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Devereux, G. (1953). Why Oedipus Killed Laius—A Note on the Complementary Oedipus Complex in Greek Drama. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:132-141.

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:132-141

Why Oedipus Killed Laius—A Note on the Complementary Oedipus Complex in Greek Drama

George Devereux, Ph.D.

It is striking to note that psycho-analytic theory pays exceedingly little attention to certain complexes which, in a very genuine sense, complement the Oedipus complex. In particular, even though occasionally reference is made (13) to the tender and even to the erotic components of what may be called the Laius complex and the Jocasta complex, the sadistic (and homosexual) components of these complexes are, generally speaking, ignored by psycho-analytic writers. Indeed, there exist certain Greek traditions regarding Laius which suggest that the complementary Oedipus complex, even in its homosexual and sadistic phases, was close enough to the threshold of consciousness to receive at least a mythological expression. Yet even Rank (20), who specifically discusses these traditions, fails to stress that they provide us with a highly specific and 'historical', rather than only with a general and 'paleopsychological', explanation of Laius' behaviour towards the infant Oedipus.

It must be assumed that this continued scotomization of the complementary Oedipus complex is rooted in the adult's deep-seated need to place all responsibility for the Oedipus complex upon the child, and to ignore, whenever possible, certain parental attitudes which actually stimulate the infant's oedipal tendencies. This deliberate scotoma is probably rooted in the authoritarian atmosphere characteristic of nineteenth-century family life. This interpretation is supported by the history of Freud's thoughts on the subject of the etiology of hysteria.

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