Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oedipus vs. Bellerophon: the nuclear complex

This is a short summary on my work on the phallic stages leading to the Oedipus complex. To accept mental bisexuality and see active-masculine and passive-feminine trends as separate (i.e. a two sex theory and not a one sex theory with the other sex as a reaction formation) it deserves its own complex and all signs point to Bellerophon.

update: Bellerophon's parallels to Oedipus were the first thing to open my eyes to a new mythical designation but since there are four positions there should be four nuclear complexes. They are discussed on July 20th's post.

Based upon my research into the literature I’ve been able to identify that there is an active-masculine Oedipus complex and a passive-feminine Oedipus complex. Furthermore, the first object both the boy and the girl take is the mother (“positive” in the active and “negative” in the passive) and the second object is the father (“negative” in the active and “positive” in the passive). With the active Oedipus complex social anxiety regarding authorities replaces castration anxiety signals, and at the subsequent stage, which Freud calls the father-complex conscience capable of guilt is erected. Freud, following Alfred Adler, also draws attention to the ‘masculine protest’ that is part of the castration complex. As opposed to castration as ‘signal anxiety’ in the Oedipus complex, the castration complex involves a stage preceding the Oedipus complex. In it the active-masculine trend is incapable of allowing the individual to defer or be passive before another man (or would-be competitor). In essence the castration complex represents a regression from the Oedipus complex and helps to define it as centered around the ability of the active-masculine trend to accept or defer to a group leader. Norman O. Brown, Ernest Becker, Joyce McDougall and several writers have defined the perverse solution of the Oedipus complex as becoming one’s own father. In other words, the father is the first ‘group leader’ the child encounters (i.e. the leader of the family) and by not identifying with his ‘procreator’ he is forced to ‘make a name for himself’ through personal success.

Following the work of Chasseguet-Smirgel, and other writers on hysteria, the Oedipus complex for the passive-feminine trend has different aims. While the active-masculine trend is encountering social anxiety and heading towards conscience qua guilt, the feminine trend is heading towards self-assertion and independence in the Oedipus complex and leaving behind the feminine forms of conscience that exist earlier. The passive-feminine trend at its height in the castration complex is the complimentary binary of altruism to the masculine egoism, and the encounter in the Oedipus complex represents the father in the role of someone who fosters independence. For the feminine trend in an individual to regress back to the castration complex, as Freud and Chasseguet-Smigel see it, is to feel hopeless, depressed, and incapable of self-assertion (i.e. penis envy in Analysis Terminable and Interminable). Self-assertion is experienced as ‘castrating the mother’ while the masculine feels castrated whenever he isn’t ‘on top’ or besting a would-be competitor. Jealousy in regards to  the sexual object and jealousy of the recognition another receives is the key affect of the active-masculine phallic phase while vicarious pleasure through the love object is the social and sexual form of the passive-feminine. As Deutsch puts it, sex is something the man wants and the woman gives it to him for his happiness which becomes her own. Similarly, to become a function of his or her personality or enable him or her to maintain the feeling of being  powerful is the vicarious social pleasure.   

It follows from this the identification with the father following the Oedipus complex changes ‘castration anxiety’, or what Freud identifies as the fear of the loss of love in the woman, into social anxiety related to actualizing self-assertion. Thus, the ‘father complex’, in the passive-feminine is where genuine competitive striving enters and the poles of egoism and altruism undergo a reversal in which morality qua guilt and a sense of duty is set up in the masculine and the feminine pursues glamour and a sense of independence. This female Oedipus complex, has always been noted in what is termed ‘fear of success’ or fear of surpassing (maybe even being equal to) one’s own father. I propose it be called the Bellerophon complex since this myth shares many parallels with the Oedipus myth. Both deal with the overcoming of a monster possessing part of a lion (Sphinx and Chimera) and end with the hero being blinded. Bellerophon is blinded when he falls into a thorn-bush after he had attempted to fly up to Olympus to join the gods and Zeus caused him to fall for his hubris.

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