Sigmund Freud and the Oedipus Complex

Freud’s concept of the Oedipus Complex is one of those ideas that seems almost to have disappeared from the field of psychotherapy; even much of what is written from the perspective of psychodynamic theory leaves out this central idea. Very few people search the term nowadays on the Internet — about 15K per month, as opposed to 135K who search for information about bipolar disorder symptoms or treatment and 110K apiece for borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. In part, this reflects the trend away from explaining mental illness in terms of its psychological and emotional roots (especially in the unconscious) toward the medical view with its emphasis on diagnostic categories akin to those for physical illness. I believe it also reflects a kind of widespread social repression, where unpopular ideas disappear from view, in many ways due to a misunderstanding of what the oedipal situation actually involves.

Sigmund Freud mostly clearly articulated his ideas about the Oedipus complex in the charming case study of Little Hans (1909), though he also discussed Oedipus in The Interpretation of Dreams (1905) and other early works. In Little Hans, Freud puts forward the theory that every little boy wishes to have sexual intercourse with his mother and wants murder his father in order to gain exclusive possession of her. It’s hard for us to imagine just how provocative such a theory would have been in Freud’s day; we live in a world where Freudian ideas have permeated so many aspects of our culture that it’s virtually impossible to understand how shocking and offensive his contemporaries would have found it. I don’t think people today find it shocking; if anything, they find it silly and misguided, a quaint idea from the early heyday of psychoanalysis, or maybe just plain wrong. That old Sigmund Freud — what a wacky idea! Wasn’t he the guy who talked about penis envy?

People might find the Oedipus complex more relevant if they understood the revisions and additions that have occurred since Freud first introduced the idea. Most importantly, Melanie Klein wrote extensively about the early stages of the Oedipus complex; she believed it unfolded primarily within the context of the feeding relationship: when the baby begins to become aware of the father’s existence, he or she feels him to be a rival for the nourishment and comfort offered by the breast. To me, the Oedipus complex is about emotional competition, in whatever arena; while I have seen clients with unconscious sexual feelings for their mother, I’ve more often found rivalry in the emotional area.

I’ve also seen a lot of competition for the father’s attention, with hostile feelings toward the mother. Jung referred to this as the Electra complex though that term doesn’t seem to have caught on. Many of us now think of the Oedipus complex in a larger, more varied way, as a relationship between three parties (one child and two parents) where the child competes with one parent for the love and affection of the other. It doesn’t need to be sexual to be considered Oedipal. It’s not limited to a boy’s feelings for his mother.

The Oedipus complex also involves the feelings of the parent toward the competing child. Let’s not forget that, in the original story of Oedipus Rex, Laius tries to have his infant son Oedipus put to death when he hears the prophecy. Many fathers feel deeply jealous of the attention babies get from their mothers; husbands often feel sexually deprived after the birth, and may feel that the wife’s involvement with their newborn leaves him out. It’s not unusual for mothers to feel deeply competitive with their daughters, and jealous of the relationship they may have with the father. I’ve heard it many times from female clients; my own sister told me that she didn’t have a decent relationship with our mother until my sister found her own man and got married. She was quite consciously aware that Mom was jealous of her relationship with Dad. Remember the story of Snow White and her vain and jealous step-mother? In the original version of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, it was actually her mother who felt jealous and tried to kill her.

My colleague Marla Estes discusses this issue in a recent post over on our Movies and Mental Health blog, using a film clip from The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to illustrate it. To me, the Oedipal situation is still a vital idea, highly relevant to my psychotherapy practice, and observable everywhere once you start to look for it.

By Joseph Burgo

Joe is the author and the owner of, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.


    1. I think it’s an especially toxic situation when the person who feels jealous of you is the person who takes care of you and who you would expect to love you. Also, given that our parents become part of ourselves, that we inevitably internalize them, their jealousy has an entirely different effect on ourselves and our self-esteem than when anybody feels jealous.

      1. I think of the concept of “self-envy” which goes along the lines of your response–that if we internalize our parental attitudes towards ourselves, and that if those attitudes include envy, we might grow up trying to please the external and internalized envious parents by not “outshining” them. This sometimes keeps one in the position of dampening achievements and/or pride in one’s achievements or oneself.

