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Delia, D. (2004). The Achilles Complex: Preoedipal Trauma, Rage, and Repetition. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(2):179-199.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(2):179-199

The Achilles Complex: Preoedipal Trauma, Rage, and Repetition

Demetria Delia, Ph.D.

Freud theorized that neurotic patients suffered from conflicts unresolved from the oedipal stage of development. Freud often unearthed clinical data in works of literature and later confirmed these findings after working with patients (Eissler, 1971). In using a mythological paradigm to conceptualize the Achilles Complex, this study follows a methodology established by Freud, who used a myth to elucidate the Oedipus Complex. The word “paradigm” refers to the literal Greek translation of the word paradigma, “a showing by example” (Nelson, Nelson, Sherman, & Strean, 1968, p. 12). The conflicts that generate the Achilles Complex begin before the oedipal stage. The person who suffers from an Achilles Complex is dominated by sadistic, murderous impulses that may be turned against the self or may ultimately be enacted against others. The mythic evidence suggests that the most violent forms of aggression can be traced to trauma that begins prenatally and continues throughout the formative years of life.

The psychic data revealed in the story of Achilles are remarkably similar to the findings gathered through quantitative research studies of violent behavior. For example, Raine, Bren-nan, and Mednick (1997), using a sample of 4,269 men, concluded that being reared in a public institution for the first year of life and the mother's attempt to abort the fetus interacted with birth complications in predisposing a subject to violence. Stone (1991) found that aggressivity, whether directed against self or others, stems from factors that are not only preoedipal but also prenatal.


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