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Reich, W. (1931). The Characterological Mastery of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 12:452-467.

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(1931). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 12:452-467

The Characterological Mastery of the Oedipus Complex

Wilhelm Reich

Psycho-analytical investigation is in a position to provide the scientific theory of character with radically new points of view and with new results based on these. It is enabled to do this in virtue of three characteristics: its theory of unconscious mechanisms; its historical approach; its grasp of the dynamics and economics of psychic processes.

Because psycho-analysis penetrates beyond the given appearances to their nature and development and grasps the processes of the 'deep personality' in horizontal and vertical cross-section, it automatically opens the way to the ideal of the scientific study of character: a 'Theory of Genetic Types'. Such a theory would not only give us scientific understanding of human modes of behaviour, but also insight into their specific developmental history. The transfer of character-study from the category of so-called 'mental science' in Klages' sense to that of the natural science of psychology is, in itself, no small service.

But the clinical investigation of this field is not simple, and we need first of all to get clear as to the facts to be studied.


As is well known, psycho-analysis marked out from the start new paths of its own in character-investigation. Freud opened up a new field in his first discovery, that certain traits of character can be explained historically as modifications and developments of primitive instinctual trends caused by environmental agencies; that, for example, parsimony, pedantry, and love of order are the offspring of anal-erotic instincts. Later, Jones and Abraham in particular have


1 Read at the Conference of the German Psycho-Analytical Society, Dresden, September, 1930.

2 Freud: 'Character and Anal Erotism (1908)', Collected Papers, Vol. II, p. 45.

3 Ernest Jones: 'Anal-Erotic Character Traits', Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 3rd ed., 1923, p. 680.

4 Abraham: 'Psycho-Analytical Studies on Character-Formation', Selected Papers, pp. 370 et seq.

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