Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Oedipus Complex : A Complex Theory.

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Priyanka Kaushik
Hey, this is priyanka, a student of English literature, keen on exploring the depths of it. I am an introvert, shy and more inclined to my books. Love old Hindi music. Good at sketching and poetry.

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You must have sometime, somewhere heard about the most renowned psychologist of his times and thereafter, SIGMUND FREUD.

If you have not as yet heard of him, under this article i will brief a little bit about him and one of his most renowned and criticized theory of OEDIPUS COMPLEX

Sigmund Freud ( Introduction )

Portrait of Sigmund freud
By Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who later, after researching a great deal into psychology and other related fields emerged out as the ”father of psychoanalysis”. He was the one to initiate a research into something which was not known to anyone. He gave the most well-known theory of psychoanalysis whereby he drew stages through which we go throughout our lifetime.

Psychoanalysis is basically a clinical method of dealing with psychopathology. Under this method, the psychoanalyst sits with the patient and talks to him in a one on one conversation. Its a kind of a dialogue between the two. To get a good response with this, Freud developed various therapeutic approaches or techniques such as ”free association” method.

What is this Oedipus Complex?

The great notion of the Oedipus Complex evolved out of an analysis of the situation described by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles of the Greek king ”Oedipus”, who killed his father and married his mother, being unaware of the nature of both of these acts. Though the story of the king is nowhere connected to the theory which Freud proposed, but the name has been originated from there. The play provides us with a very simple misunderstood plot whereby the king is completely unaware of his deed. Freud,somewhere in the 20th century, proves his hypothesis by a deep study and experiments conducted that an infant (boy, in this case) is sexually attracted to his own mother and this attraction remains persistent until he realizes that the head figure of the family is his father and thereby he is the one to bed the mother. When he realizes that the mother belongs to the father, he sidelines himself and his attraction towards the mother and moves up the ladder of maturity. This similar case Freud explains for the female infant who is sexually attracted to her father during this stage, which he names as the ELECTRA COMPLEX.

Girl hugging her dad
By Annashou/ Shutterstock

So what is the process through which this whole complex theory works:

In the early years of a male child, the dependency is completely on the mother because of which most of the time spent by the child is with his mother. Here is when the sexual desire of the infant for his mother begins.

The love for the mother increases with time during the early years of the child.

When the child comes somewhere into his senses, he realizes that the father is the one who actually beds the mother whereby he starts taking his father as a ”rival” figure. There is always an unsaid threat posed by the father – THE THREAT OF CASTRATION because of which the child fears from him though this is an imaginary threat. Also,if there is a sister to the male child, he imagines that the reason why the girl child lacks the penis is because she has been already castrated by the father for her excessive love for the mother.

Now the male child starts developing in his mind fantasies of killing his father so that his rival to bed the mother is killed and he can take the father’s place. Freud has precisely considered this fantasy stage as the ”Oedipus Complex”.

Mother and son playing
By Zapylaieva Hanna/ Shutterstock

Since the child is afraid of his father due to his imaginary fear of castration by him, he starts seeing the authority of the father prevalent in the house and with the mother especially. This marks a shift in affiliation. The child now starts imagining the father as a source of inspiration where he begins to understand that the father holds all the authority because he owns a phallus! And the child shifts his entire focus now to the power and authority held by the father.

Now comes into picture the UNCONSCIOUS. The child when realizes the power of the father, shuts his sexual desire for his mother obviously unconsciously in his mind and acquiesces to the law that ”YOU SHALL NOT MAKE LOVE TO YOUR MOTHER”.

Freud states that this Oedipus Complex is the source of all repressed desires which is deeply embedded in the unconscious and only comes out sometimes through ”dreams” or ”slip of tongue” which is also another different theory proposed by him.

Though there are many issues with this theory and it is considered as the most complex of the theories devoid of any complexities but the very phallocentric nature of it and a profound focus on the sexual aspect rather than any other aspect of the infancy stage, the theory remains a focus of many writers who emerged during that time and thereafter such as D.H Lawrence in Sons and lovers and there were many other texts seen in the light of this new theory which were psychoanalytically criticized or commented upon.

Author’s bio:


Hey, this is Priyanka Kaushik, a literature student keen on exploring the depths of it. Loves to write, express opinions, analyse and write poetry. An avid reader.


About the author

Hey, this is priyanka, a student of English literature, keen on exploring the depths of it. I am an introvert, shy and more inclined to my books. Love old Hindi music. Good at sketching and poetry.

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