Saturday, November 6, 2010

Personal thoughts on Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus / Electra complex

Freud’s Oedipus complex (or Electra complex for females) is quite an interesting theory.  He believed that during the phallic stage of psychosexual development, children have unconscious sexual desires for their opposite sex parent.  Its name comes from the Greek story of Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his mother.  The theory is very similar to the legend; Freud alleged that these hidden urges to have sex with one’s opposite sex parent during childhood led to hatred and jealousy toward their same sex parent.  Eventually, once these feelings are too much to handle for the children, the feelings are repressed and the children strive to be like their same sex parent.
            I have a bit of a problem with this theory.  According to Freud, a strong conflict during the oral, anal or phallic stages leads to a fixation in that stage.  For example, a child that was not properly weaned off of a bottle may grow up to have an oral fixation, which may cause them to smoke cigarettes or have an eating disorder.  Now, assuming that fixations occur as a result of repressed feelings or other unresolved conflicts in a stage, wouldn’t that mean that everyone would have a fixation on the phallic stage?  Feelings of sexual attraction toward the opposite sex parent and aggression toward the same sex parent are repressed, which indicates that something was pushed aside, not dealt with.  So, according to Freud, everyone has a phallic fixation.
            My take on how our childhood shapes our sexual relationships is pretty simple, and it is not a new idea.  Most (straight) people seem to be attracted to people who are like their parent of the opposite sex.  I know that my girlfriend has some similar personality characteristics to my mother.  I really don’t think the case is, however, that I couldn’t compete with my dad for my mom, so I went out and found someone just like her as the next best thing.  I think that growing up, my mother’s personality became familiar to me, so I proceeded to seek out people with familiar personalities.  That way, I’m unconsciously protecting myself from the anxiety of having to learn to deal with completely new people on such a close emotional level.

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