How the Oedipus Complex Destroys Men

Disclaimer: The following is for informational and entertainment purposes only.  This is not medical advice, I am not a medical doctor or psychotherapist.  Always first consult with your doctor. 

“The Oedipus Complex”

It sounds weird and obscene.  It’s taboo, so much so that we try not to talk about it, or at best, marginalize it as “just another weird theory that Freud had.”

What comes to your mind when the term comes up?

“Oedipus Complex?  Doesn’t that have something to do with fucking your own mother?  I don’t want to fuck my mother.  That is so weird and disgusting.”

The Myth of Oedipus is exactly that, A MYTH, and therein lies its incredible power (read: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell).  Myths are templates of human experience, they serve to guide us through the mysteries of life.  Unraveling the intricacies of family dynamics and human psycho-sexual development was Sigmund Freud’s calling in life.  By a turn of Fate, Freud was invited to watch a presentation of Oedipus Rex, a Greek tragedy about a man who unknowingly beds his own mother.  Freud had an epiphany, and gave “The Oedipus Complex” the name that it so aptly deserves.

Ok, so you haven’t literally fucked or married your mom.  But, if you are one of us “lost men,” that is – one of us men that struggles to define our own masculinity in a world of collapsing values, then chances are – you have fucked, dated and perhaps married a template of your mother.  Ergo, you have an Oedipus Complex.

The Oedipus Complex does not mean that a man is fucking his biological mother, but rather The Mythological Mother.  The Mythological Mother is the template of a female-caretaker that we all have, and it serves us well – when we’re infants.

The Pathology of the Latent Oedipus Complex

So, do you struggle with women?  Do the women in your life look for ways to boss you around or control you?  Do they tell you how to look, how to dress, how to drive, and how you should or shouldn’t make money?  Are you her emotional caretaker?  Is she your emotional caretaker, or do you take turns playing that role?  Have you ever dated a “basket-case,” or a “diamond in the rough?”  Have you played the role of rescuer?  Do you explode in a furious rage when the woman you have rescued fails to return the laurels of appreciation, loyalty and respect you thought you deserved?

If any of the above rings true for YOU – read on, dear traveler!

So WHY do these issues come up, and what does it have to do with the Toxic Oedipus Complex, and (most importantly), how do I heal from it?  How do I get rid of it?

Let’s clear the air on a few things: first, the Oedipus Complex isn’t a bad thing for infant boys.  Mother is the giver of protection and nourishment, she is “emotional home-base.”  Mom is safety, and a really amazing person.  To boys up to four years of age, there is no difference between attachment, emotional dependency, physical dependency, and infatuation.  “Mom is amazing, I love Mom, I am in love with mom, I might even want to marry Mom.”

If you are lucky enough to have had a present father-figure in your life (which is becoming a rarer and rarer occurrence by the day),  then you would have seen this strange “man creature” as a competitive threat to the possessive attachment that you had toward your mother.

If you need hard evidence of this, check out the following video.  Here, the infant boy sees his father kiss his mother, which he instantly attempts to emulate.

No, it is NOT the Same for Girls!

For males, the steps in development are intensely more critical than it is for girls.  By this, I mean that for males, the developmental stages are much more sensitive to change: if one element is missing, the whole house of cards collapses – leaving us to a life prone to dysfunction, addiction, melancholy and misery.  With girls it seems that their nature is more fluid.  A girl can be a tomboy or a girly-girl, no problem.

“But girls have a version of this called the Electra Complex and it is the same!”

Well, not really.  Women might have an Electra Complex, but it isn’t necessarily toxic.  If their father was a strong man and a good provider, and she grows up looking for “Dad” in the role of a strong man and a good provider, then there is no dysfunction here.

BUT us men, if we are adults and we have an Oedipus Complex, then that IS and ALWAYS IS dysfunctional.

Dad’s Job is to Break the Oedipus Complex

So again, back to DAD.  What’s his job?  Dad appears to be a hostile takeover force to your infantile fantasy-attachment to mom, and that’s his first job, which is to be a role model of manhood to you and put you in your place a little bit.

He is mysterious and his relationship to your mom is mysterious.

This is true because the sex and sex-chemistry between Mom and Dad is (and should be) a complete mystery to a little boy.  Mom and Dad have some sort of attachment via some unknown channel, and there is an unknown power in there that I, as a boy-child, do not understand or possess.

So, Dad is a mysterious ape who threatens my perfect emotional-womb-like enmeshment with Mom, but he also possesses strange and special powers, powers that I might like to have.

Dad comes home with a box from the furniture store.

You: What’s that Dad?

Him: It’s an end-table, want to help me put it together?

You pause for a minute, unsure.

You:  What’s an end-table?

Him:  It’s for there next to the couch.

You: YOU’RE going to put it together from all the pieces in that BOX?!

Him:  Yeah, wanna help me?

You:  Yes!

It is important that we not dismiss this activity as mundane.  This is Ritual Manhood, and provided that you have a GOOD DAD (also fucking rare these days), he will understand the gravity of these rituals and exercise patience.  The goal is not only to build the end-table, but also to foster his young boy’s growth.

To a boy, mom represents dependence.  Dad offers independence.  Independence is earned through competency, and competency is earned through trial-and-error.

The Pathological Mother

Per Dr. Jordan Peterson, “The standard pathology of mom is that she did everything for you… there’s nothing outside of mother instead of a nurturer of infants, you just keep them [her children] infants.”

As Dr. Peterson says, it is indeed “an ugly thing” for a mother to keep her children infants forever.  Peterson also distinguishes between “infants” and “children,” rightfully so, because children can develop independence and competency far beyond that of a helpless infant.

