The Oedipus complex
- Freud believed that children are born with powerful emotions and drives. As a child developes, the drives focus on different parts of their body. After birth, the focus is on the mouth and children explore the world through it. As children start to gain control of their bodily functions they move onto the anal stage where they get pleasure from retaining or expelling faeces. Then comes the phallic stage where the focus is on the genitals.
- The greek myth of Oedipus refers to a man who never knew his parents. As a man, he kills a king and marries a queen. He then finds out they were his parents.
- Freud saw the story as describing a childhood drama for all little boys. Their mother is the first source of affection and is the focus of their ****** feelings. During the phallic stage of development the boy wants to possess his mother and recognises competition with his father. He fears he will be punished for such wishes by castration but resolves the conflict by 'identifying the aggressor' and taking on the values and behaviour of his rival.
- Freud developed the idea of the unconscious by proposing a 'psychic structure' This is divided into the id, ego and superego.
- The id is a mass of pleasure-seeking desires. As you become socialised, the ego develops and controls the desires of your id. Finally you take on the ethics of other people, and this is your superego.
- The task of the ego is to maintain a balance between the id and the superego.
- Much of the id is in the unconscious.
- Test the theory of the oedipus conflict on a real child
- Test Freud's explanation of the genesis of phobias
Procedure, Method and Sample
- The participant in this case is a boy called 'Little Hans' who was aged between 3 and 5 during the period of study.
- Han's father recorded events and conversations with Hans and sent these regularly to Freud. Both Freud and the father offered interpretations of Han's behaviour. On one occasion, Hans was taken to meet Freud.
- Han's father was one of Freud's closest followers and was keen to put Freuds ideas of psychoanalysis into practice. Psychoanalysis involves the interpretation of a patients thoughts and fantasies so that the patient can come to understanding them themselves.
Hans' early life
- Just before he was three, Hans started to show a lively interest in his 'widdler'. Hans observed that animals had big ones, particularly horses. He assumed that both his parents must have big ones as they were fully grown.
- He got pleasure from touching his widdler and from excretion. Later, when he imagined having his own children, he imagined he would help them widdle and wipe their bottoms - performing those things that had given him pleasure. He kicked about when weeing/defecating showing pleasure.
- His mother found him playing with his penis: 'If you do that, I shall send for Doctor A to cut off your widdler'. This led to acquiring a castration complex which meant he had to repress his feelings of pleasure. Hans also felt sexual desire for his mother, which was repressed and expressed as an interest in other girls and wanting to kiss them.
- During his summer holiday Hans spent time alone with his mother while his father worked. Back home, he had to share his mother again. Hans wished his father to be permanently away.
- Hans expressed conflicting aggression and love towards his father by hitting him and then kissing the spot.
- When Hans was 3 and a half, his baby sister was born which further seperated him from his mother and reminding him of the attentions he used to recieve when he was a baby. Hans admitted that he had watched his sister have a bath and wished his mother would let her go. This desire became translated into a fear that his mother might let him go in the bath. Baths were womb-like and so related to the process of being born.
In summary, Hans felt anxious about his mother, father and sister.
Case History and Analysis
The Start of the Phobia
- Hans developed a fear that a white horse would bite him. Freud felt that Hans' real fear was that he would lose his mother. Freud explained the link between his anxieties and horses.
- Hans heard his father warn Hanna that a white horse might bite her if she touched it.
- His mother told him that it would not be proper if she touched his penis when Hans had asked her to once after a bath. 'If you put your finger on a white horse it will bite you, if someone put their finger on your widdler this was not proper.'
- Hans worried that his mother might leave him because she disapproved of his request. Hans desire for his mother was a product of sexual drive. His sexual drive was now linked to anxiety. In order to cope with this, the anxiety was transferred to horses and he became afraid of a white horse biting something that touched it.
- Horses image represented his father
- His father told him that women have no widdlers. Hans thought that his mother had a widdler before and now she hasn't. It must have been cut off. She said mine would be cut off if I touched it. She obviously wasnt joking because it happened to her.
