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Sigmund Freud's Medusa

Freud was the man whose great contribution was to reveal to us so much about the hidden shame of humankind. His genius opened up whole new territories of the mind, infant and childhood sexuality which exposed the presence and origins of our wildest sexual longings. Our wishes include cannibalizing our enemies, and anal sadistic drives that make eating our own feces enticing; our aggressive and sexual wishes include killing our father (or mothers), and sleeping with our mothers (or fathers). Sexuality, that devious, evil succubus element so repressed in Victorian times, is the unassailable constant, the “unshakable bulwark,” of Freud’s entire theory.

Freud unmasked humankind’s shame over repressed instinctual impulses, and his inspiration may have been that he was a very shame-sensitive person. Pines points out that

the few references Freud makes to his own visual appearance as seen in mirrors show how much he disliked what he saw. He saw an elderly, ugly man and at times failed to recognize and to own the image as himself.

(1987: 17)

In not realizing the need to look more deeply into the mirror, however, Freud becomes the man who builds the succubus into the structure of his theory on the Oedipus Complex and its resolution - an area in Freud’s thinking fraught with dissociated masculine shame. Most everything Freud has to say on this subject is distorted with projection and defensive theorizing - the exquisitely sensitive material re-visioned by Jung. His preoccupation with issues connected to sexuality and castration, a deeply rooted male angst over annihilation and fears of inferiority, made his thinking on the resolution of the Oedipus Complex ludicrous. Transition to the development of the superego calls for an act of matricide, a heroic killing that leads to an elimination of shame. The following detailed examination of the Oedipus Complex and Freud’s theory of narcissism will reveal the presence of shame.

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