The Strange World of Emotion

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Oedipus and Electra

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Sexuality and Mood

I did nearly all my analysis of sexuality during my 40s and early 50s. I explored the various ways in which sexuality both excited me and repulsed me: the repulsion was due to my underlying hatred and bitterness towards it.

I give my attitudes and day-dreaming preferences for the period of my analysis. The difference nowadays is that I have let go of most of my bitterness, and I seldom dream of sexual themes.

There are differences in my responses to sexuality, depending on which emotion I am currently experiencing. As my emotions change, my responses change as well. This is especially noticeable in phantasy or day-dreaming.

Sub - Headings
Reversal of  Values 
Jealousy and Guilt
Symbolism in sex
Oedipus complex
Symbolism in practice

The love modes of narcissism and jealousy produce phantasies of love, with the jealous one featuring caring attitudes as well. Narcissism in vanity mode generates sexual phantasies that are exciting. Jealousy in self-pity mode gives rise to sexual desire, the desire for sexual intercourse as the sensuous way of seeking social approval. [¹]

Social situations create a burden for me: now sexual desire associates my relationships with guilt (mode of self-hate). This link is also true of phantasies of sexual desire, but social situations give intensity to the guilt.

In general, when I indulge in sexual attraction I am free from guilt. But when I generate sexual desire then guilt is always just below the surface of my mind. [²]. However, there is another factor present as well. Many of my memories of non-sexual social activity are associated with bitterness. Whereas, memories of my activities as an individual within the social context (such as my times within anarchistic communities) are free from such taint.

The association of guilt with a memory is a product of my mystical desire for absorption in ultimate reality (Nirvana) ; this ideal has the effect of arousing the desire for purity. The caring aspect of jealousy is acceptable but I have to reject both the excitement and sensuality of sexuality. When my social activities are unskilful then the memories become linked to bitterness ; the bitterness acts as a reminder to eliminate such weakness from my character. For an individual, bitterness is much more difficult to manage than guilt.

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Reversal of Values

Moral conditioning and puberty together produce a problem: the social control of sexuality means that shame and guilt become linked to sexual desire. Under the impact of a deep psycho-analysis, catharsis removes the final barriers to sexual forbiddenness and reveals the consequences of such a link. Neither shame nor guilt is an agreeable emotion. Therefore, within the subconscious mind, the child is driven to change the shame and guilt into more appealing emotions. This is achieved through catharsis, since catharsis has the effect of reversing values. [³].

When the child becomes an adult he turns to compensatory activities and desires in order to reverse the values of sexual ‘normality’.

The child and adult use excitement as the way to make sexual desire more appealing. Excitement generates catharsis, and catharsis is the means of reversing values from prim and proper to exotic. The shame of sex is reversed and generates the contrary desire for non-genital stimulation, such as oral sex. The guilt of sex reverses into the desire (in a heterosexual male) for anal sex.

These consequences can have long-term effects. Over a period of many incarnations these contrary desires help to change the sexual orientation of a person, from heterosexual to homosexual, and from homosexual to heterosexual.

The need for social conformity may reduce the intensity of the reversed values to mild curiosity, and a moralistic upbringing may keep them severely repressed. But they are there in the background, exerting their influence.

What these ideas imply is that forms of sexual activity which are more than conventional procreative activity are done primarily from subconscious social conditioning, and a sufficiently-deep analysis will eliminate the necessity to practise them or to phantasise about them. After analysis, any practise will be through choice and not through conditioning.

I put these views in another way. The desires for oral and anal sex arise from shame and guilt. Oral and anal sex transform any feelings of degradation into feelings of excitement, in exactly the same way that catharsis does. All exciting sexual practices arise as compensation to subconscious feelings of sexual degradation. The sequence of emotions that is followed by the abreaction of guilt underlies all sexual activity. Therefore, in my view, all sexual activity can be considered to be just the abreaction of sexual anxiety. The sexual excitement initiates catharsis and reverses values, reverses the feelings of Puritanism and disgust into feelings of naughty immorality.

Now, however, a difference appears, a difference from the normal course of abreaction. In the sexual situation the partners can mutually arrest the abreactive sequence. If pleasure is fulfilled, then the person experiences only the stages narcissism and jealousy of moral abreaction ; the stage of guilt is prevented by achieving social approval from a satisfied partner. But if the person is frustrated or rebuffed then the abreactive sequence ends in guilt and resentment as usual (the rebuffed person might feel that his sexual lust is ‘dirty’, and so become distressed).

The abreaction is in feeling mode and so does not require insight to initiate it. [4]. As such the sequence, and hence all sexual activity, can be repeated to infinity. Anxiety is temporarily discharged, but because there is no insight into its cause it rapidly accumulates again, ready to be discharged in the next sexual romp. Since anxiety is not permanently removed, so sexual activity is not likely to lead to improvement in character.