        1. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I said something to this effect in response to a question on this post.

      2. This is a particularly interesting subject for me – how do you think a parent’s jealousy might affect a person’s self esteem or ability to cope?

        1. If you consider that we tend to internalize our parents and they become aspects of ourselves, what’s it like to internalize someone who is jealous of you? Would you then have a part of yourself that doesn’t want you to have good things, to succeed, to have a meaningful relationship? I think this plays a particular role in self-sabotage and other problems with an inability to enjoy success.

  1. As usual you have hit the nail squarely on the proverbial head . In my practice I too have noticed especially the issue of new fathers feeling ” left out” and jealous when a baby ( the Interloper ) appears in the family and takes so much of a mothers’s attention. When couples are prepared for this in advance, it helps each of them have empathy for the other . Also appreciate your reminding us of the concept of penis envy , which I find useful as a metaphor for women wanting to have equal power or “agency” in the world.
    Thanks for your continuing excellent column.

    1. Hey Penny. I agree that the concept of “penis envy” is useful and has gone out of fashion because it’s interpreted too literally and anatomically. It is, as you say, a useful metaphor.

      1. Hi. The problem I find with the idea of the penis envy is not so much the penis, which obviously only makes sense when taken as a metaphor, but the word envy. For me this word has a very negative connotation and it somehow implies that whatever is done from this feeling of envy is going to be harmful.

        1. Your understanding of the word envy sounds about right to me. Envy wants to destroy what it can’t have. Otherwise, it’s a feeling more akin to admiration.

  2. While I find Freud interesting at an academic level, I suspect the reason the Oedipis Complex has fallen off the radar is; and I suspect you will attest; the human psyche cannot be studied/understood via a “one size fits all” approach. To wit; “little Hans” and his relationship with his parents may fit into Freud’s formula, but with all due respect to Freud; so what? With no PhD or research beyond my PSYCH 100 bona fides, I suspect there are as many anthroplogical and cultural factors that define parent-child relationship; as there are Freudian or psychoanalytical.

  3. Just on a lighter note I thought I would put this up. The “Irish Mammy” (crazily adoring of her sons, not so hot on the daughters), is a stock figure over here, and indeed a fine source of inspiration for comics, script writers and authors.
    Called “emails from an Irish mother” this is written by Helen Leahy.

    “Is Mammy a saint or a sinner?
    Mammy is the Irish mother of six and lives in Cork.
    As is often the case with Irish families, 3 of the children live abroad; Pearse in Australia, Kay in New York and Deirdre in London. Xavier and Marie still live at home and Paul is married with 4 children and lives in Cork.
    Mammy keeps in touch with the children abroad by regular email. She considers herself to be very modern and while she is proud of her children she also likes to point out their faults on a frequent basis.
    As the firstborn son Xavier is the apple of her eye and he still lives at home with Mammy, Daddy and Marie. Xavier is gay, but Mammy doesn’t know this and is confident that he will settle down with some lucky girl eventually.
    Mammy likes to improve her mind and tries all sorts of classes and courses but as she knows everything already she does not last long at any.
    Mammy has her own brand of logic and outlook on life is unique.”

    Her email to her daughter about their family doctor is priceless.

  4. I find the Oedipus complex to be fascinating. I have 2 children: a 6 1/2 year old boy and a 3 1/2 year old girl. My son has asked me on 3 occasions now, in a fairly accusatory way, as I’ve been tucking him into bed, “Why did you marry daddy and not me??” Followed up quickly with, “You don’t love me at all; you only love daddy!” I find this to be a really difficult question/statement to respond to. I don’t want to respond in a factual way and say that my son wasn’t alive when I married my husband, so how would that have been possible (although he did reach this conclusion on his own). And I don’t want to say that mommies don’t marry their sons; that that would be problematic in many ways. I want to respond directly to the anxiety that he feels I love my husband more than him – but I love them differently. That’s the only way I’ve come up with responding, saying something like the following, as I enfold him in my arms, “You seem angry and sad that you think I love daddy more than I love you. I love daddy in a different way than I love you. And the way I love YOU is so powerful and amazing and special that it is hard for me to express how much I love you.” It doesn’t feel like something that can be explained to him in a satisfactory way – only lived through, as he continues to discover who he is in this world and how my husband and I do our best to serve as loving resources for him along the way. It’s really flipping intense stuff though. I wish I could give him something that might feel more satisfying for him. Do you have any thoughts on this, Dr. Burgo?

