Oedipus Complex and Electra Complex

“We cannot get away from the assumption that man’s sense of guilt springs from the Oedipus complex and was acquired at the killing of the father by the brothers banned together.” –Freud, 1930


When I talked about repression mechanism in my last post, I mentioned that Oedipus Complex is the most infamous example. The reason is that most people don’t admit they have that kind of desire described in the theory. So, what exactly is Oedipus Complex?

According to Freud, boys will experience Oedipus Complex at the age from 3 to 5. During that age period, boys wish to stay with their mothers and sometimes hate their fathers, even wish their fathers to die. The opposite is the Electra Complex. Girls are fixated on their mothers and compete with their mothers for maternal attention. This is the reason most people deny this theory because it makes them evil. However, it is actually a nature development process, everyone experiences that. As people grow older, those desires will change to someone or something else.

Stages of Freud’s Oedipus Complex



“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
― Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalysis is a set of theories related to the study of the unconscious mind. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, established the disciplines in the early 1890s.


You must have seen some cartoons like the picture above: a character with a devilish incarnation of him or herself on the shoulder, and an angelic one on the other. According to psychoanalysis, although we can’t see those two little incarnations on our shoulder, we have them in our mind.

Central idea of psychoanalysis is that lots of human desires are beneath the level of conscious awareness. Those desires just spilling over as a neurotic tic occasionally. Also, sex plays a big role in this theory. We tend to deny some of our unacceptable desires with the repression mechanism. Freud believed a common source of psychic conflict comes from sexual fantasies in childhood. The most infamous example is the Oedipus complex, which I will explain in my next weeks’ post.

Critiques points that what psychoanalysis claims are untestable. But there are examples in today’s research showing that repression mechanism do exist.


behaviorism quote

In 1913, John B. Watson, the American psychologist, pointed out that human learning could be studied like Ivan Pavlov’s dogs. That’s the start of behaviorism.

Pavlov dog’s experiment 

Behaviorism belongs to science of psychology. It focuses on human’s measurable behaviors and see how those behaviors determine or effect their further actions. For example, by rewarding some behaviors and punishing for others, young children can learn how to behave themselves. There’s even thoughts that with appropriate condition, people can turn young children in any type of expected person.

This theory dominated the science of psychology for half a century until 1960s. People started to realize that thoughts inside our heads cannot be measured, so the behavior would be hard to predict or determine. Also, evolutionary psychology made people think about the inheritance of intelligence and personality, and could hardly be learned.

Although behaviorism is no longer a dominant force in psychology, the findings of theory are still widely applied, especially in education and therapy. When you buy your child a toy because he or she achieved a goal, you are using it.