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Jealousy and Guilt

The link between jealousy and guilt can be quite intimate. In the sequences of the abreaction of guilt, jealousy arises before guilt. However, in everyday life, jealousy often follows guilt : jealous love arises so as to neutralise feelings of guilt in the mode of self-hate. This link is caused by identification, so the adult is still reacting from a strategy evolved in infancy. [5]

Regularly during my self-analysis I went through periods of guilt (mode of self-hate), and regularly these periods were followed by sexual phantasies. These phantasies began with tantalising feelings of jealous love, then after some time I would become aware of the switch of jealousy to self-pity mode and sexual desire ; as the switch occurred so anxiety invaded my eyes and my mind became dull (as a result of the self-pity).

Dullness is rather like a heaviness that swamps the mind, making the mind lose its sparkle. The onset of dullness is more easily observed in phantasy than in social situations. [5a]

The link between guilt and jealousy is often strikingly noticeable in dreams. I would go to bed in a mood of guilt ; this would evaporate during sleep and I would awake at night into a sexual dream. This link indicates a reversal of values. Guilt in self-hate mode is the basis of the desire for purity, especially sexual purity ; however, once it fades away it is replaced by the very opposite desire, the desire for jealous sexiness. Hence the ascetic person in his pursuit of purity finds himself beset with sexual dreams ; if it does not drive him crazy then he is likely to father a large number of babies (as happened in early Protestantism).

In my view, guilt in the mode of self-hate, together with anxiety as a secondary factor, is the basis of the compulsiveness of sexual desire. The intensity of the guilt is handled by ‘displacement’: the person displaces the compulsiveness of his guilt feelings into the compulsive pursuit of sexual experience.

Sexual guilt energises sexual desire.

Once the intensity of the guilt is reduced, perhaps even eliminated, by insight into its cause then sexual desire loses its intensity too – then it becomes easier to handle.

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Symbolism in Sex

Freud postulated that the castration complex exists. I agree with him. The difficulty is to prove that symbolic complexes have a real existence. A round-about way of verifying a complex is to see if its binary form occurs. If a subconscious complex does in fact exist, then in suitable circumstances, when the intensity of it becomes great enough, either it or its binary form must manifest in a physical or social practice. [ Emotions can be grouped into pairs, or binaries. [6]. Therefore, complexes which are based on emotional mood can also be grouped into pairs or binaries].

The binary form of the castration complex I take to be the practice of cocksucking. The excitement of having his cock sucked removes the fear within the man’s castration complex. The excitement of cocksucking begins a mini-catharsis. The catharsis reverses values. The anxiety of the castration complex transforms into the excitement of having the cock valued. For contrast, in normal sexual intercourse it is the man that is valued, not the cock – hence normal sexual intercourse is unlikely to remove the fear of the castration complex.

Unwholesome sexual attitudes can result from mis-guided medical or religious customs. One day I diagnosed the cause of my childhood voyeurism. My parents had me circumcised when I was about ten years old. Suddenly my cock became important. Voyeurism now appeared, though I knew nothing of sex. How does circumcision affect the child ?  Consider the symbolism of sexual phantasy and practice. Circumcision is an extremely effective way to generate the castration complex, and is likely to lead (when the child has become an adult) to the excitement of oral sex as a compensation, or at least to make oral sex seem glamorous. So circumcision links religious practice to ‘immoral’ sexual desires and activity.

Therefore, if circumcision is necessary, it should only be performed on adults
who understand its significance, and not on children

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One night I dreamt of myself as Oedipus, but my version was different from that of tradition (which is, primarily, that a man has a sexual fixation for an older woman). In the dream I was both son and mother. My Oedipus was possessive and jealous. That was the essence of the dream. This is the myth of the Oedipus complex.

I can interpret this myth in a different way from Freud’s view. Freud thought that the son saw the father as a rival, and that the two eventually came into conflict, ending with the death of the father. I see this scenario as a different theme, based on envy and not jealousy. In my view, the Oedipus complex is based on jealousy, and relates only to the son - mother relationship ; the son - father relationship is based on envy and so is not a part of the Oedipus complex, but is an optional extra. [7]

I can interpret this myth of Oedipus as a problem in identification. Both the son and the mother are a part in relation to a whole, which is the totality of the relationship that exists between them. At a later date I used this dream to finalise my view on the Oedipus and Electra complexes – the latter being Freud’s term for the sexual fixation of a female child to an older man.

For me, the Oedipus complex means that I am both son and mother. Within this structure I often had two sexual motifs in my reveries :

a). Me as a male child who sexually preferred older women.
b). Me as a mother who sexually liked young boys.

