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  • Well, the emotional world of little children

  • is not a peaceful world.

  • It's a world in which the child

  • experiences intense desires,

  • intense anxieties.

  • It's a time when, for the first time,

  • love relationships come onto the scene.

  • And with love relationships,

  • problems appear on the scene.

  • Around the Oedipal period,

  • around the ages of three to five,

  • you're being asked to do such difficult things,

  • to give up such a lot.

  • I mean, the idea of becoming obedient,

  • of not taking things that you want,

  • of letting other people go first.

  • He talks later of the baby as

  • 'His Majesty the Baby',

  • as a figure who's at the centre of everything.

  • And for Freud, the Oedipus complex is about

  • having to face the fact

  • that we're not omnipotent,

  • that we can't possess our parents,

  • and he thinks this has a tremendous

  • powerful, violent force in infancy,

  • that's universal.

  • The Oedipus complex is a genuine complex.

  • So it's not Oedipus simplex.

  • In its simple and misunderstood form

  • it is about that the child loves the parent

  • of the opposite sex

  • and hates the parent of the same sex

  • as a rival.

  • There was the early idea in psychoanalysis

  • that the boy loves the mummy

  • and the girl loves the daddy

  • and some people today still believe in that.

  • But Freud had already recognised

  • that things are more complex.

  • He revised that theory to say that

  • both little girls and little boys love,

  • first of all, their mother

  • because she's the one who has provided

  • all the care for the child,

  • or whoever stands in for the mother.

  • Now Freud had absolutely no reservation

  • calling this sexual.

  • But the idea of wanting to have

  • sex with a parent at a very young age

  • it's not really so straightforward

  • because there's the question of

  • what wanting to have sex means.

  • I don't think Freud said children

  • want to have sex with their parents,

  • what children want is, at the Oedipal stage,

  • they want to in some way

  • possess the mother.

  • They want to fuse with her.

  • They have some idea that the genitals

  • may play a part in this as well,

  • but they have no clear idea,

  • and certainly not the idea that it involves

  • what adults would consider to be genital sex.

  • And so if, as a, I don't know, a 23 year old,

  • you say 'I want to have sex with that person',

  • that might mean one thing to you.

  • But a three year old child

  • who wants to get satisfaction

  • from its mother somehow, and its mother

  • who has been giving it satisfaction

  • all of its life,

  • it means something totally different.

  • So it might want to rub its genitals against her,

  • it might want to suck part of her,

  • it might want to do all sorts of

  • things with her

  • that then it might never want never want to

  • admit to having wanted again.

  • By the time its ten or twelve

  • it might find that just ultimately disgusting.

  • For Freud,

  • the child itself wants to be loved.

  • It's not just about the child loving,

  • it's also about the child being loved.

  • But mother's got other fish to fry,

  • she's interested in other things.

  • There's a competition, there's a rivalry of some sort.

  • So the Oedipal triangle is about

  • love and jealousy,

  • so it's about love and exclusion,

  • and hatred as it weaves itself into that.

  • Its got the strong love for the mother.

  • Its got the hate for any rival: a sibling, a father.

  • Its got conflicts arising

  • from the love and hate for the same person,

  • and the anxiety of

  • what they might do with him

  • if they discover his hostile feelings.

  • The child will naturally cling to the mother.

  • Now, when the mother also clings to the child

  • and doesn't allow enough separation,

  • maybe because the child is the only thing

  • that the mother enjoys in her life,

  • then that can become problematic for the child.

  • And that would be

  • part of the Oedipus complex.

  • And so a mother might be incredibly overwhelming

  • and actually, you might, you know,

  • the idea that your dad could step in and

  • do something about that,

  • you might go 'errrgh' to your dad

  • because he's laying down a rule,

  • but you might also be incredibly relieved

  • that he was able to do that for you.

  • So the father, in the Freudian model,

  • is the person who represents authority,

  • who represents the law,

  • and who, in a sense, also functions,

  • and this is very crucial,

  • as a love object for the mother.

  • It just needs to be something

  • that captures mother's interest

  • more than we do.

  • It could be another woman,

  • it could be a family friend,

  • it could be a relative,

  • anyone who has the function of separating

  • the mother from the child

  • and the child from the mother.

  • The crucial thing

  • about the resolution of the Oedipus complex

  • is the identifications that take place.

  • For Freud,

  • he didn't believe that you were just

  • 'born a boy' and 'born a girl'.

  • He thought that

  • how we move to the position

  • of either being a boy or a girl,

  • or indeed a man or a woman,

  • comes about at the time of the Oedipus Complex.

  • So one of the points of having

  • a father and a mother,

  • according to classical psychoanalysis,

  • is that you have these exemplars,

  • these instances of gender.

  • You have to position yourself in relation

  • to this idea of 'man' or 'woman',

  • then you have to try to ascribe the meaning to it

  • and, in a way, you can't really

  • ascribe a meaning to it that sticks.

  • Whatever you say a man is,

  • you'll come across a man who isn't that,

  • and vice versa.

  • And these are really difficult and intense

  • crisis moments for a young child to cope with

  • and the result is not necessarily

  • always a stable situation.

  • Basically, there is no proper, perfect,

  • neat resolution of the Oedipus complex.

  • It's always something fudged.

  • And so the resolution is kind of:

  • 'It's okay, you can function,

  • you're not going to melt down,

  • everybody can co-exist.'

  • But, it's always just... blergh!

  • It's a mess.

  • In a way, psychoanalysis is about how

  • someone hasn't been able to

  • constitute themselves as a man or woman.

  • What we witness in each case

  • is the failure of each boy and each girl

  • to move through, perfectly, that complex.

  • There is the idea in psychoanalysis

  • that the Oedipus complex,

  • and how we dealt with it,

  • either marks us for life or haunts us.

  • That it's very, very critical.

  • And you can see that at work in adults

  • because, what do people talk about

  • when they come and see a psychoanalyst,

  • apart from directly about their symptoms:

  • recurrent nightmares, depression, anxiety.

  • What do they talk about?

  • Well, they talk about relationships at work,

  • they talk about

  • the relationships they have

  • with boyfriends, girlfriends, partners,

  • but they also talk about their parents.

  • They talk about their family.

  • Quite often one sees that

  • what Freud characterised as

  • the Oedipus complex

  • continues to work through in adult life.

  • One could say that there's a normative

  • Oedipus complex,

  • which differs for boys and for girls.

  • Whether we actually see that complex

  • obtaining in each individual case

  • is another question.

  • What we see are the ways in which

  • people have failed to live up to

  • the kind of Oedipus complex

  • that we read about in textbooks.

  • And psychoanalysis is really about,

  • to a certain extent,

  • exploring the history of that failure.

  • Oh yeah, isn't that what human life is?

  • Just trying to get over the horror

  • of your family!

Well, the emotional world of little children

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What is Psychoanalysis? Part 3: The Oedipus Complex

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    Christina Yang posted on 2018/07/26
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