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Fosshage, J.L. (2010). Implicit and Explicit Dimensions of Oedipal Phenomenology: A Reassessment. Psychoanal. Inq., 30(6):520-534.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(6):520-534

Implicit and Explicit Dimensions of Oedipal Phenomenology: A Reassessment

James L. Fosshage, Ph.D.


In lieu of an abstract, I begin with a synopsis. In light of nonlinear dynamic systems theory and recent empirical research, the Oedipus complex is no longer theoretically viable as a posited hard-wired linear phase of development. Oedipal phenomenology, in my view, most aptly refers, in its positive form, to a particular relational configuration in which the child expansively tries on the role of a heterosexual partner of the opposite-gendered parent and variably feels identified with, as well as competitive with, the same-gendered parent. Romantic love, I have proposed, captures more inclusively the phenomenology of loving, erotic experience. With rudimentary implicit procedural beginnings in early childhood, the Oedipal relational configuration gains momentum especially with the hormonally charged onset of sexual attraction around the mean age of 9–10. As an important, but not sole, childhood/adolescent romantic relational configuration, its success as to self-enhancement or depletion and to the consolidation of a heterosexual orientation emerges out of parental responsiveness within the parent–child interaction. Systems theory leads us to believe that, at a process level, there are many possible, and often unpredictable, pathways for the development of romantic love, sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Anchored in ongoing implicit and explicit learning, developmental processes in these arenas are infinitely complex and variably interconnected processes.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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