Saturday, October 29, 2011

mother complex

Freud is clearest about the "ego ideal" when he talks about it in relation to the narcissistic object choice:

The sexual ideal may enter into an interesting auxiliary relation to the ego ideal. It may be used for substitutive satisfaction where narcissistic satisfaction encounters real hindrances. In that case a person will love in conformity with the narcissistic type of object-choice, will love what he once was and no longer is, or else what possesses the excellences which he never had at all (cf. (c) [p. 90]). The formula parallel to the one there stated runs thus: what possesses the excellence which the ego lacks for making it an ideal, is loved. This expedient is of special importance for the neurotic, who, on account of his excessive object-cathexes, is impoverished in his ego and is incapable of fulfilling his ego ideal. He then seeks a way back to narcissism from his prodigal expenditure of libido upon objects, by choosing a sexual ideal after the narcissistic type which possesses the excellences to which he cannot attain. This is the cure by love, which he generally prefers to cure by analysis. (Freud, On Narcissism, p.101)

It is a drive to excellence. However, I believe that we must take excellence to be a standard that is evaluated by the symbolic order: through reputation and/or based upon the judgments of those who one considers an authority figure. The authority figure would be based through the symbolic order as well. The person has a position of symbolic repute. This means a higher degree or credentials, more money, or more prestigious clubs or organizations he belongs to.

In regards to the ideal of excellence there are myths that clearly link it with the woman as castrator.

You have Samson and Delilah in which Samson's strength is sapped from Delilah cutting his hair. I have called this a mother complex because the long hair which is symbolic of Samson's power is a maternal symbol and it's not a male figure but a female one who takes away his potency. One can also recall J. Edgar Hoover and other men in positions of power who were cross dressers to see that the mother provides the imago of power.

If I'm right the castrating woman of the mother complex should be differentiated from the phallic woman (who will be related to the castration complex). Freud offers the term 'mother complex' in relation to jealous rivalry with siblings that gives another etiology for homosexuality:

Observation has directed my attention to several cases in which during early childhood impulses of jealousy, derived from the mother-complex and of very great intensity, arose against rivals, usually older brothers. This jealousy led to an exceedingly hostile and aggressive attitude towards these brothers which might sometimes reach the pitch of actual death-wishes, but which could not maintain themselves in the face of the subject's further development. Under the influences of upbringing—and certainly not uninfluenced also by their own continuing powerlessness—these impulses yielded to repression and underwent a transformation, so that the rivals of the earlier period became the first homosexual love-objects (Freud, ‘Some Neurotic Mechanisms’ , p. 231).

While Freud focusses on the rivalry with others, Horney references the 'dread of the vagina' in relation to the 'castrating mother'/vagina dentata.

Tentatively we have in order

1. the urethral stage
2. the polyphallic stage (the mother complex)
3. The phallic-narcissistic stage (the castration complex)
Oedipus complex
4. the genital stage (the father complex, Oedipus complex)

I have the oedipus complex referenced twice because the first time is related to sexual impulses towards the mother and the second is related to feelings of love towards the parent/sibling. As I'll show, Freud oscillates back and forth between both.

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