Oedipus Complex

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Submitted By melpida
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Date: 21 February 2012

Write an essay about the Oedipus complex. Your essay should explore the history of the concept, its development in psychoanalytic thinking and its wider implications. You should illustrate your understanding with detailed examples from your work setting and/or placement.

Essay submitted for the award of MSc in Psychodynamic Counselling and Psychotherapy at Birkbeck College, University of London

Introduction

This paper attempts to trace the evolution of Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex within psychoanalysis. One case will be considered in detail to illustrate relevant theoretical formulations focussing mainly on the work of Freud, Klein, Britton and Bion. The wider implications of the Oedipus complex will also be considered before I conclude.

History of the Oedipus complex and Freud’s theoretic evolution

Freud used the term Oedipus complex to describe a boy's feelings of desire for his mother and hostility towards his father which he regarded as a universal event of early childhood. The term is derived from the Greek myth of Oedipus who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. In a letter to Fliess dating back to 1897, Freud (1954) attributes these ideas to his self analysis and indirectly to the Greek myth as presented in the popular Sophocles’ play ‘Oedipus Rex’.

During the late 1890s Freud, theorised that fantasies built around the Oedipus complex were the primary cause of hysteria and other neurotic symptoms. The idea is explored in Studies on Hysteria, where Freud (1895), traced his patients’ symptoms of hysteria to sexual seductions by their fathers.

The concept was introduced in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1900), and is central to Freud’s (1905) analysis of Dora. He further elaborated his ideas in the case study of Little Hans (1909), but the term ‘Oedipus complex’ itself first…...

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