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Fenichel, O. (1931). Specific Forms of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 12:412-430.

(1931). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 12:412-430

Specific Forms of the Oedipus Complex

Otto Fenichel

The 'Oedipus complex' is the term used by Freud to denote the medley of strivings, feelings and unconscious ideas grouped round the individual's wishes to possess sexually the parent of the opposite sex and to get rid of the parent of the same sex. When we speak of the 'complete Oedipus complex' we imply the co-existence of the converse situation, in which the parent of the same sex is desired sexually, while the parent of the opposite sex is the one whose removal is wished for. Anyone who has come to recognize the fundamental importance of the Oedipus complex, whether through discovery in himself or others, or because he accepts the statements of psycho-analysts without being more deeply conversant with psycho-analysis, will find that there are two problems—or perhaps it would be more correct to say two apparent problems—which demand a solution.

In the first place he will say: 'I now understand that this Oedipus complex is to be regarded as the "nuclear complex" in neurosis. If, unconsciously, a man's sole love-object is his mother, he will see her in every woman he meets and therefore he will have to repress his sexuality; the return of the repressed sexuality constitutes neurosis. And if, unconsciously, a man desires to kill his father, he will scent parricide in every action and this will inhibit his initiative; the return of this drive, again, is neurosis. But how are we to reconcile these facts with the statement that the Oedipus complex is normal and that its presence in every individual is as much a matter of course as, for example, his nose?'

And secondly: 'It was precisely psycho-analysis, as opposed to schematic medicine, which proclaimed that the personal destiny of each one of us is entirely individual and unique and that the causes of neurosis are forgotten experiences, traumas, which the person in question has at some time actually lived through. The task of recovering these facts in the patient's personal history is what makes psycho-analysis necessarily so long a process. This was all quite comprehensible.

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