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Josephs, L. (2006). The Impulse to Infidelity and Oedipal Splitting. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 87(2):423-437.

(2006). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 87(2):423-437

The Impulse to Infidelity and Oedipal Splitting

Lawrence Josephs

Freud suggested that the child perceives parental intercourse as an act of infidelity by the desired but unfaithful parent. Parental sexual infidelity is felt to be a major narcissistic injury that gives rise to fantasies of revenge. A defensive organization arises to manage this trauma and its attendant revenge fantasies. That organization involves splitting of the desired parent into faithful and unfaithful parts, displacement of hostility on to the rival parent, and identification with the desired but unfaithful parent resulting in the impulse to infidelity. Romantic fantasies of escape and rescue from evil rivals provide guilt free ways of satisfying fantasies of oedipal revenge. In those fantasies the evil rival is turned into an injured third party who gets his or her just deserts as the romantic couple gets to live happily ever after. This defensive organization may embroil patients in complicated love triangles as adults for which they may seek treatment. Analyzing the repudiated narcissistic wound of parental infidelity and the disguised revenge fantasies that defend against that wound may provoke narcissistic rage towards the analyst as a moralistic, possessive, controlling, envious, and spoiling oedipal parent.

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