“A boy’s best friend is his mother.” ― Joseph Stefano
Oedipus was a character in Greek mythology that dates back to the 5th century BC. In the original play, written by Sophocles, Oedipus was the son of a king who was abandoned as an infant and raised in a foreign land.
As a man, Oedipus returns to the place of his birth and unknowingly kills his father the King in a duel then later marries his mother, the Queen. When Oedipus discovers who he is and what he has done, he cuts out both of his eyes blinding himself in an expression of overwhelming guilt.
20th Century psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that the story of Oedipus has implications in the life every male child. According to Freud, boys between the ages of three and six enter into what he called their phallic stage. This is the time when a boy first becomes aware of and begins to focus his attention on his penis.
Freud also said that young boys develop sexual desires towards their mothers and become envious of their fathers. Freud believed that little boys have a subconscious wish to replace daddy and marry mommy. This is what Freud referred to as the Oedipus complex.
“For the past few months my oldest son, who’s now four and a half, has often mentioned that he wants to marry me. He seems to understand that I can’t be married to two people at once (at least that’s what we’re teaching him!) so he’s requested that I not be married to his dad anymore. Very cute and very harmless.”
Freud further believed that boys secretly fear that their fathers will inflict tremendous punishment on them if their desires are discovered. Therefore, they eventually put away their feelings towards their mother and begin identifying with their father.
This occurs because a boy realizes that he cannot replace his father; so he instead learns to become him. A boy copies his father’s manner and behavior and eventually learns his place and learns to identify with his father rather than resent or envy him.
Later psychologist Carl Jung would describe a similar dynamic that occurs in little girls called the Electra Complex, again based on a character in Greek mythology. The Electra complex refers to a little girl’s desire to replace her mother and win the exclusive love of her father.
The Oedipus story represents the responsibility and guilt associated with transitioning from infancy and early childhood to middle childhood. In contrast the story of Narcissus, represents arrested development and the egocentricity associated with infancy.
Oedipus is an escape from early childhood fantasies of omnipotence. For the male child, the moving away from one’s mother is also a part of instilling the incest taboo.
Although Freud’s theories of human psycho-sexual development have fallen out of favor in many psychological circles, they are still highly regarded in the academic community. Today most experts agree that sexual conflicts, important as they are, were overemphasized by Freud.
Sigmund Freud’s theory of childhood psycho-sexual development, including the Oedipus complex, is still taught in thousands of college classrooms around the world and Frued remains one of the most respected thinkers of the 20th century.
Source material: Wikipedia, Sigmund Freud’s Essays on Sexuality, Nancy A. Piotrowski, Ph.D; Perfecting Motherhood