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Steiner, J. (1985). Turning a Blind Eye: The Cover up for Oedipus. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:161-172.

(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:161-172

Turning a Blind Eye: The Cover up for Oedipus

John Steiner

My dear, I am sorry to say this, but no-one has understood before now that 'Oedipus' is not about the revelation of truth but about the cover up of truth. Everybody knows who Oedipus is from the start and everybody is covering up. Just like Watergate. Just like all through history—the lie is what societies are based upon. And it has nothing to do with the Oedipus Complex because Oedipus never had a complex (Pilikian, 1974)

In recent years it has become evident that our contact with reality is not an all or none affair and psychoanalysts have become particularly interested in situations where reality is not simply evaded but is in addition distorted and misrepresented (Money-Kyrle, 1968) ; (Bion, 1970) ; (Joseph, 1983). In this paper I want to consider one such situation, namely that in which we seem to have access to reality but chose to ignore it because it proves convenient to do so. I refer to this mechanism as turning a blind eye because I think this conveys the right degree of ambiguity as to how conscious or unconscious the knowledge is. At one extreme we are dealing with simple fraud where all the facts are not only accessible but have led to a conclusion which is then knowingly evaded. More often, however, we are vaguely aware that we chose not to look at the facts without being conscious of what it is we are evading. These evasions may lead to a sense of dishonesty and to various manoeuvres which deny or conceal what has happened by creating a cover up.

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