Case History and Analysis 2
Further horse anxieties
- A fear of horses pulling heavily laden carts or a bus developed. This was related to an actual event. Once when Hans was walking with his mother they saw a horse pulling a bus fall down and kick its legs about. Hans was terrified - he thought the horse was dead. The fear also represented repressed anxieties.
- Hans wished his father dead. Horses resembled his father. Seeing the horse fall increased anxiety.
- Hans had become preoccupied with bowel movements. A laden cart was like a body full of faeces. Lumpf (poo) falling in the toilet made a noise similar to the horse falling.
- Laden cart was like a pregnant woman and babies were lumpf-like. All laden vehicles represented pregnancy.When they fall down it represents giving birth, which was linked to anxieties about his sister.
- Hans was particularly concerned with the horse 'kicking about' when it fell, which was linked to his own behaviour when defacating.
- The phobia kept him at home with his mother.
Case History and Analysis 3
- The dream about giraffes. 'In the night there was a big giraffe in the room and a crumpled one. The big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it. Then it stopped calling out and then I sat down on the crumpled one'. Hans father thought the big giraffe was himself/his penis and the crumpled one was the mothers genital organ
- Criminal fantasies. 'with my father in the train and we smashed a window and the policeman took us off with him' This represented wanting to do something forbidden to his mother which his father was also doing.
- Origin of babies. When Hanna was born Hans was told that the stork brought her but he didnt believe this and made up his own story that she must have been a lumpf inside his mother and that giving birth was like defacting.
Case History and Analysis 4
- The plumber. 'I was in the bath, and then the plumber came and unscrewed it. Then he took a big borer and stuck it in my stomach'. Hans' father interpreted this to 'I was in bed with mummy.Then Daddy came and sent me away. He pushed me away with his big penis'
There was also another fantasy. 'The plumber came and first he took away my behind with a pair of pincers, and then the same with my widdler' Presumably both the new widdler and backside were bigger. 'Like Daddy's'
These fantasies show that Hans was identifying with his father by wanting a behind and widdler like his fathers, and was therefore becoming more conscious of those feelings and resolving them.
- Knowing where babies come from. Hans' continued fear of baths represented an unconscious understanding of where babies come from and his interest of laden carts was his own answer. (He called them stork-box carts because his parents told him a stork brought the baby) His parents finally explained that 'babies come from inside mummy'. He then lost his fear of carts.
- Becoming the daddy. Hans always had an ongoing fantasy about his own children and how he was going to look after them. One day he was playing a game with these imaginary children and his father asked 'Are your children still alive?' Hans replied that boys couldnt have children, he had been their mummy but now he was their daddy. And Hans' father was the grandaddy. He had worked out a solution where his father was still part of the family and both were married to Hans' mother.Freud concluded that Hans had overcome his oedipus complex and was able to indentify with his father. He overcame his fear of horses.
- This is a case study because it observes the changes of an individual over a long period of time and is also longitudinal.
Theory of sexuality critisms and responses
- If Hans was abnormal we cant draw any conclusions about normal development. But such neuroses in early childhood are relatively normal.
- Analysis was conducted by his father and lacked objective worth. But, responses were not arbitrary. Hans did sometimes disagree with his father, and the close relationship was benificial.
- Freud concluded that the case study of Hans provided support for his ideas about infant sexuality. He was a perfect example of a 'little oedipus'.
- Freud explained phobias as the conscious expressions of repressed anxieties
- Hans' phobias were triggered by real events but represented unconscious anxieties created by conflicts over feelings towards his mother + father.
- Freud traced Hans' initial anxieties to sexual feelings towards his mother which led to a fear of losing her, castration anxiety and jealousy of his father.
Views on life and the upbringing of children
- Freud suggested that Hans' conflicts were relatively 'normal' and therefore the same could be said of the phobias.
- Freud concluded that it might be generally useful to apply the same principles of psychoanalysis to all children to free them of repressed wishes that inevitably arise during childhood.
- Child participant
- Psychological harm