    1. I think your way of responding is exactly right. Eventually, he will “work through” this issue, grow up and find somebody else. Freud thought that the way the boy “resolves” the Oedipus complex is to identify with his father, defer possession of the mother to him and turn his attention elsewhere.

      I really enjoy hearing accounts from people like you where all these feelings are so entirely conscious and verbalized. I think the way your son feels isn’t unusual although you don’t hear much about it.

      1. Hi.. our 4 year old son is so fixated on me that for some time now he refuses to be put to bed by dad if I am around. If I’m not he refuses to go to bed until I come home. He says hurtful things to his dad and my husband and I are having a hard time handling this. Do you have any advice you can share? My husband can get very frustrated and it is affecting our relationship badly. Thanks.

        1. My advice would be for you and your husband to be together in your decisions and not let your son dictate what happens. Just because he refuses to let his father put him to bed, that doesn’t mean he gets to decide to wait up for you. Gently but firmly, your husband should MAKE him go to bed. Sometimes when you’re at home together, you should refuse to put your son to bed and let your husband do it. Back each other up. Don’t let your son come between you.

  5. Do you think any complex of this kind (Oedipus, Elektra, Penis Envy) as some psychoanalysts believe apply to every individual, or it’s just a possibility depending on individual’s life, history and the way he/she is treated …?
    I could understand that little Hans might have had an Oedipus complex, but I cannot believe it’s a phase that every single boy goes through !

    1. I have to say that I’ve not seen anything of that nature that is universal. I suppose if you’re looking for it, as early psychoanalysts did, you can always find something to support your belief that it’s there, but it will stop you from seeing all sorts of other, far more important dynamics.

      What I have found over the years (and what I write about in my forthcoming book) is that everyone (and I do mean everyone) is concerned with three primary aspects of life as a human being: (1) the reality that we’re all interdependent and need one another; (2) coping with intense and often painful emotions we can’t control; and (3) developing some basic sense of our personal worth within our “tribe” or “pack”.

  6. After a struggle of over 30 years with bipolar disorder, and recovering from it, I (52) can say the following in relation to the Oedipus complex, very briefly. When I was a boy I hated my father because of his moodiness, and the subsequent quarrels with my mother. I prayed that I would not become like him. Only later I discovered that he had bipolar disorder, and I developed it, too. I loved my mother, and did not blame her, when I was young. My bipolar episodes can be characterised as being oriented toward the past, being closed (introvert; depressed), and being (overly) oriented toward the future, and being open (extravert; (hypo)mania – this was dominant in later years). I see these as extremes, which bear some relation to male and female personalities. So for me, my bipolar disorder is directly related to the Oedipus myth. The myth indicates the risk of disliking your father too much, and liking your mother too much. This was apparently (implicitly) known in the past. It holds deep truths, which is the reason for its steady appeal over the millennia (like sayings survive the ages). The like/dislike imbalnce led to oscillations in my case, between states which have certain male and female characteristics. I did not blind myself like Oedipus, but I have thought about suicide several times. This is common for bipolars. Recovering is about uniting the extremes. With this we enter the territory of of Jung’s individuation process, his anima/animus concepts, etc. This process was painful, leading to synchronistic experiences – also a Jungian concept. That is, noticing that the world tries to stimulate the individuation process by providing helpful information. For me this was often in the form of song lyrics or books at the right plance and time. Synchronistic experiences are common in bipolars, but care should be taken in interpreting them. Too much of those also indicate that the individuation process procedes too fast.

