Meaning of Oedipus Complex

What is the Oedipus Complex:

The Oedipus complex is a theory of psychology according to which a person, especially during childhood, manifests a feeling of attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex and an attitude of rivalry towards the parent of the same sex.

Thus, then, the Oedipus complex, also known as the Oedipal conflict, is characterized by the presence of loving or sexual desires at the unconscious level on the part of the individual towards one of his parents.

The Oedipus complex is a natural process in the psychosexual development of children, however, it can reappear at puberty and, if not resolved, extend into adult life and considerably affect the interpersonal relationships of the individual.

It is a fundamental concept in the theories of Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, who took the term from the theatrical work King Oedipus, by the Greek playwright Sophocles. In short, this work tells the story of a man, Oedipus, who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.

See also What is a complex in psychology?

Oedipus complex according to Sigmund Freud

According to Sigmund Freud, in the Oedipus complex the unconscious desire of the child to eliminate the parent of the same sex is manifested due to the sexual attraction felt towards the parent of the opposite sex.

Freud maintains that the period in which the Oedipus complex manifests in children is in the phallic phase, that is, when the libido or sexual desire develops. In this sense, the Oedipus complex would be one of the symptoms of this stage.

In this regard, Freud considers that, depending on who this sexual desire is directed to, the Oedipus complex can present itself in two ways, one positive and the other negative:

  • Positive Oedipus complex: attraction to the parent of the opposite sex and hatred for the parent of the same sex.
  • Negative Oedipus complex: attraction to the parent of the same sex, and hatred and rivalry toward the parent of the opposite sex.

Oedipus and Electra complex

The Electra complex is very similar to the Oedipus complex. It differs in that it is suffered by the woman and not by the man.

The Electra complex consists of the girl manifesting love for her father and rivalry and hostility towards the mother. It is a theory that tries to explain the maturation process of women. It is common for it to occur in all girls at some point in childhood.

It is called Electra complex in reference to Electra, a character in Greek mythology who avenges the death of her father, Agamemnon. When Electra discovers that her mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Egisto, have conspired to assassinate her father, she encourages her brother, Orestes, to do justice by taking their lives.

The term was proposed by the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung.

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