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Oedipus complex: what is it, how does it arise and what are the effects of unresolved oedipus?

The Oedipus complex is a psychological complex proposed by Freud within his theory of psychoanalysis to explain the behavior of the human mind. But before delving into this popular complex, we will begin by explaining its component parts: what a complex is and the reason for its name.

What is a complex?

For psychology , a psychological complex is a set of associations. This set is composed of a network of ideas, experiences and impulses that are related and that have been used as foundations for processes of integration of thought and learning.

The term “complex” was first applied by Carl Jung  (Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist). He wondered why people often could not respond clearly to leading words or why they did so in an inappropriate way; To answer these questions, he began an investigation in which he tried to investigate why the response capacity of people to inducing questions tended to decrease . In this investigation I came to the conclusion that there were unconscious intimate aspects that caused inhibition and affected the ability of expression and speech of these people. These aspects were united by the same emotion and were organized by a central nucleus of mutual meaning;all these aspects Jung defined as “complex.”

For  modern psychology , the activation of a complex is always marked by the presence of a strong emotion, be it love, hate, joy or anger, among others. When it is activated, it produces in the subject a discharge of emotions and thoughts that prevent him from thinking clearly, therefore, he tends to be dominated by this complex.

A psychological complex tends to behave as a personality partial to that of the individual; a personality with so much power that when activated it dominates the mind in such a way that it can cause someone to find themselves saying or doing something different than they intended.

Who was Oedipus?

The reason for the name refers to  Oedipus, a character in Greek mythology , king of Thebes , son of Laius and Jocasta. Oedipus was a young man who fell in love with his mother, and that obsessive love generated in him such a strong feeling of rivalry towards his father that he ended up (unintentionally, but unconsciously wanting) by getting rid of him; then when the way was free, he married his mother.

According to the story of this mythological king, Oedipus was abandoned by his father after he received an oracle that warned him that if he had a son, he would kill him and marry his wife. For this reason Laius pierced Oedipus’ feet with fibulae and abandoned him.

Some time later, Oedipus finds out about the Oracle and decides to leave the side of his parents (not biological) in order not to comply with the curse. Already being a man, Oedipus embarks on a crossroads and kills Laius. Later in his passage through Thebes he falls in love with Jocasta (without knowing that she was his mother) and decides to marry her.

According to Homer’s accounts, Oedipus’ wife and mother committed suicide when the truth of their relationship was known, although apparently Oedipus continued to rule in Thebes until his death.

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What is and how the Oedipus complex arises

The Oedipus complex or also called the Oedipal conflict, is a psychoanalytic term that arises from Freudian theories . This concept speaks of a feeling that is generated in children through the phallic stage – stage of psychosexual development, which ranges from 3 to 5 or 6 years old-, where they develop feelings of excessive love towards their father of the opposite sex and feelings of rejection and rivalry towards the father of the same sex.

This complex arises in one of the psychosexual stages, the phallic stage . At this stage the child begins to realize the sexual differences between the different genders.

Simultaneously with the Oedipus complex,  what we know as the castration complex occurs in the boy : an unconscious fear that his stronger father will take away his masculinity, in order to eliminate the threat they pose to the attention of their mothers. .

In girls, the castration complex arises when they discover themselves as a female being -without the presence of the penis-. They begin to notice that there is an  anatomical difference between the two sexes (part of the phallic stage) and suffer what in psychology we call, penis envy, or what Freud called “penisneid.” 

For Freud all tension came from the accumulation of libido, and all pleasure came from the liberation of it ; therefore, according to Freud, tension and pleasure are under the same focus, but with opposite reactions. He also emphasized that the first 5 years of a subject’s life are crucial for their later development in adult life.

Unresolved Oedipus complex and origin of the superego

Freud affirmed that if the Oedipus complex is not crossed, the subject would find himself facing a pathological situation, since if this conflict is not resolved, the child would be fixed in a stage of psychosexual development and would not allow him to pass to the next stage.

For several years, Freud found evidence of the Oedipus complex in the subconscious and unconscious minds of various patients dealing with various psychological disorders, and he himself discovered, that many of his patients suffered from unresolved Oedipus complexes due to a lack of identification. with parents of the same sex.

The effects of an unresolved or poorly resolved Oedipus complex , according to Freud, could continue to be a fixation on their mothers and fathers in adulthood, in addition to future aggressive, macho (in the case of men) and feminist behaviors ( in the case of women), which will result in a variety of psychological disorders throughout their lives.

The superego (moral consciousness of the subject) is another relevant event of the human mind, which has its origin in the process of overcoming the Oedipus complex , since for the superego to develop in a healthy way, this complex must be resolved. For this reason it is known that the Oedipus complex is an extremely important structuring for the development of the psychic apparatus and therefore also of the personality of each subject.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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