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Int J Psychoanal. 2006 Jun;87(Pt 3):651-66.

Reading Loewald: Oedipus reconceived.


Loewald's 'Waning of the Oedipus complex' is a watershed paper in the history of psychoanalytic thought. By means of a close reading of Loewald's paper, the author frames, discusses and clinically illustrates his understanding of Loewald's reconceptualization of the Oedipus complex. The principal elements of Loewald's reformulation include: 1) the idea that the tension between the pressures of parental infl uence and the child's innate need to establish his own capacities for originality lies at the core of the Oedipus complex; 2) the notion that oedipal parricide is driven, most fundamentally, by the child's 'urge for emancipation.' Parricide involves a revolt against, and an appropriation of, parental authority; 3) the idea that the child atones for the act of parricide by internalizing a transformed version of the child's experience of the oedipal parents. This results in an alteration of the very structure of the child's self (i.e. in the formation of the superego as the agency of autonomy and responsibility); 4) the notion that, in the child's appropriation of parental authority, he in reality 'kill[s] something vital in them...[thus] contributing to their dying' and to the succession of generations; and 5) the idea that the incestuous component of the Oedipus complex involves, in health, the creation of a transitional incestuous object relationship which, over the course of one's life, mediates the interplay between undifferentiated and differentiated aspects of self and relatedness to others. The author concludes with a comparison of Freud's and Loewald's conceptions of the Oedipus complex.

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