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Holtzman, D. Kulish, N. (2000). The Femininization of the Female Oedipal Complex, Part I: A Reconsideration of the Significance of Separation Issues. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 48(4):1413-1437.

(2000). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 48(4):1413-1437

The Femininization of the Female Oedipal Complex, Part I: A Reconsideration of the Significance of Separation Issues

Deanna Holtzman and Nancy Kulish

Freud's insights about the oedipus complex have been universalized to include the psychology of the girl. The authors argue that this crucial developmental phase for girls has uniquely feminine characteristics that have not been fully recognized or cohesively incorporated into psychoanalytic theories. This paper addresses these differences, which are based on characteristic patterns of object relationships, typical defenses, and social considerations. The authors argue that “female oedipal” is an oxymoron, and propose that this constellation be named “the Persephone complex” after the Greek myth of Persephone, which seems to capture better the typical situation of the little girl. They focus on the issue of separation and its complicated and necessary role in the triangular situation of females. Using illustrations from clinical material, the authors argue that the frequent appearance of separation material linked to triangular heterosexual competitive fantasies can and should be differentiated from material in which ideas about separation stem from dyadic and earlier issues. Misunderstanding how these separation conflicts tie into triangular “oedipal” relationships can lead to a “preoedipalization” of the dynamics of girls and women.

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