Oedipus Complex – Desire or Disorder?

~Sanvi Mathur

History

Before diving right into the subject, let us read in brief about Oedipus and how his fate led to the origin of the Oedipus Complex.

In Greek mythology, Oedipus was the son of Jocasta (read Jocasta Complex) and Lauis.

Jocasta was the daughter of Monoeceus, the king of Thebes and the wife of Lauis. Lauis was given a prophecy that if he ever fathered a child, the child would kill him and marry his wife. Saints also warned Lauis that he could only save his city if he died childless.

However, one night, Lauis came back drunk. In the trance of alcohol, Lauis lost control over himself, forgetting about the prophecy. He slept with his wife that night and that led to the birth of Oedipus.

Lauis, afraid of his death, ordered a shepherd to take the infant to Mount Cithaeron in order to kill him. The shepherd took pity on the infant and handed the infant to a childless couple, Polybus the king of Corinth, and his wife Merope. Born and brought up by them, Oedipus was unaware of his biological parents.

Oedipus and Jocasta - Jocasta Complex
Jocasta and Oedipus from BL Royal 16 G V, f. 27

As he grew up, he came to know from an Oracle about the prediction of him killing his father and marrying his mother. In order to escape his ill-fate, Oedipus ran away from Corinth. While wondering around, on his way, he encountered a man and engaged in a heated argument with him over the right of path.

The argument resulted in Oedipus killing the person. Little did he know that the person he killed was his father Lauis, thus fulfilling the first half of the prophecy. Continuing his journey, Oedipus reached Thebes.

On reaching, he came to know that Thebes was being terrorized by a deadly creature, with a human head and the body of a lion, the Sphinx. The Sphinx asked a riddle to all the passerby as well as those who tried to enter Thebes. No one could answer the riddle and as a consequence, she killed them.

The riddle was,

“Which animal has one voice, but two, three, or four feet being slowest on three?”

Source

The answer to this was “Man”. Oedipus correctly answered it and thus the Sphinx killed herself.

Answering correctly to the Sphinx’s riddle and helping the locals get rid of the monster, Oedipus accepted the throne of the city along with the offer to marry the ex-king’s (Lauis) widow, Jocasta

He then married Jocasta, thus fulfilling the prophecy. The fact that Jocasta was his mother was obviously unknown to him or Jocasta herself. The couple had four children, PolynicesEteoclesAntigone and Ismene.

Later, in an investigation to uncover Lauis’s death, Oedipus came to know the truth behind his marriage. Upon knowing, Oedipus plucked his eyes out while Jocasta committed suicide.

What is Oedipus Complex?

The Oedipus complex (also called the Oedipal Complex) is a mental condition under which children have an attraction towards the parent of the opposite-sex.

This in turn leads to a sense of competition with the same-sex parent in the child for winning the attention and affection of the other parent.

Originally, the Oedipus Complex is attributed to an adult male or a male child.

The children tend to have anger and jealousy for the same-sex parent as they experience an unconscious feeling of sexual desire for the opposite-sex parent.

Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis coined the term Oedipus Complex in his Interpretation of Dreams in 1899.

The complex’s female analog is the Electra Complex.

When does it Happen?

In the phallic stage (i.e. 3-6 years), children are too innocent to interpret what sexual desire is.

Thus, during this stage when the erogenous (sensitive to sexual stimulation) zones of a child’s body are the main source of libido, the child tends to gain attraction of the opposite-sex parent.

Causes

According to Sigmund Freud, the stages of psychosexual development involve:

Oral (infancy to 18 months)

It involves fixation on the mouth, and the pleasure of sucking, licking, chewing, and biting.

Anal (18 months and 3 years of age)

It focuses on the pleasure of bowel elimination and developing healthy toilet training habits.

Phallic (ages 3 to 5)

It’s believed to be the most important stage in psychosexual development in which boys and girls develop healthy substitutes for their attraction to the opposite-sex parent.

Latency (Between 5 and 12 years of age or puberty)

During this, a child develops healthy dormant feelings for the opposite sex.

Genital (from age 12, or puberty, to adulthood)

The maturation of healthy sexual interests happens during this time as all of the other stages are integrated into the mind. This allows for healthy sexual feelings and behavior.

When the child’s source of libido is concentrated on the genitalia, Oedipus Complex is said to be experienced and is completely normal.

Sculpture depicts oedipus complex and jocasta complex

Symptoms

A few symptoms or behaviours that signify the beginning of Oedipus Complex in your child are:

  • Declaration of a child’s wants to marry his mother or father when he or she grows up.
  • Children telling their opposite-sex parent to ‘stay away’ from the same-sex parent or asking the same-sex parent not to touch their opposite-sex parent.
  • A boy running after his mother while holding her dupatta.

In adults, the Complex is subtle and is consciously suppressed for the fear of social norms, law and to prevent the degradation of the relationship with parents and family.

Cure

Acceptance

The parents should identify the odd behavior of their child. They must train and teach him how to behave and try to overcome this without punishment.

Opening up

Tell your child that he is grown up and isn’t a baby anymore, tell him how to be independent by asking him to do little things on his own. Reward this by little gifts that your child wishes for and are appropriate for him

Positive Activities

Channel his energies toward positive activities, get him enrolled in extra-curricular activities, sports and much more.

Interaction with the Outside World

Let him interact with children of his own age group, of both the genders.

Consulting a Psychiatrist

Consult a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst, in case your child is reluctant to adapt to changes you are trying to bring in.

What Happens if it is not Resolved on Time?

Oedipal Complex is something natural, but if it is not resolved on time, may lead to fixation of the child to the opposite sex parent. In adults, this often results in unhealthy relationships with spouse, parents, and children when the

The child needs to understand the scared connection between the parent and himself. The child could also misinterpret other worldly relations if this complex isn’t resolved on time.

Jocasta Complex

The Oedipus Complex generally subsides with the onset of puberty. However, taking a look in-depth, we can agree to the fact that the Oedipus Complex continues to be present in the male mind unconsciously.

The fear of society, law and degrading relationships with the parent is what keeps these feelings at control. It is a fine line between desire and reality. Reason why, men generally prefer women who resemble their mothers as their wives or partners.

Conclusion

So, now we understand why the phrases ‘Daddy’s Princess’ and ‘Mamma’s Boy’ were coined.

It was in regard to the complex that these popular terms evolved. A father has more affection towards his daughter than the mother likewise; the mother experiences the same for her son.

Criss-cross inheritance can be one of the genetic and biological reasons for the father to see his own shadow in his daughter and a mother to observe similar character traits in her son, thus increasing the affection towards their child.

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