“My Oedipus Complex”*

*short story by Frank O’Connor, 1963, in which a child, Larry, has his cosy relationship with his mother rudely disturbed by the return of his father, a soldier in World War I.

Image: Jean-Baptiste Hugues (1849-1930) “Oedipe à Colone [Oedipus at Colonos]” (1885)

From the website of the Musee d’Orsay:

A sculptor using the academic repertoire, Hugues, like all the traditional artists of his generation, gleefully explored the human body. Oedipus belongs to that register but also has its place among the major subjects taken from ancient history. It is an excuse for a display of anatomy, but above all is almost a literal quotation from Homer:

Here we are under the olive trees of Colonos, in the first scene of the tragedy.

– Set me on a rock, said Oedipus, and look after your blind father.

– I have fulfilled that duty for so long, Antigone replied sadly, that I no longer need to be told”.

To persuade her father there was no bitterness in these words, the girl sits close to him and lays her head gently against his shoulder. Oedipus puts his arm around Antigone, who gazes at the blind man with an adorable expression of tender sadness.” ”

From Wikipedia:

“Œdipe à Colone is an operatic ‘tragédie lyrique’ by Antonio Sacchini first performed at Versailles on January 4, 1786 in the presence of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The libretto, by Nicolas-François Guillard, is based on the play Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles.”

From the website of the Freud Museum London:

A painting of Oedipus’ encounter with the Sphinx famously hung beside Freud’s couch. Nobody doubts the significance of Oedipus to the development of Freud’s thought but the presence of the Sphinx reminds us of his less celebrated interest in Egyptian culture.”

From the website of Consulta Baekeland:

“The Oedipus complex is considered to be the great relational organiser because it structures the way love, hate, rivalry, jealousy, sexual desire and identification are distributed in a family (and outside the family, too) for the child.

Each member of the family acquires multiple roles for the child, with different valences, that require the child to play out different relational scenes. We could say that the Oedipus Complex sets the rules for a (complex) game and that this game organises the relationships between each of the participants.

The severe frustration of reality refers to the fact that reality forces us to give up oedipal wishes and omnipotence. When we say oedipal we’re referring to incestuous and parricidal wishes, and by omnipotence we mean the wish to be all-powerful, to be able to control everything, to be the centre of everything.

The frustration is severe because it implies losing something very important to the person. This mostly happens during childhood, although later reality will bring a host of other frustrations along the course of life. We can observe the severity of the frustration in children’s reactions to their parents when they say no (although this depends a lot on how those “no” are implemented) and also along the course of analysis when patients feel the pain, sometimes very deep, of having to give up certain behaviours or ways of being.”

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