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Occasionally my phantasising had produced another motif : I was a young girl who sexually liked older men. I coupled this with other occasional reveries that I had which were that I was an older man who liked young girls. By analogy to my Oedipal traits, I now see the Electra complex as being one where the female child is both daughter and father. This view means that, for me, the Electra complex has two sexual motifs :

c). A girl who sexually prefers older men.
d). A girl who sees herself as an older man (the father) that sexually prefers young girls.

Does this mean that there are four kinds of identification with the parents ?  No. There are only two parents so there can only be two kinds of identification.

Putting motifs (a) and (b) together as one complex implies that a relationship of a young man with an older woman is an Oedipal relationship for both of them. A woman has an Oedipus complex if she sexually prefers younger men.

Putting motifs (c) and (d) together as one complex implies that a relationship of a young girl with an older man is an Electra relationship for both of them. A man has an Electra complex if he sexually prefers younger women.

When we consider the sexual abuse of children by the parents it is usually channelled through the pattern of the father’s Electra complex or the mother’s Oedipus complex. That is, the man abuses the girl, and the mother the son. By comparison, discipline is exerted through the parent’s homosexual component (father to boy, mother to girl). The link between sexuality and masochism /sadism occurs when a heterosexual boy is disciplined by the mother and a homosexual boy by the father.

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Oedipus Complex

I summarise the meaning of the Oedipus complex (the mother and child relationship) and its importance to psycho-analysis. Consider the choices that a man can have for picking a female partner. If sexual passion is not the main attraction then he can chose other criteria : for example, he may pick a partner when he is on the rebound from another relationship, or when he is lonely, or when he puts financial or social or power considerations first.

What is the motive for picking a female partner purely through sexual passion alone?
How does a female partner stimulate his sexual intensity?

Assume that he acts completely ‘freely’ in his choice. How does his partner compare to his mother ?  Infant imprinting means that the mother shapes the sexual identity of the child. [8]. Then identification and transference lead the child to admire the mother’s personality traits. When the child becomes an adult, the type of woman who sexually appeals to him will have major character traits in common with his mother. His eventual partner will, in many ways, reflect the sexuality of his mother. So in symbolic terms the man marries his mother. The intensity of his feelings for the partner reflects the intensity of the identification bond with his mother.

In a psycho-analysis, although a man may begin by analysing his attitudes to his wife and to women in general, eventually he will need to analyse his sexual relationship to his mother. The understanding that he achieves through this analysis will enable him to widen his sexual identity.

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Symbolism in Practice

I take a look at symbolism in oral sex practices.

The desire for oral sex arises as a response to shame when the person was a child. The focus is on sex that is non-reproductive and the practices are symbolic. I see them as being symbolic since the oral sex desires are attempting to neutralise the anxiety of intense personal relationships by regressing to an earlier stage of pre-puberty childhood, before sexual shame and sexual anxiety appeared. This regression is symbolic primarily in terms of meaning and feelings ; there is not necessarily regression in terms of phantasy.

Therefore I see that :

All sexual activity other than that needed for procreation is simply a product of social conditioning: its primary purpose is the relief of sexual anxiety. As such it cannot produce harmonious relationships just on its own merits. The high rate of divorce indicates that sex is the primary form of neurosis in modern times.

Transvestism and Trans-sexuality ( TV and TS )

is much more fun !

TV/TS is the next article in this section.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [1]

[²]. The terms "sexual desire" and "sexual attraction" are explained in the article Two Modes of Sexuality, sub-section Two Responses. [2]

[³]. My analysis of catharsis and the process of abreaction is given in the five articles on Abreaction. See home page. [3]

[4]. The difference between insight mode and feeling mode of abreaction is described in the third article on abreaction : Catharsis and Suggestion, sub-heading Suggestion. [4]

[5]. Identification is described in the article Aspects of Personal Identity. [5]

[5a]. There is a note on dullness in the article Structure of Sexual Response, section Dulling the Mind. [5a]

[6]. The binary nature of emotions is explained in the first article on Emotion. See home page. [6]

[7]. Envy can be a very destructive emotion, and is the basis of what Freud called the "death instinct". See the article Envy and the Death Desire, on my website Patterns of Confusion. [7]

[8]. Imprinting is explained in the article on Transference. [8]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Two Modes of Sexuality - sexuality is dual in form.

Bonding - continues the bonding patterns.

Oedipus and Electra - symbolism in sexual practices.

TV / TS - transvestism & trans-sexuality, plus voyeurism and groping.

Sadism and Masochism - sexual violence and degrading phantasies.

Structure of Sexual Response - four relationship responses.

Partnerships - the way that change affects partners.

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Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
All Rights Reserved

Ian Heath
London, UK

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