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Laufer, M. (1982). The Formation and Shaping of the Oedipus Complex: Clinical Observations and Assumptions. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:217-227.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:217-227

The Formation and Shaping of the Oedipus Complex: Clinical Observations and Assumptions

Moses Laufer

I know that the Programme Committee of this Congress had as one of its purposes by including a Plenary Session on the Oedipus complex that of honouring and acknowledging the 75th anniversary of the publication of the 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' (1905), a work which Freud considered to be one of his most important, nearing in status to his 'Interpretation of Dreams'. The link between the Three Essays and the concept of the Oedipus complex is an obvious one because, for Freud, the relationship between sexuality and the Oedipus complex was inseparable, and both these remained for him central to psychoanalytic theory and practice. I hope to show, from my presentation, why this view remains one of primary importance in my own clinical work.

Freud's excitement in uncovering and understanding the meaning of the Oedipus complex represented his awareness that he had reached a point in his discoveries whereby he believed he could define and explain a whole range of clinical phenomena which had previously eluded understanding (1923a). He was well aware that he could now formulate the meaning of a constellation as well as a secret, unique to human beings, which would shed light on normal development and on psychopathology, and which held the answers to riddles about mental life which, until then, had been explained in terms either of religion, culture, biology or philosophy.

His great but simple insight that every human being, at a certain developmental period of his or her life, fantasied the destruction or the removal of one of the parents so that he or she could acquire the sole sexual love of the remaining parent, led him to insights about the meaning of conflict and defence, to an understanding of the later male/female differentiation, and ultimately enabled him to describe and explain the final structure of the mind into id, ego and superego.

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