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Oedipus complex


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In psychoanalysis, an organized collection of loving and hostile feelings of a child towards its parents, reaching its peak during the phallic stage between 3 and 5 or 6 years of age, dissolving with the onset of the latency period, and then re-emerging during the genital stage, after which it is mastered with greater or lesser success through mature object-choices. It manifests itself in its positive form as a sexual desire for the opposite-sex parent and a jealous hatred of the same-sex parent, in its negative (or inverted) form as a desire for the same-sex parent and hatred of the opposite-sex parent, and in its complete form as a blend of the positive and negative forms. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) introduced the term in 1910 in an article entitled ‘A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men’ (Standard Edition, XI, pp. 165–75, at p. 171), and in a note added in 1920 to his book Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) he asserted the universality of the complex: ‘Every new arrival on this planet is faced with the task of mastering the Oedipus complex’ (Standard Edition, VII, pp. 130–243, at p. 226n); but he never fully clarified his views regarding the nature of the complex in girls, and in an article on ‘Female Sexuality’ in 1931, he wrote: ‘It is only in the male child that we find the fateful combination of love for one parent and simultaneous hatred for the other as a rival’ (Standard Edition, XXI, pp. 225–43, at p. 229). The British-based Austrian psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (1882–1960) deviated from Freud in dating the onset of the complex to the first year of life. See also castration complex, complex (2), Electra complex, father complex, mother complex, phallus, superego. Compare Jocasta complex, Orestes complex. [Named after the Greek legendary figure Oedipus, who killed his father Laius, married his mother Jocasta, and then blinded himself when the truth about his parenthood emerged, as recounted most famously in the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles]

Subjects: Psychology.


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