Father and Son and How the Oedipus Complex Goes Both Ways

Freud coined the Oedipus complex. Wikipedia: The positive Oedipus complex refers to a child’s unconscious sexual desire for the opposite-sex parent and hatred for the same-sex parent.

I beg to differ. I believe, the Oedipus Complex has more to do with dominance hierarchy behavior. The prophecy: Oedipus would kill his father and take his throne (and wife). Biological dominance behavior is archaic. Since lobsters, organisms use serotonin to regulate their dominance hierarchy, which is still the case with Homo sapiens. Nature has integrated habitual social behavior responses into organisms for 300 billion years – before trees existed (Jordan Peterson).

Did you ever observe that the Oedipus Complex goes both ways? Sons want to outdo their fathers and fathers fear their sons will outdo them. Insecure fathers are tempted to demotivate their sons, in particular, in societies that idealized competitiveness. I don’t blame the sons – their childish ambition is a part of growing up, but those dads? Yeez!

Dads with son complexes produce sons with father complexes. Click To Tweet

You can still find dads in America who insist that their sons address them with sir. Really? Semantics to maintain the pecking order in the family? Is that all you got?

My father was competitive towards me. He told me over and over that I was a failure (compared to him). And that I was a bad person. He lost me at puberty when I noticed that I’ve gotten smarter than he. In my eyes, my father turned into a man whose flaws were all too well known to me. That authoritarian respect he had forced on me crumbled into dust. And I didn’t love that man, because he didn’t demonstrate love when I was a child.

I practice unconditional love with my son. Maybe, that will be my greatest achievement in this life. Good parents umbrella their parent’s shit. My father was the son of a Nazi and inherited some of that violent-idealistic baggage (though he would never have admitted that). I did too – to a lesser degree. I shall not pass any of that on to my son and I am (secretly) proud of that.

Unwanted psychological traits are deeply rooted in our subconsciousness. So is fascism. And that’s a tricky affair. For example, the same psychological mechanisms that allowed Hitler to propagate his idealism in former Germany are used today by the fashion industry to make money with fashion ideals. The importance of the refusal to propagate psychological traits is essential for collective evolution. Societies evolve (apart from making better laws and rules) because generations take their collective shit into their graves. Kudos to the countless unsung heroes of every generation!

It is a tricky affair though. My inherited flaws kept silent during my son’s toddler years, but when he turned eight – the time I started making him responsible for some of his actions – my old man showed up in my head. Scary. Shameful. Sad. It took me a while to get rid of that.

This is the enlightenment perspective on the father-son relationship: Father and son are both immortal souls. They are brothers in soul. Same level. Our true father is the higher self. A son’s soul may be older than the father’s.

Sons don’t want nor need an authority image. They want to be loved and their dads’ attention and pride. At best, authority dampens love. I tell my son that he should be better than me. And his son better than him.

“Be more patience than me, son!”

“Swear less than me! Swearing is negativity.”

I asked him to remind me when my bad attitudes pop up. It felt embarrassing at first, but I got used to it. My son is good at it. It’s fun for him because it is a playful way of dealing with the (natural) family dominance hierarchy. I also explain my flaws and their history. I know the day will come when he will see me as a man.

Does that sound anti-authoritarian? It is not. I still do my dad thing. The dad thing is complicated. A dad has multiple roles, that of a teacher, a bodyguard, a health guard, a playmate, and a friend. Explaining that to your son will make life easier. He is more likely to listen when you say, “Wanna mess with your health guard?” than, “Eat your veggies!”
He learned to see my roles as duties, like he has the duty to be good in school. That’s not anti-authoritarian, that’s authoritarian agnostic. Another advantage: Knowing my roles helps him to understand my contradicting behavior. I admit which roles I struggle to play well. I’m not a good teacher since I suck at patience. For example, I get into swearing every time I have to help him prepare for his botany exams. Dull as dishwater. It hurts my bones.

I allow my son to be competitive. It is a game. Sons learn fast from playing such games. We used to race to a red gate and he would do anything to win, including pushing and pulling me. Sometimes he went crazy, fell, and injured himself. When he gets too competitive, I remind him of the red gate.

Once we were balancing on a surfboard. We went overboard trying to throw me off. That was funny.

Another game that never gets old: When we arrive home and I get out of the car to open the gate, I tell him, “Don’t touch my car!” Of course, he raises Cain in my car, laughing and screaming, “I touched your car!”

Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth. – Peter Ustinov

Yes, please!

 

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Image attribution: Dmitrii Shironosov @ 123rf.com

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