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Gruen, A. (1969). The Oedipal Experience and the Development of the Self. Psychoanal. Rev., 56B(2):265-270.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56B(2):265-270

The Oedipal Experience and the Development of the Self

Arno Gruen, Ph.D.

In detailing the boy's ambivalence and struggle with his father about their common interests in Mother, Freud's genius raised to full consciousness the Complex the poets so often have dealt with intuitively and passionately. We have come to appreciate that in going through the phases of the Oedipal conflict a boy has the chance, under proper conditions, to work through many aspects of his evolving self. He can experience competition, rage, anger, self-assertion and love, and find that coexistence and separateness rather than annihilation (direct or through fusion) are the outcome. He can learn to give up loves and rages, not because of defeat, but through the experience of transcending infantile developmental stages for more mature ones. He can do so when he finds opportunity to experience the pleasure of independence, and the satisfaction of self-direction in social growth, as well as the positive sense of responsibility attending active engagement with his own feelings and with the world around him.

When at any one of the points in this complex, dialectic-like development, with its succession of discontinuities and levels, a lingering occurs—throwing off balance the continuity of the process—we are bound to get that discordance and splitting in the essential unity of development which will, at that time, later, or only potentially, manifest itself in the neurotic patterns the literature so succinctly describes.

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