What exactly is the Oedipus complex?

The Duden dictionary defines the Oedipus complex (Oedipus conflict) as follows: “Psychoanalytic term for the relationship to the parent of the opposite sex that develops in early childhood in both sexes”. The term was coined by Sigmund Freud. But what exactly is the Oedipus complex and where does the term actually come from?

Who was actually Oedipus?

Oedipus is a character from Greek mythology. He was abandoned as a child with his ankles pierced because an oracle said he should kill his father and marry his mother. However, Oedipus is rescued and taken in by the king of Corinth. A few years later, he unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, who has four children from him. When the two finally find out the truth, the mother hangs himself and Oedipus blinds himself.

What is the Oedipus complex?

The Oedipus complex is a psychological term coined by Siegmud Freud. According to Freud’s theory, every male child goes through what is known as the “Oedipal” or “phallic phase”, which occurs for the first time between the ages of three and five. In this phase, the child feels attracted to his mother and sees the father as his biggest competitor.

How can the oedipal phase end?

In the best case, the child stops seeing his father as a competitor and gives up his incestuous desires towards his mother. The boy should see his father as a role model and identify with him. However, if the oedipal phase is not overcome, Freud sees this as a cause for the development of neuroses or perversions.

Does the Oedipus complex actually exist in girls too?

Carl Gustav Jung found a term for the female variant of the Oedipus complex – the Elektra complex. This is characterized by the girl’s desire to have a child from her father, while at the same time developing a dislike for the mother. This desire persists into puberty and only disappears when the child loses interest in the father and identifies with the mother at the same time.


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