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Zepf, S. Zepf, F.D. (2011). “You are Requested to Close an Eye” Freud's Seduction Theory and Theory of the Oedipus Complex Revisited. Psychoanal. Rev., 98(3):287-323.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Review, 98(3):287-323

“You are Requested to Close an Eye” Freud's Seduction Theory and Theory of the Oedipus Complex Revisited

Siegfried Zepf, M.D. and Florian D. Zepf, M.D.

Translated by:
Dave Turnbull

When an analyst loses insight he had previously had, the recurring wave of resistance that has caused the loss is apt to display itself in the form of pseudo-scientific explanations of the data before him, and this is then dignified with the name of a “new theory.” Since the source of this is on an unconscious level, it follows that controversy on a purely conscious scientific le vel is fore-doomed to failure.

—Ernest Jones, 1955, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 2, p. 143

In his five lectures on psychoanalysis published in 1910, Freud emphasizes for the first time that the Oedipus complex is the “nuclear complex of every neurosis” (p. 47). This conviction was preceded by another understanding of the etiology of neuroses that is usually termed “seduction theory.”1 In this paper we attempt to determine the reasons for which Freud may have abandoned his seduction theory and anchored the Oedipus complex in the phylogenetic development of mankind. Furthermore, we examine how far Freud's phylogenetic foundation can be maintained and whether the emergence of oedipal problems can be understood in a different way.

We begin with an outline of the seduction theory and comment on the Oedipus complex. This is followed by a discussion of Freud's phylogenetic foundation and his thesis that the Oedipus complex can dissolve. We then focus on the reasons for his turning toward the phylogenetic direction.

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