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What is the Electra complex?

What is the Electra complex?

May 6, 2021

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

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

The Electra 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 proposed as something more than a simple adaptation of the Oedipus to the female case. Let's see what this is about.


Starting with the precedent: Freud's theories

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

The idea from which Freud left was that, depending on the way in which we give vent to our sexual impulses during childhood and early adolescence (and the success we have in the task of correctly regulating libido) we will develop more or less psychological problems to reach the adult stage.

So, if we do not properly satisfy that part of our unconscious mind that, 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 3 and 6 years old.

In it, the sons go through the following phases:

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

The Electra complex by Carl Jung


Despite the fact that many of the people with whom he treated in the clinical setting were female patients, Sigmund Freud developed a theory of psychosexual development centered basically on the case of what happens in men, leaving cornered the development of the women.

Carl Jung tried to solve this "theoretical vacuum" by developing his theory of the Electra complex towards 1912.

Who was Electra?

Jung was an academic very focused on the study of symbolism, since it had a lot of weight in his ideas about the way in which the human mind is, in part, collective and subject to the symbols used in culture. (See his theory about archetypes). That is why, among other things, that in order to define the Oedipus complex, he focused on the part of the Homeric Greek mythology in which the life of Electra , the daughter of Agamemnon Y Clytemnestra , King and Queen of Mycenae.

Legend has it that it was Electra's own mother, or her lover, who killed Agamemnon after he came back from the Trojan War . Electra decided then that her mother and lover should die, and encouraged her brother Orestes so that he would avenge the father of both 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 like this. While it is true that the initial situation is similar, the attraction to the father by the daughter, and that this love of the father causes a rivalry to arise to the mother, there are differences between the theory of the Oedipus complex and that of the complex. of Electra.

The link with the mother

Carl Jung believed that the emotional bond between the daughter and her mother is narrower than that between the son and the father, so the Electra complex tends to be more disguised, since the degree of attachment is greater and compensates for the rivalry between mother and daughter.

An incipient Oedipus

According to Jung, at first the girls are attracted to both their parents and their mothers, although soon after they move to focus only on the father as a result of a mechanism of conservation of the species.

The fear of punishment

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

The resolution of the Electra complex

Both according to Freud and according to Jung, the passage through the Oedipus and Electra complexes, respectively, they are phases that are part of the normal development of most children . In some way, they point out how the psychic development of human beings is being produced from their first years of life.

That is why they believed that both phenomena were resolved within 2 or 3 years, while in a few cases the rivalry between children and parents and daughters and mothers is entrenched and makes their relationship deteriorate.

A reminder

It should be remembered that both the Electra and the Oedipus complex are part of totally outdated ideas and widely rejected in contemporary scientific psychology ; This means that no father or mother should be afraid of developing bad links with their children because of mismanagement of these processes that, in reality, only exist in the theories of Freud and Jung.

The theories proposed by these two authors use soft thinking and metaphors as ways of understanding the human mind, prisoner this fact served for philosophers of science, among which Karl Popper stressed, rejected the approaches of these authors for being too interpretable and ambiguous, of little use to analyze specific cases.

However, this does not mean that it is not useful to know these theories, they are very incorporated into 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 with which to analyze and interpret historical, social and political events of all kinds.


Daddy Issues Explained - Freud's PsychoSexual Developmental Stages (May 2021).


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