigmund Freuds critics have focused on the larger implications of his theory on gender and sexualityfor instance, his idea, which is strongly contested, that homosexuality derives from an abnormal resolution of the Oedipus complex. Learn more.

    Oedipus complex, in psychoanalytic theory, a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex and a concomitant sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex a crucial stage in the normal developmental process. Sigmund Freud introduced the concept in his Interpretation of Dreams . The term derives from the Theban hero Oedipus of Greek legend, who unknowingly slew his father and married his mother its female analogue, the Electra complex, is named for another mythological figure, who helped slay her mother.

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    What Are The Signs Of An Oedipus Complex

    Freud thought that an Oedipus complex may show itself in overly attached childhood behavior, such as a boy saying that he wants to marry his mommy when he grows up or feeling overly possessive of his mothers attention, especially when the father is around. Freud believed that an unresolved Oedipus complex may involve the boy telling his father not to hug or kiss his mom. He may even physically put himself between his father and mother if they display romantic affection in front of him.

    Freud thought that an Oedipus complex may show itself in overly attached childhood behavior, such as a boy saying that he wants to marry his mommy when he grows up or feeling overly possessive of his mothers attention, especially when the father is around.

    Freud believed that some boys repress their desires for their mother instead of transitioning into a healthier identification with their father and moving forward in their emotional and sexual development. Freud thought that when an Oedipus complex is suppressed, these unmet desires may develop into misogyny, contempt for women, and the inability to form mature romantic relationships. According to Freud, young men may not realize that theyre experiencing an Oedipal complex until a pattern of unhealthy relationships and an inability to separate from their mother emerges.

    Oedipus Vs Electra Complex

    Although originally based on boys relationships with their mothers, Freud extended the definition of the Oedipal complex to apply to girls as well, believing that children demonstrated the complex differently depending on their gender. One of Freuds contemporaries, psychoanalyst and psychologist Carl Jung, proposed a separate description specific to unhealthy relationships between young girls and their fathers, called the Electra complex.

    According to Jung and Freud, the unhealthy thought patterns of Oedipus and Electra complexes, left undiagnosed, lead to ongoing resentment of the opposite-sex parent and fellow members of their gender. According to Freudian psychosexual theory, in households without both a mother and a father figure, small children may have a harder time getting over an Oedipus complex because there might not be a same-sex parent to identify with, preventing them from successfully passing through the phallic stage.

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    Little Hans: A Case Study By Freud

    “Little Hans” was a young boy who was the subject of an early but extensive study of castration anxiety and the Oedipus complex by Freud. Hans’ neurosis took the shape of a phobia of horses . Freud wrote a summary of his treatment of Little Hans, in 1909, in a paper entitled “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy.” This was one of just a few case studies that Freud published.

    Hans’s fear and anxiety were thought to be the result of several factors, including the birth of a little sister, his desire to replace his father as his mother’s mate, conflicts over masturbation, and other issues. Freud saw this anxiety as rooted in an incomplete repression of sexual feelings and other defense mechanisms the boy was using to combat the impulses involved in his sexual development. Hans’ behavior and emotional state did improve when he was provided with information by his father, and the two became closer.

    Hans himself was unable to connect the fear of horses and the desire to get rid of his father. George Serban, in a more modern commentary, says:

    “This assumption was suggested to him by his father. Furthermore, Freud himself admitted that ‘Hans had to be told many things that he could not say himself’ that ‘he had to be presented with thoughts which he had so far shown no signs of possessing’ and that ‘his attention had to be turned in the direction from which his father was expecting something to come.’ “

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