Definition of the Oedipus Complex

February 1, 1997
Michelle Bauknecht

The positive libidinal feelings of a child to the parent of the opposite
sex and hostile or jealous feelings toward the parent of the same sex that may
be a source of adult personality disorder when unresolved. It is a pattern of
profound emotional ambivalence, a troublesome mixture of love and hate.

The Oedipus Complex occurs during the phallic stage, from roughly ages
3-6 years. Freud believed that during this stage boys seek genital stimulation
and develop both unconscious desires for their mother and jealousy and hatred
for their father, whom they consider a rival. It was said that boys felt guilt
and lurking fear that their father would punish them, such as by castration.
Freud also believed that conscience and gender identity form as the child
resolved the Oedipus Complex at age 5 or 6, but this actually happens earlier.
A child tends to become strongly masculine or feminine without even having the
same sex parent present.

Freud argues that all sons unconsciously desire to kill, even if they
love, their fathers. He found his own unconscious wish to murder his father in
his intensive self analysis in 1897, shortly after the death of his father.

Freud says it is only the male child that we find the fateful
combination of love for the one parent and simultaneous hatred for the other as
a rival. Freud believed Oedipal was a normal part of human psychological growth
and it is during this stage children produce emotional conflicts.

Other psychoanalysts believed that girls experience a parallel called
the "Electra Complex". This comes from a Greek legend of a women named Electra
who helped plan the murder of her mother.

The Oedipus Complex originates from a myth about a Greek hero named
Oedipus, written by Sophocles. Oedipus was the son of Laius and Jocasta who in
the fulfillment of an oracle unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.
When Oedipus and Jocasta realize what has happened, Jocasta hangs herself and
he rips the golden brooches from his dead mothers gown and plunges them deep
into his eyes. Now blinded, he finally sees the truth and banishes himself to a
distant land. The fact that Oedipus kills his father and sleeps with his mother
without knowing that he has done either shows that it was done---unconsciously.


If a subject in the experimental group shows more aggressive behavior
toward his father and increased affectionate behavior toward their mother after
receiving the subliminal messages and the control group shows no increase when
shown neutral messages, then it will be proven that the Oedipus Complex does in
fact exist in the unconscious. To prove this we bring the behavior out from the
unconscious to the sub conscious through the subliminal messages. These boys
have repressed these feelings for so long because it is too painful for them to
deal with.


Ho: Boys in the experimental group will not increase their aggression
to their fathers or more affection for their mothers after receiving subliminal
messages. (no change)

Hi: Boys in the experimental group receiving subliminal messages will
show more aggression toward their father and demonstrate more affection for
their mother's. The control group will not demonstrate a changed behavior
(Change in behavior)


Independent Variable: Experimental group receiving subliminal messages,
either aggressive, affectionate or neutral.

Dependent Variable: The change in behavior observed from before the
subliminal messages to after.


I evaluated 10 heterosexual boys from the Winnipeg area, all who were
between the ages of 15 and 18 and still living at home with both parents. As the
head psychologist in the experiment I entered into an agreement w/ the
participants that clarified the nature of the research and the responsibilities
for both them and myself. The participants were informed that they could
withdraw from the experiment at anytime. Questions about the study were asked
(participants were told the experiment was a visual test of some sort),
therefore deception was being used. After obtaining informed consent to
participate (those under age had a consent signed by their guardian) we randomly
broke the boys and their families into two groups. One became the control group
and the other the experimental group. I then proceeded to observe the families
interaction with each other, particularily between the son and his mother and
the son and his father. Observations were made through hidden cameras in the
house (field research) for the first week (Monday to Friday). This was to
provide a baseline measure. I was looking specifically for any type of rivalry
between the sons and fathers and affection towards the mothers. Observations
were made on behaviors demonstrated and recorded into categories. These