Oedipus and Electra

Oedipus was a Greek king whose grave misfortune it was, to kill his father and marry his own mother, thus bringing on a curse on the people of his land.

Electra had the soap-operaish family story of a father who sacrificed his eldest daughter for glory and a mother who plotted revenge for her dead daughter by taking on a lover and with his help, murdering her husband when he returned victorious from war. Would we then, sympathise with the girl and forgive her for her future actions that were brought on by trauma? Electra added her own bit to the family drama by goading her brother on to kill their mother in revenge thus condemning him to the terrible fate of being caught between the conflicting forces of Apollo (patriarchal law) and the Furies (mother above all). It is believed that Electra was in love with her father, owing perhaps to her unwavering desire to avenge his death, even at the cost of killing her mother and making her brother a murder.

These two much troubled characters in Greek mythology give their names to two of popular psychology’s pet theories – the Oedipal syndrome and the Electra complex. The reason this bit of pop psychology finds a mention here is that they deal with mating choices of human beings.

Apparently all of us exhibit the Oedipus/Electra trait in some manner. After all, our first impression of the opposite sex is our parent. We define what makes a man (or woman) by how our father (or mother) is…behaviorally, physically and their relationship with us. And we are creatures of habit….just like we tend to replay and re-create situations familiar to us, we gravitate to people who replicate the kind of characters we are familiar with. In friendship, in love…even at work….who we end up has to do with what we are used to.

Why then is it surprising that mama or daddy dearest have a great deal to do with our choices of mate? It isn’t rocket science. I’m not talking about the mama’s boy syndrome….that’s a man who has outsourced his brain and life’s decisions to mama. I’m talking about the fact that we end up with people who remind us strongly or faintly of our parents.

Ever wondered why the same problems keep repeating over and over again? Or how everyone in the world seems to have that one annoying trait? Or how all your friends turn out to be ‘one type’? Or boyfriends or girlfriends even? Yup. That’s the old Oedipus/Electra syndrome at work.

Much as I hate clubbing people under one common umbrella, I have to say everyone I’ve dated or been close to has had these things in common. It isn’t easy to discern at first but after awhile you realize the root of it…that one thing that draws you….is exactly the same.

Does it seem slightly sick to bring your parents into the dynamics of attraction and sexuality? All of us exhibit it.

I’m drawn to men (and actually women too) who are intelligent and driven. Just like dad. And eventually I hate the fact that they’re not right (where I can’t look up to them anymore…the dad figure has vanished). This all while I absolutely abhor being ‘talked down to’, patronized or treated like a kid. I’ve said more than once,

I don’ t need a father figure, thanks a lot. I have one father and that’s quite enough.

Not so true I suppose, considering I gravitate to men who are bound to treat me the way my father treats me.

The best of them was liberal-minded enough for every conversation to be (and continue being) a real pleasure, even years later. The worst of the lot was a control-freak to the point of being abrasive and abusive. Small wonder then, that the first gets along famously with dad while the second one shared a mutual loathing with the pater. We love the best in ourselves and hate the worst in us, manifold when we encounter it in other people.

And by the same token, I usually get along quite well with the fathers of men I date….after all they married a woman just like me. The boyfriend usually hates that….dad seems to have it easy always. Ah, Oedipus remains forever jealous of his father.

5 thoughts on “Oedipus and Electra

  1. Its always symbolic you know the Oedipus complex. Also, it says that they (the men) look for their mothers in the women they are with.

  2. pragni’s comment shows how even though both sexes exhibit this trait, it’s accepted by society that women want men to be like their fathers, but disgusting that a man would want a woman to be like his mother.

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