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 stream and a disciple of Sigmund Freud, focused on the development of the personality during the early stages of childhood to, from there, offer ideas on how these experiences mark the way of behaving and thinking. human beings once they have become adults.

The Electra complex, related to the theory of psychosexual development, is how Jung adapts Freud’s Oedipus complex to the case of women. However, it arises as something more than a simple adaptation of Oedipus to the female case. Let’s see what it is.

Starting from the precedent: Freud’s theories

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

The idea that Freud started from was that, depending on how we vent our sexual urges during childhood and early adolescence (and how successful we are at the task of regulating libido well), we will develop more or less psychological problems until adulthood.

So if we don’t properly satisfy that part of our unconscious that, according to Freud, governs the way we behave, we will develop fixations that can give way to mental disorders already behaviors considered sexually aberrant. From a psychoanalytic point of view, sexual energy acts as one of the main sources of motivation, so that if it is not possible to give it an outlet, it leads to the accumulation of this energy, to the pressure from the rest of the psychic. examples, already aberrant ways of behaving.

The Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex is one of the phenomena which, according to Sigmund Freud, appears at the so-called phallic stage of psychosexual development, Between 3 and 6 years old.

In it, boys go through the following phases:

  • They begin to develop a strong desire for their mothers (Or to women who play the role of mothers).
  • They observe that the mother has a strong emotional and intimate connection with her husband, that is, the father, and they spend time alone.
  • They develop jealousy towards their parents and they start to think of him in hostile terms. But at the same time, they fear them, because the father figure is seen as a higher and stronger version of themselves.
  • At this point, every child is afraid that their father will find out about the feelings they have towards their mother.. The way the greatest possible punishment is symbolized is castration.

Carl Jung’s Electra Complex

Although most of the people he dealt with in the clinical setting were female patients, Sigmund Freud developed a theory of psychosexual development focused primarily on the case of what happens in men, leaving the development of women.

Carl Jung attempted to resolve this “theoretical gap” by developing his theory of the Electra complex. circa 1912.

Who was Electra?

Jung was a scholar very focused on the study of symbolism, as he had a lot of weight in his ideas about how the human mind is, in part, collective and subject to the symbols used in culture. (See his theory on archetypes). This is why, among other things, to define the Oedipus complex, he looked at the part of Homeric Greek mythology in which the life of Oedipus is told. Electra, The daughter of Agamemnon I Clytemnestra, King and Queen of Mycenae.

Legend has it that it was Electra’s own mother, or her lover, who killed Agamemnon after returning from the Trojan War. Electra then decided that her mother and her lover had to die and encouraged her brother Orestes so that he would avenge the father of the two 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’s not exactly the same as this one. While it is true that the initial situation is similar, the attraction to the father by the daughter, and that this fall in love with the father gives rise to a rivalry with 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 the daughter and her mother was closer than that between the son and the father, so the Electra complex is usually more disguised, as the degree of affection is older and compensates for the rivalry between mother and daughter.

A nascent Oedipus

According to Jung, at first the daughters are attracted to both their father and mother, although soon afterwards they only focus on the father due to a species conservation mechanism.

Fear of punishment

While in the Oedipus complex the male son is afraid that his father will castrate him, in the Electra complex the daughter comes to the conclusion that she has already been castrated.

The resolution of the Electra complex

According to Freud and Jung, the passage through the Oedipus and Electra complexes, respectively, these are phases that are part of the normal development of most boys and girls. In one way or another, they highlight how the psychic development of human beings unfolds from their first years of life.

This is why they believed that the two phenomena were resolved in 2-3 years, while in a few cases the rivalry between sons and fathers and daughters is ingrained and causes a deterioration in their relationship.

a reminder

We must not forget that the Electra and Oedipus complexes are part of totally outdated ideas and largely rejected in contemporary scientific psychology; this means that no parent should be afraid of developing bad bonds with their children due to mismanagement of these processes which, in reality, exist only in the theories of Freud and Jung.

The theories proposed by these two authors use gentle thinking and metaphors as a means of understanding the human mind, taken this fact has served to cause philosophers of science, including Karl Popper, to reject the views of these authors. use in the analysis of specific cases.

However, that does not mean that it is not useful to know about these theories, so they are deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of Western countries. Thus, the Electra complex has been used in literature, cinema and all kinds of forms of artistic expression, and even as a hermeneutical tool for analyzing and interpreting historical, social and political events of all kinds.

Bibliographical references:

  • Arlow, B. (1964), Psychoanalytic Concepts and Structural Theory. New York: International University Press.
  • Clay, C. (2018). Labyrinths: Emma, ​​her marriage to Carl Jung and the early years of psychoanalysis. Madrid: editions in three points.
  • Frey-Rohn, L. (1991, 2006). From Freud to Jung. Mexico: Fund for Economic Culture.
  • Grünbaum, A. (1984). The foundations of psychoanalysis: a philosophical critique. University of California Press.

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