Blog 38. Freud: 1. Understand Freud’s Oedipus Complex and You’ll Understand Relationships.
Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, was born on 6 May 1856 and he died on 23 September 1939.
To know and understand Sigmund Freud and his writings fully – is a complex matter indeed.
There are 3 Freud Museums: One at his birthplace now known as Pribor, one in Vienna and one in London. Here and at various other universities, colleges and institutions, scholars have access to masses of archives which are filled with various letters, books, photographs and writings.
Freud had and has many followers. But – he also had and has just as many critics. When Freud was alive he had countless rows and arguments with his fellow colleagues. Yet Freud is still known as the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’.
Being a scholar of Freud is one thing, implementing his theories whilst sitting in the therapist ‘s chair became a different matter – for me anyway.
It was only when I began to see clients that Freud’s theories began to really make sense.
We develop through a series of critical stages and these stages have not just been dreamt up.
Freud as well as a vast amount of child psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and so on, have developed very important theories that have come from acute observation of babies, toddlers and adults.
You may think and feel that this stuff is a whole lot of hogwash, nonsense or even drivel, but it’s only when you come to sit in the therapist’s chair as I have done, and then through careful observation, that these theories ‘come to life’ and begin to make sense.
As a relationships therapist I also found that the most important of Freud’s observations was the Oedipus complex. The Oral, the anal and the other stages are very important too however, it is the Oedipal Stage which I will concentrate upon for now – in order to give you a deeper understanding of relationships.
In this Blog I am offering you a quick and simplified summary of the Oedipus Complex. This will become the foundation of all further Blogs in this section.
I urge you to try to understand the Oedipus Complex because it will give you many insights into the ‘cogwheels’ of relationships. Once you get to grips with this theory, you will have a far better understanding of affairs, flirting, sexuality, jealousy, power and control games, boundaries, divorce, even issues that children have when going to boarding school at too young an age, and so on. It will give you a few revelations with regards relationships that you most probably never realised.
The Oedipal Complex is a well-known phenomenon. It is based on the Greek myth in which Oedipus considers his father an opponent for his mother’s love. So he kills him and marries his mother Jocasta.
Freud called this stage the Oedipus Complex and he then added that the period between 18 months and three years is when a child becomes aware of their own sexual identity. This is when children become aware that they either have male or female sexual organs and that there is a difference between boys and girls.
Freud defined the ages between 3-5 years as the Oedipus phase, and that this is the age when a child will try to possess either a father or a mother. It is when a child sees the parent of the same sex – as a rival.
Freud speaks of this symbolically – the child that ‘kills off a parent to gain the other’. In the case of a boy, he may want to kill off daddy in order to gain mummy. In the case of a girl and simply put, she may too want to kill off mummy in order to gain daddy.
Most parents have observed variations of this theme as toddlers often try to separate their parents. For example, upon seeing parents holding hands, they may try to come in between the parents, or if the parents are in bed together, the child may bounce into the bedroom and try to lie in between their parents and so on.
During this stage, a boy is often more fixated or obsessed than in other stages with his mother, as he competes with his father for his mother’s attention.
The same applies to girls to some extent who become as fixated with their fathers, as they compete with their mothers, for their father’s love and attention.
The child can therefore form an unusual attachment to the parent of the opposite sex.
This is when the child may say ‘I hate you’ to the other parent. It’s a primitive desire for a parent’s attention, which may also awaken in the child a jealous wish to exclude the other parent.
This is also when a little girl who sits on daddy’s knee learns about flirting and its appropriateness – when to stop, how far to go and when daddy or even mummy has had enough.
As the child begins to identify or attach himself or herself to either parent, these jealous desires are not necessarily constrained to the child as both parents may join in the game, both in terms of competing with each other for the child’s affections and also competing with the child for the affection of the other parent.
This is how and when a child learns about power and control as well as jealousy. This is also when a child learns who belongs to whom.
And this is also when the very important issues of good or bad boundaries are learnt.
How parents help a child to work through these stages will determine the child’s behaviour in relationships later on in life. If a child gets confused, and many do, whilst trying to work through this very complex stage, then this could be why they may struggle with certain aspects of relationships later on in life.
Allowing a child to realise that they cannot ‘kill off a parent’, they cannot own daddy or mummy, or that they cannot get mummy or daddy’s sole attention or love, is crucial for a child.
This can also be a very painful time for children when they learn about rejection.
This period of development may involve bereavement and sadness or even a few temper tantrums as a child begins to realise that mummy and daddy belong to one another and that they will have to find their own relationships in time to come.
So if a child is not able to work through these developmental stages constructively, then later on in life, as a teenager or adult, unaddressed or buried feelings can become an issue and they might find relationships difficult.
As readers, by getting to grips with the Oedipal Stage, you will begin to understand how we develop emotionally and how we then take what we have experienced or learnt as children into our relationships later on in life.
My next Blog is about how the Oedipus Complex effects affairs.
© 2016 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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