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Freud's shame and Oedipus

In realizing his shame, Oedipus overcomes his self-centered narcissism, accepts responsibility, and relinquishes his title as King and his omnipotent will which could pardon himself. In Sophocles’ subsequent tragedy, Oedipus at Colonus, the old, blind Oedipus, in realizing the truth about himself, returns to the maternal feminine. According to Sophocles, mother takes ascendancy over ego and consciousness. But Freud never reached Colonus; he remained identified with Oedipus the King (not the shamed outcast who in his death reunites with Mother

Earth). Matricide and its resulting blindness prevented the mystical union with the Great Mother that restored Oedipus’ vision. This fact is directly reflected in Freud’s own fantasy life. His mother was convinced of her son’s great destiny. As a child Freud internalized her reflection by fantasizing military distinction, which later gave way to the ambition of being a cultural hero. Freud dreamed that some day he would be commemorated by a portrait bust in the Aula of the University, and the inscription that he hoped would be thought appropriate to him was the Apollonian line from Oedipus the King: “Who solved the riddle of the Sphinx and was a man most mighty.” On the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, Freud’s supporters presented him with a medallion of himself inscribed with the line as epithet. He felt faint, like the strong among us that “faint away like children when pushed to take the whole meaning of life on themselves, to support it with their own meager creature powers” (Becker, 1973: 20). With this powerful identification in mind, taking the specific form of Freud as cultural hero and discoverer of infant sexuality, let us now look at his theory of narcissism, which contains the shame that atrophied Freud’s Oedipus Complex.

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