    Over the past few years I reduced my lithium medication I used for 15 years. This released more emotions, which made me make changes for the better. For example, my mother (88) eventually moved to a retirement home. I have no intentions to marry her any more :^)

  7. Hello , i am from the Netherlands.
    I need to take a lot of medication , without getting psychotherapy , for bipolar disorder.
    23 years later , i read a lot of things , about the mind , on the internet.
    It helps , the three primary aspects of life and the Oedipus complex , are interesting.
    Thank you.

  8. A google search for the Oedipus Complex led me to this site and blog. I am interested in modern day examples of this. I was researching an answer to some strange behavior that I have witnessed between my 20 year old nephew and his 52 year old mother. It is quite disturbing. He is very physical with her to the extreme of hugging excessively, always touching, making comments of how cute she is, postitive comments about her weight, and touching her in ways that husband and wife should touch. He still sits on her lap at gatherings when there are other seats available. It is so bizarre that it makes us uncomfortable and naueseated! I also found out that his mother used to undress in front of him and sleep with him “when he was sick” I don’t think this is healthy for my own children to observe and have decided to detach from this part of the family. In your profession opionion, does this sound like a modern day Oedipus Complex where the son never attached to the father? Can this be changed at such a late age? Eager to hear your response. Thanks

    1. Boy, it sure does! This sounds very unhealthy. In order for anything to change, though, at least one of them would have to want it to change. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  9. Goodmorning, Jos

    What’s good to know?, about… , the steps we need to take, to get basic wellness?.

    Food and shelter is beter then open on the streets, sometimes is’t hard, for me, and my friends, with bipolar disorder.

    Nowbody takes care of that problem anymore, in Europa, there is no money.

    Therefore ?…….. please …….

    Winter is coming , HELP !

  10. I’m in my 70’s. My son is in his early 50’s. About 30 years ago I started receiving extremely inappropriate phone calls from him. This resulted in many years of no communication. Recently the family has established contact with him again. I’ve had several lovely phone conversations with him. However he started texting inappropriate things again. He seems to have an oedipus complex. Is there help for him/us? Where? I’m at a loss and deeply saddened once again.

  11. I find all of this very interesting and it hits very close to home. We have been working with a behaviourist for my 4 1/2 year old son. The behaviourist believes (as do I) that he has an oedipus complex…but it is an obsession for his father . I was always a stay at home mom with both my sons (my oldest is now 7) never had a problem with my oldest. But from a very young age (less than a year old) my youngest became very attached to his father and it has only become worse since. It has become an intense obsession. I feel like he has no emotional attachment to me most of the time. It breaks my heart. He needs to be as close to his dad as possible all the time. School was tough at first but after a very long hard few months and great teachers he can go everyday all day but he brings a picture of his dad with him and holds it all day. My husband gets very frustrated b/c our son will not leave him alone. He is a great dad and has always treated both boys equally as have I. Is a son loving his dad more and not his mom a common form of oepdus complex or is it less common? When I say oedipus to people they cringe and they think that its wanting to “kill their dad and love their mom”. But there is more to it now. Is this something that he can grow out of or we can help him to change? He is only 4 years old.

    1. Patty, that sounds like something more than typical oedipal feelings — more like he’s merged with and has separation anxiety from his father. The behaviorist can help with the behaviors, obviously, but at some point when your son is older, he might need some kind of talk therapy.

      1. A behaviorist should probably recognize this child’s expressions are out of the “behavior change” league. There are so many well trained child psychoanalysts – and if you live remotely, perhaps you could at minimum have the “bahaviorist” consult with a trained/certified child psychoanalyst. This child needs help that exists. It’s ok to change approaches and therapists! I hope this little guy gets a chance to work this one through and release him for a lifetime.

    2. The Oedipus complex also means that the son tries to shape himself into the image of his father (He tries to make himself as much like his dad because he fears the father will castrate him if he see’s his son as a love rival for the mother’s affection). So this could be a result of that, but an incredibly extreme one?

