You Keep Using That Word …


… I do not think it means what you think it means.

Bill Schmalfeldt doesn’t like being referred to as “oedipal.” He says that it means that he wants to have sex with his mother. This is the sort of thinking that might be expected from someone who gets his education in psychology from Tom Leher songs.

There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex.
You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud’s index
‘Cause he loved his mother.

Those of us who actually took PSYCH101 (I did almost 50 years ago) have a different understanding of “oedipal,” as it refers to the Oedipus Complex. According to Freud, all children go through a stage of attachment to the opposite sex parent that results in repressed anxiety with respect to the same sex parent. Psychologically healthy individuals mature past that phase. Unresolved son–father competition might result in a phallic stage fixation conducive to a boy becoming an aggressive, over-ambitious, vain man. Maturing past that phase and identifying with his father allows the boy to internalize morality. As he matures, he will choose to comply with societal rules, rather than reflexively complying in fear of punishment.

I have no idea about the actual state of the Cabin Boy’s psycho-social development. However, I can understand why someone might believe that he has developmental issues and refer to him as “oedipal.” That does’t imply that he wishes to have sex with anyone.

It would seem that his ignorance of Freudian psychology approaches his lack of knowledge of law.