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Halberstadt-Freud, H.C. (1989). Electra in bondage: On symbiosis and the symbiotic illusion between mother and daughter and the consequences for the Oedipus complex. Free Associations, 1R(17):58-89.

(1989). Free Associations, 1R(17):58-89

Electra in bondage: On symbiosis and the symbiotic illusion between mother and daughter and the consequences for the Oedipus complex

H. C. Halberstadt-Freud, Ph.D.


Was will das Weib?’, the question Freud posed in vain at the end of his life, has not lost any of its significance today. And as art historians continue to scrutinize the Mona Lisa, so do psychoanalysts continue their search for signs of ‘das ewig Weibliche’ (the eternal feminine). We try to find the solution to the riddle of the feminine psyche in our reading of the history of a woman's development. It is from that history that we may learn what it is that women are so silent about, and why.

Despite their differences of opinion, all the contributors to the psychoanalytic debate around the question of the development of femininity agree that two points are highly problematic: the separation between mother and daughter, and the sexual development of women.

The female child is faced with two tasks which she has to fulfil in order to arrive at mature femininity — that is, to become an independent and emotionally well-balanced grown woman. First, she will have to separate herself, at least partially, from the internal image of her mother which she has created consciously as well as unconsciously. Secondly, she must discover her sexual feelings and accept her sexual identity in order to enjoy both.

According to classical psychoanalytic theory the development of mature femininity is conditional on four basic changes.

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