  12. I read this article in the early hours, after which, significantly, I had an in-depth lengthy dream I would consider highly Oedipal. I would add I also watched the film, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, about a former child star who, to aid him in capturing a role in a major film, thus relaunching his career, hires a family so he can learn about the things he never had as a child; learn how to be a child! I thought I’d share. Probably for more subjective, “working through” reasons than anything. But I hope you and your readers may find it of some interest.
    This is a brief abstract of the dream. My boyfriend and I were nomadic, wandering homeless but healthy. We found a family, consisting of two young children and a mother. We were taken in and made a valuable, much welcomed part of the family. Until, that is, out of the blue, the non existent father returned. The children and mother immediately lost complete interest in both my boyfriend and I. My bf, however, in denial of the complete change of behaviour from the family, continued to happily try and make plans to do “Family” activities (involving drinking wine for some reason :/ ). I was not so blind. Enraged, but rational, I confronted the family, trying to explain how my boyfriend was in such desperate need of a family, and that he would be utterly devastated at the decathexis of the relationship. They were all, particularly the children, at best indifferent, at worse actively contemptuous of both mine and my boyfriends feelings. Nothing I said was going to reignite their passion for us. We left, continuing our nomadic existence, leaving behind our car, reasoning we could always get it another time.
    In a later part of the dream, continuing the Oedipal theme, I Was at my aunts house, in the kitchen with my aunt and her family. My mother and family were in the living room with the door closed. I tried to go into the living room but my step- father angrily blocked me, complaining the jacket I wore had a profoundly negative effect on him. After a moment I became enraged, bursting in to the living room, but my father confronted me again. I argued with him, becoming partiality physical with him, wanting, in my mind, to really hurt him, but fearing he may have superior strength to me. The truth, I think, is I wanted to destroy him, make him not exist and was extremely frustrated I hadn’t the strength.
    How can a (according to über -masculine schematics) homosexual, such as me, compete with such an exemplar of masculinity as step- father?
    I realise, on reflection today, one dynamic represented in this dream has been repeated throughout my life. Women I befriended have seen me as an honorary female, before throwing me away in favour of a “über- masculine” boyfriend.
    The title of Winnicott’s book, Home is Where We Start from: Essays by a Psychoanalyst, is apt I believe, because, emotionally and relationally, I never at a home to start with, so have been doomed to a “Nomadic” existence.
    I would like to add, I was diagnosed as suffering from a Borderline personality disorder at age 18. I have always had extremely ambiguous grasp of my sexuality and a deeply confused “Gender” identity, although never doubting I am male but deeply doubtful I am not also, if not actually female, then at least in possession of that which is considered feminine. (Oedipal loss of whole self in the services of the myth of masculinity?) I am currently in my third year of psychoanalytical psychotherapy. My therapist is on a three week break. This probably accounts for the lengthy comment. I have just began to realise he can never fill the void of my childhood, or magically repair me, provide where deprivation was, or, in fact, let me join his family. As much as it pains me to admit it, I am utterly enraged at him for this abysmal failure of omnipotence!

  13. I would first like to say how impressed I am by this web-page. I have been thinking a lot about the Oedipus Complex and I have a question but I am not sure if I will be able to formulate it. Here is my attempt: assuming that the Oedipus Complex has become to some extent a way of understanding and interpreting the (more or less problematic) relation we have with our parents (be it real parents or symbolical), does it not offer a limited set of clues? So that if you feel more close to your mother and consider your father to be a bad person, hate him and fight him, instead of enabling you to ask yourself the question whether these feelings are appropriate or justified, it already puts in your mind the assumption that they are due to a unresolved Oedipus Phase?
    Many thanks

    1. Dawn, I’m not sure I understand the question, but if you mean that thinking it Oedipal terms can limit your ability to perceive the reality of a factually “bad” parent, I would agree.

  14. Hey there Dr B,
    I was very reassured to read your article. My husband and I (we’ve been together for 3 years, so it’s still quite a new relationship) were having some relational difficulties. We were both behaving “unusually” . My behavioural changes were limited to how I responded to him (especially in moments of conflict). My husbands behavioural changes were more severe and had no relational or social limitations.

