Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis

Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis

Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis

Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

Freud organised the theory of the child's journey to adulthood around the myths of Narcissus and Oedipus. In this intelligent study, the author re-examines these myths to see if a radical reinterpretation of them will give birth to new sets of images through which psychoanalysts can contemplate the contemporary patient.

Excerpt

Narcissus and Oedipus -- the Children of Psychoanalysis -- is a book about child development which I have organised around the two well-known Greek myths, Narcissus and Oedipus. It is in two parts with a transitional section, in which I discuss some of the transformations which take place between the narcissistic and oedipal stages of development. I return to the Greek myths because they have played an important role in the articulation of psychoanalytic theory. They name two stages in early development conceptualised by Freud as 'primary narcissism' and the 'Oedipus complex.' The myths recount two dramas, turned tragedies, in the spectrum of human relationships: one dyadic and confluent and ultimately sterile, the other triadic and dissonant and ultimately destructive. Against this literary back- cloth, I draw on the theory and practice of ethology and communication theory so as to expand the discipline of psychoanalysis which Freud created almost one hundred years ago.

The following outline of my use of myth and of the two theoretical models which inform my thinking is intended to direct the reader through the three parts of the book. In each part, I include specific illustrations drawn from both clinical practice and ethological research. Parts I and II begin with an exposition of the relevant myth. My aim in investigating the myths is not to claim or seek archetypal 'evidence' for my views but to invite the reader to look at them, and thereby the theory of psychoanalysis, in a different light. Since they are works of literature, the myths provide a space for the play of imagination in a way that good research may not. For example, it did not occur to me, at first, that narcissism was a term which could be used to describe a rela-

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