“Oedipus, which will be discussed, is a hero of ancient Greek mythology, who became a symbol of a certain stage in the development of our sexuality,” explains Jean-David Nazio. – This sexual desire, which we used to think of as an attribute of an adult, is experienced by a small child at the age of three to five years. It is aimed at parents. Why exactly on them? Yes, simply because they are near. The innocent child endows them with sexuality, draws them into their fantasies and shamelessly copies their adult sexual behavior.
The Oedipus complex correlates with that phase of mental development during which we learn to restrain our impulses and abandon unfulfilled desires through the assimilation of prohibitions, including incest. This is a necessary stage, overcoming which we will subsequently be able to love, create a couple, build a family.
And if we have not been able to survive that very first love – for father and mother – the Oedipus complex creates great emotional difficulties for us. After all, no potential partner can stand comparison with parents – the way we saw them in childhood.
Oedipus complex in a boy
To “take possession” of the mother is the main unconscious Oedipus fantasy of the little boy. Another of the most famous fantasy from this period is to kill the father. The Oedipus complex is a “war” between fathers and sons, in which the latter seek to assert themselves.
In the end, these desires inspire the child with a sense of guilt, he begins to torment the unconscious fear of castration, as Freud calls it. This fear in its extreme manifestations can even lead to the formation of neuroses and phobias. He also allows the boy to understand what is allowed and what is not, and frees him from incestuous fantasies. The rivalry with the father and fear of him lead to the fact that the boy begins to identify with his father and, as a result, abandons his mother.
Sexual identification mechanisms
“Throughout the Oedipal phase, the child acquires the basis of his future sexuality,” explains Jean-David Nazio. – He acquires what subsequently makes a man choose a masculine type of behavior, and a woman – a feminine one. And this despite the fact that there are many women who choose the male type, and vice versa.
The concepts of masculine and feminine mean two main ways of choosing an object of love and experiencing sexual desire, but there are so many special cases here that it is impossible to give a portrait of a typical man or a typical woman. “
The girl’s Oedipus complex
Paradoxically, a very little girl, like a boy, wants to possess a mother. However, between the ages of three and five, she suddenly discovers that the boy has a penis. Then a painful period begins, during which the girl feels imperfect. Someone has robbed her of something truly valuable, and that someone, she thinks, is her mother.
So the idyll with her mother ends, and the girl turns to her father. First, in order to be as strong as he is, which, of course, is impossible. Then – hoping to be desired by him: “I will marry dad.” This is an unconscious fantasy: she does not know exactly what she wants, and, of course, she is not going to move on to real actions. In her behavior, she begins to imitate her mother, whom, on the one hand, she hates as a rival, and on the other hand, she considers an ideal, admires her femininity and dreams of being like her in order to please her dad. To achieve adult femininity, the girl abandons her forbidden fantasies.
Male sexuality is driven by the boy’s Oedipal fantasy of “taking possession” of his mother. A man is proud of his penis, which can penetrate. But in his unconscious, the childish fear of castration persists, because of which the man is more afraid of physical pain and is constantly concerned about proving his masculinity, says Jean-David Nazio.
“A man is afraid of losing the power he thinks he has thanks to his penis. Finally, it must be said with all certainty: a man is cowardly and vulnerable because of the constant painful attention to his body. Any risky act makes him afraid of being destroyed, and failure is often associated with crippling humiliation. “
A man prefers to love rather than be loved. However, having really fallen in love, he is afraid of becoming addicted.
The worst thing for a man is another person who cannot be satisfied and who imposes his will. This situation revives his childhood fears. However, the unconscious of an adult man also retains memories of childhood fantasies of the feminine type, of how he passively surrendered himself to the pleasure his parents gave him.
These “residuals” are the feminine side of the personality and can be found in even the most virile men. Therefore, a man prefers to love rather than be loved. However, having truly fallen in love, he is afraid to become addicted, and this is a very painful experience for someone who needs to feel strong.
If a mother is lonely
If the mother is raising her child alone, how is the Oedipus complex possible? “The most important thing is that the child does not become the only love of her life, – answers J.-D. Nazio. – If a woman does not have a partner, then it is enough to have serious interests and hobbies. The father is the third (person, occupation, ideal), towards whom the mother’s desire is directed and who, therefore, stands between her and the child and allows him to isolate. “
Female sexuality usually manifests itself in the desire to surrender, in contrast to the male desire to possess. It has to do with a little girl’s unconscious fantasy of becoming sexually attractive to her father.
In adulthood, this dream is transformed into the need to be necessary for a man. Since she realized very early that something was wrong with her, a woman may not be confident in her appearance and value.
These doubts make her feel “incomplete”, “unfinished”, constantly comparing herself with other women. Weakness and strength do not concern her in the first place, the main thing for her is to be needed by someone. And, although she does not know the fear of castration that is characteristic of men, she is also afraid of being abandoned.
As soon as we fall in love or feel desire, the child of the Oedipus phase lurking in us comes to life again
“She has nothing to lose except the love of a man,” assures Jean-David Nazio, “love for her is an object of constant search, a need that she seeks to satisfy again and again”.
Nevertheless, unconsciously, some women are “stuck” in the period when they envied the boy’s penis and the strength of the father. Then they react to the situation on the contrary, deciding that they do not need “this”, they are already much stronger than men.
As soon as we fall in love or feel a desire, the child of the Oedipus phase lurking in us comes to life again. It is because of him that we tend to reproduce the same love patterns. But we must thank him for the fact that we love each time as the first.
- Sigmund Freud. “Me and It”, Eksmo-press, 2017
- “Key Concepts of Psychoanalysis”, B&K, 2001.