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 , analyzed the development of personality during the early stages of childhood to, from there, propose ideas about how these experiences leave a mark on the way of behavior and thought of human beings, once they became 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 presented as more than a simple adaptation of Oedipus to the female case. Let’s see what it’s about.
Starting with the precedent: Freud’s theories
As we saw in the article on Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, 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 lives.
The idea from which Freud started was that, depending on how we give in to our sexual urges during childhood and adolescence (and how successful we are in the task of correctly regulating libido), we will develop more or less psychological problems as we reach age. adult.
Thus, if we do not properly satisfy the part of our unconscious mind that, according to Freud, governs the way we behave, we will develop fixations that can lead to mental disorders and behaviors 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.
In it, male children go through the following stages:
- They begin to develop a strong desire for their mothers (or for 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 of their parents and begin to think in hostile terms. But at the same time, they fear them, since the father figure is seen as a superior and stronger version of themselves.
- At that moment, each child fears that his father will discover his feelings towards his mother . The way in which the greatest possible punishment is symbolized is castration.
The Carl Jung Electra complex
Although 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 what happens in men, leaving the development of women alone.
Carl Jung tried to solve this “theoretical vacuum” by developing his theory of the Electra complex around 1912.
Who was Electra?
Jung was an academic very focused on the study of symbology, as he 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 on archetypes). That is why, among other things, it is that, in order to define the Oedipus complex, the part of Homeric Greek mythology is narrated in which the life of Electra , daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra , king and queen of Mycenae, is narrated.
Legend has it that it was Electra’s mother or her lover who killed Agamemnon after he returned from the Trojan War . Electra then decided that her mother and lover should die, and encouraged her brother Orestes to avenge their father in carrying out the murders.
The features 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. While it is true that the initial situation is similar, the father’s attraction to the daughter and that this crush on the father causes a rivalry with the mother, there are differences between the Oedipus complex theory and the complex theory. from Electra.
The bond with the mother
Carl Jung believed that the emotional bond between daughter and mother is closer than that between son and father; therefore, the Electra complex is usually more disguised, since the degree of attachment is greater and compensates for the rivalry between mother and daughter.
According to Jung, at first, girls are attracted to their fathers and mothers, although a short time later they focus only on the father as a result of a species conservation mechanism.
fear of punishment
While in the Oedipus complex, the male son is afraid that his father will punish him, in the Electra complex, the daughter concludes that she has already been castrated.
The resolution of the Electra complex
For both Freud and Jung, the passage through the Oedipus and Electra complexes, respectively, are phases that are part of the normal development of most children . In some way, they indicate how the psychic development of human beings is taking place from the first years of life.
That is why they believed that both phenomena were resolved within a period of 2 or 3 years, while in some cases the rivalry between sons and daughters and daughters and mothers remains ingrained and causes their relationship to deteriorate.
It must be remembered that the Electra complex and the Oedipus complex are part of ideas that are totally outdated and widely rejected in contemporary scientific psychology ; This means that no parent should be afraid of developing bad bonds with their children because of the mismanagement of these processes which, 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 of this fact, so that philosophers of science, among whom Karl Popper highlighted, rejected the approaches of these authors for being interpretable. too much. and ambiguous, of little use to analyze specific cases.
However, this does not mean that it is not useful to know these theories, as they are very much embedded in the cultural legacy of Western countries . Thus, the Electra complex has been used in literature, cinema and in all kinds of forms of artistic expression, and even as a hermeneutic tool with which to analyze and interpret historical, social and political events of all kinds.