Art of Psychiatry Society

Oedipus through the life cycle: Childhood
June 5, 2012, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Other

Institute of Psychoanalysis. 19 May 2012
Beate Schumacher, Vivian Green, chaired by Jenny stoker

The Institute of Psychoanalysis is currently hosting a dynamic series of lectures, film screenings and workshops under the name ‘Beyond the Couch’. These aim to engage the public and the wider psychotherapeutic community in a dialogue on the  contemporary aspects of psychoanalysis in modern life.

A recent Saturday morning lecture entitled ‘Oedipus Through the Life Cycle: Childhood’ used two case presentations to examine the clinical and therapeutic importance of the oedipal developmental stage (and its successful navigation) within psychoanalysis. Freud took his inspiration from Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus is doomed to kill his father, Laertes, and marry his mother, Jocasta. When they discover what they have done, guilt, shame and suicide follow. It is a tale of love and desire on both sides. It was posited by Freud (and later developed by Melanie Klein) as a fundamental stage in emotional development, consisting mainly of unconscious feelings of wanting to possess the parent of the opposite sex.

The first case was presented by Beate Schumacher, ‘How Can You Remember the Name of the Father? On the oedipal development of a single mother’s daughter.’ This addressed how the oedipus complex can develop and resolve appropriately when the parent of the opposite sex is absent. The case followed 6 year-old Stephanie who was likeable, curious but behaviourally troubled. She was brought into analysis by her mother concerned about her behaviour at home and with her peers. Schumacher looked at the case as one of disturbed oedipal development; how can one navigate this stage without a father? But there is always a third, put by Britton as ‘the crucial importance of the three points of the psychic triangle’ and Schumacher used Lacan’s concept of ‘the name of the father’ to conceptualise Stephanie’s difficulties and our understanding of this stage.

Viviane Green presented the second case of a man in his late thirties addicted to internet pornography. She took us through the case from a developmental perspective, looking at the symptoms as taken from the unresolved oedipal stage into adulthood. Pornography is seen here as a form of omnipotent seduction, with no need to account for the other. This has obvious parallels in that relinquishing omnipotence within (sexual) relationships is part of Oedipal development. Heather Woods is a psychoanalyst with an interest in this area and has suggested that pornography ‘colludes with a person’s wishes but conceals from them their origin and meaning’  and this, according to Viviane Green, is this way addiction to pornography acts like a classic psychoanalytic symptom (and relates to Oedipal development).

There was a good deal of time given for discussion and questions which allowed for points to be clarified and difficult concepts elaborated on. All in all, a very interesting and enriching experience that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in psychoanalytic work.

Dr Lisa Conlan
ST6 General Adult Psychiatry

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