Relationships 101

Oedipus complex – definition, symptoms and treatment

A child with Oedipus complex desires his mother and wants to replace his father
old woman and younger man

This article involves a small background story before we tackle the main subject.

Oedipus Rex is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles around 429 BC. The play begins with Oedipus as the ruler of Thebes. His country is disturbed by a moral plague because of the unceremonious murder of its previous ruler, King Laius. When citizens demand justice, Oedipus sets about seeking the truth. He seeks the help of the blind seer, Tiresias, who after much goading reveals that it’s Oedipus who’s the culprit.

Oedipus’ wife, Jocasta, reveals a prophecy made long back that her son would kill her husband, and marry her. But Oedipus couldn’t have done so because she had sent the infant to his death as soon as he was born. Oedipus is distraught with this revelation and pieces together his side of the story.

Oedipus had escaped from his home after listening to a similar prophecy, killed a man with whom he entered into an argument (his father, Laius), landed in Thebes where he solved a riddle by the Sphinx and became the king. As was the custom, he wed queen Jocasta and begot children with her.

Unwittingly, Oedipus killed his own father, married his mother and had children with her, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. Terribly tragic, isn’t it?
The term Oedipal complex or Oedipus complex was coined by the 20th-century psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Freud was working on his theory of psychosexual stages of development. So what is the Oedipus complex?

Oedipus complex – the definition

We know that the character of Oedipus unwittingly murdered his father and slept with his mother. So, a person with Oedipus complex desires to win the possession of the opposite-sex parent, all the while harbouring anger and jealousy towards the parent of same-sex. For example, boy contests with his father to win his mother.

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Credit: Youtube.com

According to Freud, Oedipus complex occurs in the phallic stage of psychosexual development between the ages of three to five. This stage is important in terms of forming a sexual identity of the child.

The child desires some sort of sexual involvement with his mother. He often tries to keep it repressed, but the desire influences him throughout his growth. The child starts seeing his father as a rival and wishes to replace him.

Related reading: I got a divorce because my wife lusted after my handsome dad

Symptoms of Oedipal complex

If you’re sexually attracted towards your mother you find yourself fighting many desires together – the desire to be physically and emotionally close to her, the desire to possess her, the need to win her affections at any cost, the wanting to be her favourite instead of your father. Often, unconsciously or consciously, these symptoms might show themselves in your actions.

Let us a take a look at few of the symptoms.

1. Your father shouldn’t hug or kiss your mom

A hug or a kiss is totally normal between couples. But you can’t stand your father hugging or kiss your mother. Their physical intimacy makes you jealous.

2. You want to sleep with her

This doesn’t necessarily mean having intercourse. You might simply want to sleep next to her when your father is out of town. And if your mother permits, you’re thrilled. But when your father returns, you don’t want to give back your position. You want to replace him.

3. She is your priority

Whether near or far, you need to think about her. You talk with her every day on the phone. She becomes more important than your wife or children.

4. You admire her way too much

The way your mother walks, talks, moves, dresses, speaks or acts – everything about her is admirable. You can’t help but praise her and adore her way too extravagantly.

couple holding hands

5. You get into verbal battles with your father

Since your father is a rival, you find yourself getting angry when he hugs or kisses your mom too often in front of you. And sometimes, you shout and threaten him to stay away from your mother.

Related reading: The uncomfortable love of Brahma and Saraswati

6. You might deal with sexual impotency

Every time you’re sexually aroused, the image of your mother crops up in your mind. You then have to repress these feelings. Continuous repression of sexual desires can lead to sexual impotency.

7. You have unstable relationships

You find jumping from relationship to another. It is difficult to commit to one girl. The very thought of sharing a physical bonding with another girl is not acceptable to you.

8. You are attracted to older people

If any woman who is older to you and has your mother’s traits, you’re instantly attracted. You try to seek her attention and try to get romantically involved with her.

man holding girl's cheek

How to cure the Oedipus complex?

If the Oedipus complex is not cured, it can result in a number of psychological repressions. It might affect your individual growth as a normal and satisfied adult. It might also culminate in feelings of frustration and anger at not being able to save your romantic relationship with your partner. Therefore, it is inevitable that you try to cure this complex.

Here are some methods you can practice.

  • Acceptance – the road to healing begins with it. As an adult, you need to accept your feelings. Only then can you work on eliminating it. It is only with the acceptance that you’ll find the strength to motivate yourself
  • Stop identifying too much with your mother, specifically while trying to build a romantic relationship
  • Free yourself from the role of a child. Don’t try to make decisions based on what your mother would or wouldn’t think. Grow up independently as an adult
  • Channel your energies towards positive activities. Join a gym or sports clubs. Travel
  • Try to satisfy you satisfy your sexual urges through other mediums. Your mother isn’t the only way. Remember, you have to respect her and her dignity. There are other ways to satisfy your sexual desires. You can consult a sex counsellor if you’re unable to cope on your own
  • Consult a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst. The Oedipus complex is something purely psychological. Effective therapy sessions might help you overcome it

Sexual attraction towards your mother isn’t something unnatural or completely unheard of. But a failure to address it timely may have serious consequences. Every relationship has its own emotional, physical and social boundaries. And it’s better not to transgress them. Further, the notions of family and motherhood are sacred and honourable. One must abide by it, or the very stability of a society is destroyed.

From every aspect, the rules dictate that you respect and love your mother, not lust for her.

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