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Gee, H. (1991). The Oedipal Complex in Adolescence. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(2):193-210.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(2):193-210

The Oedipal Complex in Adolescence

Hugh Gee

In A Paper called The origin of the hero, Jung wrote, Part of the psyche really wants the external object, but another part of it strives back to the subjective world. We are thus forced to conclude that the external object simply cannot be loved, because an overwhelming proportion of the libido prefers an internal object that rises up from the unconscious as a substitute for the missing reality (Jung 6, pp. 173, 175). Anna Freud said something similar at a later date, when she was describing one of the typical defences of adolescents: the ‘defence by withdrawal of libido to the self. Under this heading she said that If anxieties and inhibitions block the way towards new objects outside the family, the libido remains within the self. There, it may be employed to cathect the ego and superego, thereby inflating them (Freud 4). I think that both these quotations are about the conflict between the inner and outer realities of the individual and are particularly relevant to the Oedipal complex as experienced by the adolescent.


In this paper I shall concentrate on one aspect of adolescence, namely, the wish of the adolescent to separate from the parents and the simultaneous struggle with the incestuous attraction. This conflict, which leaves the ego fighting for survival, is well illustrated by Sophocles' play King Oedipus, and I shall, therefore, analyse this myth to show that there are many themes related to this complex and that the core of the complex is the need for, but resistance to, consciousness. I agree with Gordon when she says that, adolescence is not confined to teenagers. It is a psychic state (personal communication). Thus, although what I have to say is primarily about the teenagers struggle, it is clear that it has wider applications. I think that it is now generally accepted that the Oedipus complex starts at a much earlier age than Freud originally suggested.

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