Electra complex: What is it? Meaning and Resolution

that a daughter unconsciously nurtures for her mother, due to the loving projection towards the parent of the opposite sex (father).


The Electra complex is described as a normal transition phase of individual, relational and social maturation. The overcoming of this stage of evolutionary development is therefore essential for the future structuring of the personality.

Generally, the resolution of the Electra complex is spontaneous and involves the progressive identification with the parent of one's sex. In many cases, in fact, the phenomenon results in violent emotional conflicts and feelings of guilt, resulting in the discovery of the differences that allow the child to understand what role she must play in the relationship between the two sexes. During growth, the way in which the Electra complex is faced and overcome depends on how the evolutionary stages take place and on how the two parents build the relationship with their children.

, except for some important considerations which broaden the interpretation of the male variant.

Origin of the term

The expression "Electra complex" takes its name from the mythological character of Electra, who killed her mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge the death of her father Agamemnon. The myth of Electra is different from that of Oedipus (she did not marry her father , but he had him avenged in battle by his brother Oreste), but the psychological bases used for the psychoanalytic interpretation are identical.

What are the differences with the Oedipus complex?

The concept of the Electra complex was introduced by Carl Gustav Jung with the aim of investigating the differences between the psychosexual evolution of the two genders, that is, in the attitudes of attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex and jealousy towards the parent of the same. sex. More specifically, Jung modified the concept of the Oedipus complex, focusing on what happens in the growth process in girls and, in particular, during the Freudian phallic phase (3-6 years of age).

The crucial difference between the Oedipus complex and that of Electra lies in the role that the male sexual organ would play within the two situations, configuring the castration complex in the child and the envy in the penis in the girls.

Castration complex

In the Oedipus complex, the child begins to understand that he is not allowed to seduce his mother (according to Freud, this happens through paternal calls): meeting the limit of the prohibition and failing in these unconscious maneuvers, he will suffocate his own opposition and will be forced to postpone the satisfaction of one's instincts. The Oedipus complex will end up expressing itself, therefore, through attacks of anger and nightmares. This phase is defined by Freud as a castration complex: with regard to his own desire, the child believes that the punishment inflicted by the father is just.

Towards the age of five to six, the child will gradually give up taking the place of the parent of his own sex, rejecting his own emotions and passions in the unconscious. At this age, the child shifts his interest from the mother to another individual. female sex outside the family; moreover, he begins to share activities and adopts behaviors similar to those of his father, with whom he gradually identifies. The resolution of the Oedipus complex and castration anxiety leads to a psychic understanding of the differences between beings, between the sexes and between generations.

Penis envy

As for the female sex, the awareness of not having a penis would constitute a further reason for hostility towards the mother.

The phase of penis envy marks the transition from attachment to the mother to competition with her for the attention, recognition and affection of the father. This choice would be influenced by the goal of appropriating the paternal penis. In practice, girls do not suffer from the castration complex, that is, the fear of losing the penis, but they experience frustration at not having it: the mother is seen both as rival for possession of the father, and as responsible for having created them without penalties.

Again, the overcoming of this phase marks the transition towards a mature female sexuality and the development of a "gender identity. Towards the age of five or six, the girls will begin to do everything like their mother, which they take as an example. to follow.

. Freud argues, in particular, that the libido goes through various evolutionary phases correlated to different erogenous zones (that is, those parts of the body whose stimulation is a source of sexual pleasure).

To learn more, you can consult: Phases of the Oedipus Complex

If the drives during this personality structuring are not satisfied, the unconscious that governs the way we behave can induce the development of fixations that can give rise to psychological disturbances. Sigmund Freud developed the theory of psychosexual development focusing mainly on this. which happens in men and arguing that a similar situation was valid for girls.In the female sex, in reality, the stages of development are more complex and present important differences.

Jung's interpretation

Carl Gustav Jung tried to solve this "theoretical gap" by developing the concept of the Electra complex, according to which, during female psychosexual development, a girl is initially attached to her mother. When he discovers he does not have a penis, he becomes attached to his father and begins to develop a sense of competition and rejection towards the mother figure, which he blames for his "castration".

As a result, the child begins to identify and emulate her mother for fear of losing the target of her attention. The resolution of the Elettra complex leads to identification with the parent of the same sex.

Phases of the Electra Complex

The Electra complex is structured in five successive phases: oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital, according to the various erogenous zones of the child from which the libido originates.

The Electra complex begins in the child from the age of three. A daughter can strengthen the amorous projection towards her father, from whom she requires numerous manifestations of affection. In addition, the child tries to continually attract the attention of the father, often taking refuge in his arms. At the same time, the mother becomes a rival or is seen as a superfluous figure. In the worst cases, the child exhibits disrespectful and aggressive behaviors towards of the maternal figure, who is encouraged to move away from the father.

Between three and five years of age, the little girl begins to understand that she is not allowed to seduce her father and will be forced to postpone the satisfaction of her impulses.

Towards the age of five or six, the child will gradually give up taking the place of the parent of her own sex, rejecting her emotions in the unconscious. At this age, the interest shifts from the father to another male individual. "family outside; furthermore, the child begins to share activities and adopts behaviors similar to those of the mother, whom she considers an example to follow.

Giulia Bertelli

Graduated in Medical-Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, she worked as a Research and Development Officer in Food Supplements and Dietary Food companies
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