The Oedipus complex

Posted by on Jul-17-2010

The Oedipus complex, in psychoanalytic theory, is a group of largely unconscious ideas and feelings which center on the desire to possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex. The complex is named after a Greek mythical character Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his mother.

Classical theory considers the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex to be developmentally desirable, the key to the development of gender roles and identity. In classical theory, individuals who are fixated at the oedipal level are “mother-fixated” or “father-fixated”, and reveal this by choosing sexual partners who are discernible surrogates for their parent.

According to Sigmund Freud, the Oedipus complex is a universal phenomenon, built in phylogenetic, and is responsible for much unconscious guilt. Freud first suggested the existence of what he would later call the Oedipus complex in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). In this work, he describes a subconscious feelings in children of intense competition and even hatred toward the parent of the same sex, and feelings of romantic love toward the parent of the opposite sex. If these conflicting feelings were not successfully resolved, they would contribute to neurosis in later life.

Sigmund Freud used the name Oedipus complex to explain the origin of certain neurosis in childhood. It is defined as a male child’s unconscious desire for the exclusive love of his mother. This desire includes jealousy towards the father and the unconscious wish for that parent’s death. Neurosis is a class of functional mental disorders involving distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations, whereby behavior is not outside socially acceptable norms. It is also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, and thus those suffering from it are said to be neurotic.

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