    My husband was hyper-aware of these changes and referred to a previous experience some 20 years ago, when he had “been hospitalized” (in reality, he wasn’t sectioned, in fact he had to persuade the admissions staff that he needed to be hospitalized). He thought that he had similar feelings to this past event and he used the term hypo-manic to describe the initial changes. Unfortunately, unlike his previous experience, he was also suffering from interludes of depression. We would go for 3 days of excitement about everything and non stop talking, to 2 days of grief stricken non communication and confinement to bed and then back to excitement again. The emotional roller-coaster ride my husband was experiencing, and my reaction to it, resulted in horrible arguments.

    To cut a real long story short, we sought help. Thankfully, through social interests, my husband had become friendly with a psychologist who offered his opinion. He’s only ever seen us as friends, (I use that term loosely, we met him 6 months ago, but he’s lovely) never professionally, but he made suggestions about our relationship that worked. Most importantly at that stage, he completely changed my view of the term mental illness.

    Our psychologist friend made a suggestion of family therapy. We both agreed to involve our families of origin. My husbands father died some 10 years ago, but his elderly mother travelled 450km to attend to her son. It had been common knowledge that my mother-in-law, despite staying married, had not been happy in her marriage. My late father-in-law had been diagnosed as depressed throughout his life, she obviously (maybe with reason) found this and him very difficult to deal with. She admitted she had been confiding in my husband (her son) about her relational problems since he was young. My husband’s view of his father, until very recently was his mother’s view.

    After the second family therapy session, our friend told me (alone), as I drove him home that my husband’s relationship with his mother was a crucial factor in explaining not only his behaviour, but also my own. I was ambivalent, there had been previous experiences when I had thought of their relationship as “odd”, but it seemed at the time, quite a leap to make the connection between an unresolved Oedipal Complex (especially as my husband is in his late 40’s), and a well documented behavioural disorder.

    However, the more I read about the subject and the more I listened to my mother-in-law, the more convinced I became that he was right. I shared the information with my husband and after taking advice, I symbolically killed my mother-in-law. This all happened a week ago (the family sessions and subsequent symbolic killing), so it’s all still very raw. My husband has been left feeling utterly confused. While he spends a great deal of time with our psychologist friend he hasn’t been given much further direction. He hates his mother, a position (despite my actions) I hope will change over time, and he no longer knows how to feel about most things. The realisation that he has been acting out the role of, (and has therefore embodied) his same sex parent, the same parent he was brought up to think of as “bad” has left him spinning, unsurprisingly.

    Some good has come from this, in that we are communicating well, therefore our family life is better. His mood, though muddy at times has been incredibly stable since this all came to light.
    However, I too have many unanswered questions. You, and our friend the psychologist, seem to hold a similar fundamental beliefs, (particularly about modernity and it’s approach to achieving mental wellness through medication) so I would appreciate your comments regarding these.

    1. How does a boy’s super-ego develop without the internalisation of the father (his mother is very religious, as was he until his early 20’s)?
    2. What does my husband do now? Look for a father figure? Or is it too late for that?
    3. How do you rebuild a sense of self , when you’ve been told your former self is really an incarnation of your father, brought about (in this case) by the needs of your mother?
    4. Can you re-construct your super-ego later in life?
    5. Can you re-construct your sense of self?

    PS I have missed out vast swathes of information pertaining to this, some of which is probably crucial. If you have any queries, please ask. If you’ve heard enough to answer or comment on any of my questions I’d be extremely grateful.

    Thank you in anticipation and kind regards.


  15. This is very interesting. I believe though, that the Oedipus complex goes way beyond male children passion for mothers, but in addition some grow up to continue be close to their mother whereby it reaches a state of no prevalence of them in aduthood. What is your point on that?

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by a “state of no prevalence.” Do you mean they outgrow the Oedipal situation but continue to feel close to their mothers in a positive way?

  16. Realizing that I’m dealing with/hindered by unresolved Oedipal issues as a single male in my 40s, I’m curious about suggested reading material for the layperson in my shoes–I now have a great therapist. One thing I just read was about the significant problems of the child winning the oedipal competition with the same-sex parent (no physical incest happened), and I’m not sure where to look to read more about that sort of outcome. I’m not sure if there are certain phrases to describe that dynamic that would help me google or otherwise research that issue, or if anyone has specific reading suggestions. Thanks.

