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Grotstein, J.S. (1997). Klein's archaic Oedipus complex and its possible relationship to the myth of the labyrinth: Notes on the origin of courage. J. Anal. Psychol., 42(4):585-611.

(1997). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 42(4):585-611

Klein's archaic Oedipus complex and its possible relationship to the myth of the labyrinth: Notes on the origin of courage

James S. Grotstein, M.D.

The ancient Greek myth linking the images of the labyrinth and the Minotaur provides an allegory for Melanie Klein's conception of the archaic Oedipus complex as well as a vivid illustration of Winnicott's notions of object usage and the ‘subjective object’. The labyrinth is suggestive of mother's body as the first area for an infant's exploration and putative sadistic conquest. The Minotaur, in turn, suggests the infant's unconscious phantasies about the content of mother's body, namely such projective identifications onto that body as the paternal penis and the ‘internal babies’. Further, the heroic dynamic personified by Theseus in the myth of the labyrinth metaphorically signifies what is here proposed as a developmental line that involves the courage to do a number of things, including to become, to create, to seek, to explore, to do, to challenge, to undertake risks, to accept, to rescue, to initiate, to think, to know and to realize. The Minotaur can thus be thought to serve as a universal subjective signifier for an ‘Object of Challenge’, which, if not successfully dealt with by the ego-development of the infant, transforms that default into the ‘Object of Nemesis’. Ultimately, this myth of mastery speaks to the psychoanalytic process itself as well as casting light on the transformative aspects of sexual intercourse as a personal healing ritual.

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