What is the Electra complex?

What is the Electra complex?

The Electra complex is one of the most famous concepts proposed by Carl Gustav Jung.

This author, as a member of the psychodynamic current and a disciple of Sigmund Freud, focused on the development of personality during the early stages of childhood and, from there, proposed ideas on how these experiences leave a mark on the way of behaving and thinking of human beings once they have become adults.

Electra’s complex, linked to the theory of psychosexual development, is the way in which Jung adapts Freud’s Oedipus complex to the case of women. However, it is conceived as more than a simple adaptation of the Oedipus to the female case.Let’s see what it is about.

Starting with the precedent: Freud’s theories

As we saw in Freud’s article on the theory of psychosexual development, the father of psychoanalysis came to place great importance on the way sexuality is managed during the first months and years of our lives.

Freud’s idea was that, depending on the way in which we give way to our sexual impulses during childhood and early adolescence (and on how successful we are in regulating our libido correctly), we will develop more or less psychological problems when we reach adulthood.

Thus, if we do not correctly satisfy that part of our unconscious mind which, according to Freud, governs our way of behaving, we will develop fixations that can give way to mental disorders and to behaviors that were considered sexually aberrant.

The Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex is one of the phenomena that, according to Sigmund Freud, appears in the so-called phallic stage of psychosexual development , between the ages of 3 and 6.

In it, the male children go through the following phases:

  • They start to develop a strong desire towards their mothers (or towards women who play the role of mothers).
  • They observe that the mother has a strong emotional and intimate bond with her husband, that is, the father, and that they spend time alone.
  • They develop jealousy towards their parents and start thinking about him in hostile terms. But, at the same time, they are afraid of them, since the figure of the father is seen as a superior and stronger version of themselves.
  • At that time, every child fears that his father will discover his feelings towards his mother . The way in which the greatest possible punishment is symbolized is castration.

Carl Jung’s Electra complex

Despite the fact that many of the people he dealt with in the clinical setting were female patients, Sigmund Freud developed a theory of psychosexual development that focused primarily on the case of men, leaving women’s development behind.

Carl Jung tried to fill this “theoretical gap” by developing his theory of the Electra complex around 1912.

Who was Electra?

Jung was a scholar who was very focused on the study of symbolism, since it carried a lot of weight in his ideas about the way the human mind is, in part, collective and subject to the symbols used in culture. (see his theory on archetypes). That is why, among other things, to define the Oedipus complex he looked at the part of Homeric Greek mythology in which the life of Electra , the daughter of Agamemnon and Clitemnestra , king and queen of Mycenae, is narrated.

Legend has it that it was Electra’s own mother, or her lover, who killed Agamemnon after he returned from the Trojan War . Electra then decided that her mother and her lover should die, and encouraged her brother Orestes to avenge their father by carrying out the murders.

The characteristics of the Electra complex

The Electra complex can be understood as the female version of the Oedipus complex , but it is not exactly the same as this one. Although it is true that the initial situation is similar, the attraction to the father on the part of the daughter, and that this infatuation with the father causes a rivalry to arise towards the mother, there are differences between the theory of the Oedipus complex and that of the Electra complex.

The bond with the mother

Carl Jung believed that the emotional bond between daughter and mother is closer than that between son and father, so Electra’s complex is often more disguised, as the degree of attachment is greater and compensates for the rivalry between mother and daughter.

An incipient Oedipus

Freud’s idea was that, depending on the way in which we give way to our sexual impulses during childhood and early adolescence (and on how successful we are in regulating our libido correctly), we will develop more or less psychological problems when we reach adulthood.

Thus, if we do not correctly satisfy that part of our unconscious mind which, according to Freud, governs our way of behaving, we will develop fixations that can give way to mental disorders and to behaviors that were considered sexually aberrant.

The Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex is one of the phenomena that, according to Sigmund Freud, appears in the so-called phallic stage of psychosexual development , between the ages of 3 and 6.

In it, the male children go through the following phases:

  • They start to develop a strong desire towards their mothers (or towards women who play the role of mothers).
  • They observe that the mother has a strong emotional and intimate bond with her husband, that is, the father, and that they spend time alone.

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