  17. Good, interesting, helpful article. As an adult (40s) becoming (painfully) aware of how my unresolved oedipal issues have shaped my life–in nothing but very negative ways–I find an absolute lack of material addressed to the common public, or even professionals, about how to recover from and resolve these issues. I’ve searched and searched online, including books and academic articles, and find literally millions of sources explaining, telling, and defining the oedipal scenario but virtually nothing along the lines of self-help material for one suffering. I have an excellent psychologist–who’s helped me progress to this point after prior treatment by other psychologists that were unsuccessful, but I’d like to learn more about what I can do myself, what others have done, and treatment guidance. For what is regarded as such a significant and widespread problem/complex, I’m stunned by the lack of written resources along the lines I describe. I want to do what I can to help my treatment/recovery and to progress. Any suggestions?

    1. My guess is that the self-help avenue isn’t going to be terribly useful. It’s the sort of issue that needs to be addressed in therapy, as you are doing, and hopefully worked out in the transference.

  18. Yes, I believe Odepus issues are alive and well in current the psyche. I am from divorced parents, an uninvolved father but a caring step-father who became involved when I was 7. I’ve always thought I didn’t form an emotional attachment to him until a recent event. After he and my mother divorced we became estranged. I’ve begun to miss him as I’ve gotten older & began to wonder why I have problems with male relationships. I am now 50. I was able to reconnect with him recently during a family gathering (due to terminal illness of a common relative). We began to have a very nice intimate conversation about all the fun times we had when he was step-dad & how I always felt very protected by him & I remembered as a girl, I would swinging on his strong arms. The strange thing that happened was that my mother observed & overheard the joy & reconnection and healing of old wounds in the (private & personal) conversation (abandonment, no abuse) and she entered the room and wouldn’t leave us to finish our conversation. It was then that I both noticed and remembered something about her. She was jealous of our conversation and renewed relationship. I remembered this same behavior on her part also from years ago, she wouldn’t allow a close relationship between us, she would put a wedge between us because she was jealous. Since I have only just recently realized this, I have yet to explore the ways in which this has disturbed my romantic relationships.

  19. Ive been observing someone for sometime now and find they often bring up incestual thoughts or fictional incidents and I’ve come to wonder if his growing up without a father to “compete with” as well as “identify with” affected his psychosexual development as described by Freud. does the child ever grow out of the Oedipus complex? Will it have these unconscious yearnings for it’s mother?

  20. Dear Joseph,

    I totally agree with the fact of the Oedipus Complex ! It exists.

    I am a 29 year old Male and I have been observing this fact since my childhood.

    Also, now I am suffering from a psychological disorder, one friend pointed out its due to unresolved Oedipus Complex.

    May I please know ” How to resolve this issue ? ”

    Or is only to through fullfillment of the desire of having sex with mother ?



  21. Interesting article! My teenage son and his mother (we’re divorced) are emotionally entwined and aligned against me – I’ve only recently realized that it is the result of years of Oedipal competition. But in his case, his mother actively created and fed the dysfunction over the years (for example, called him her “soul mate”, fawned over each other in public, and I even found an old letter of hers where she admitted “Freud had it right” and it was “true love”). I’m sickened by it all. The courts and I both feel that my son needs to go to a therapeutic boarding school to gain independence and learn skills, and he’ll be leaving soon. I’m worried about what happens after he returns in a year – how can he learn to emotionally disentangle himself from his mother’s co-dependency? Does he need to live some distance away? I have no faith that she will change at all.

  22. I am gay was diagnosed recently as a high functioning acting in bpd I had my handwriting analysed by a graphologist very strongly introverted quite highly intuitive mentioned unresolved Oedipus complex my father died after a long illness when I was six I am now 52 soon after his death I developed a fear of watching Dracula films these films seemed to trigger something in me whitch made sleeping without my mother in the same room impossible I think this would be today termed seperation anxiety this went on from the age of 8 to 13 I have all my life had a fear of men espically being surrounded without any I’mminent threat to me ie authority figures or the police where a uniform is worn I have often wondered is this unresolved oedipal guilt I am carrying with me all this time

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