Dad’s job is to break the infant-bonds by encouraging his son to embrace competency, strength and independence.  A good mother who is both emotionally secure and, shall we say, NOT FUCKING CRAZY (is that a technical term?), will encourage the male bonding experiences as well, and know to back off and let go when necessary.

The tragedy of the Toxic Oedipus complex occurs when the boy fails to receive these initiatory steps appropriately so that he can grow into “his own skin” as a young man.
This happens when:

Dad is absent physically (the boy never had a present father figure).
Dad is absent emotionally (Dad is there physically but doesn’t seem to care, is distracted, wrapped up in his own nonsense or otherwise is not involved).
Dad is there but is mentally-emotionally diseased himself, is a “feminist man,” lets his wife wear the pants or otherwise neglects his role as leader in his son’s upbringing.
Mom is overbearing, controlling and obsessively nurturing beyond the child’s appropriate age-range.
Mom takes it upon herself to rewrite biology to serve her own ideological or political affirmations, such as “I’m going to raise him to be a Perfect Little Man,” or “I am going to raise a non-gender-conforming son,” or “I am not going to let my kid play with toy swords, toy guns or other symbols of violence and patriarchy.”
Either parent is shaming, which is a death-blow to the child’s autonomy and development.

The Oedipus Complex is dysfunctional because Toxic Shame is the inevitable result.

Toxic Shame

When a boy grows into a man with an overprotective, overbearing mother, he does become the perfect and virtuous “Anti-patriarchal, feminist white-knight” that the Social Justice crowd would like him to be.  Instead, the only thing that a man with such a mother internalizes is Toxic Shame in the form of unconscious messages, “I am no good, I am incompetent  I need a woman to take care of me because I am sick and weak.  I am just a little infant on the inside.”

The Oedipus man doesn’t want a woman, he needs one, because he needs to be taken care of emotionally.  In the extreme cases, he may live with his mother until he is thirty years old (or older), the rest of us will simply move out and date woman after woman who severs “as mom” in some such capacity.

I remember having male friends who were complete slobs: their lives were a mess literally, financially and emotionally.  I had one friend who would throw his dirty clothes on the floor instead of putting them away in the hamper.  On the weekends his girlfriend would come over, nag him about his sloppy habits and pick up his clothes and wash them for him.

Is this not the adulthood re-enactment of “shitting all over oneself?”  As an infant, my friend shit on himself and looked to his mommy to clean up his diaper-shit.  As an adult, he finds adult-level symbols for the same things.  His literal “shit” becomes ritualized talismans for “shit,” such that he can partake in the infant-ritual: he plays the infant and his girlfriend plays the caretaking mom!

Toxic Fathers can do their fair share in damaging a boy.  Instead of asking you to help him put the side-table together, he tells you to fuck off and that you’ll “Just mess it up again!”  Nice.  Fathers like this are shaming because they use their sons as means of resolving their own feelings of incompetency and inadequacy.

My father used to tease and belittle me ruthlessly.  When I was around eight years old I developed a weight issue.  A father who cares would look at this issue and say, “Let’s see what we need to do to get Devin healthy, should we adjust his diet or hire a nutritional counselor?”  No, I didn’t get that, instead what I got from my father was, “You’re too FAT and I don’t want to raise a FAT KID, I’m going to hide the cookies from you so that you can’t find them.  I’m sick of you being FAT.”

An abusive father is a guaranteed recipe for disaster, if the boy learns that “Dad is no good.”  Because Dad represents the mythological template for manood, the boy will ultimately believe that “men are no good,” but because he is also a male, this inevitably be internalized as, “I am no good.”

The shamed-man has one hell of dilemma.  On the one hand he is hiding from every aspect that represents maleness: dominance, leadership, participation in patriarchy, strength, all those good things that women are attracted to.  He hates maleness but must wrestle with the fact that is IS a male.  Pathology is the only outcome.

The Oedipus Complex Destroys a Man’s Success with Women
Quality women (that is, the good-looking, intelligent and desirable ones), will always reject a man who has a Latent Oedipus Complex.  They can “smell it on you,” meaning that women can see the signs.  What is it that she’s noticing?

Superficially most of you already know what women really look for (outside of what the politically-correct-thought-police SAY women want).  Women like a guy with attitude, a guy who stands up to them, a guy who represents strength qualities, a guy who is a leader.

These are all indicators of Male Ego Development.  Ego is simply an individuals adult sense of self.  In the case of those suffering from Oedipal Complexes, the sense of self is stunted and underdeveloped.   Many dating coaches advocate feigning confidence and attitude, with advice such as “act more confidently,” or “don’t call her for a week to look like you’re not desperate.”  Such advice like this is ultimately pointless.  What good is it to pretend not to be needy if you still feel needy?!  What good is it to not act desperate if you still feel desperate?  I dare to say that, unless the Oedipus complex is fully resolved, these feelings of low self-worth and inadequacy will continue to surface and wreck havoc with your relationships.

The Resolution to the Oedipus Complex

Resolving the Oedipus Complex involves challenging your emotional development, which will always involve a certain sense of discomfort.  A dysfunctional and abusive childhood results in stunting primary Ego development.  The only way to resolve this is to invest in and develop your Ego.  Notice that the more an individual is suffering from the Oedipus Complex, or Nice-guy Syndrome (read: No More Mr. Nice Guy), the more amoral and upsetting the idea of having an Ego will be.  “I’m not supposed to have an Ego, that’s bad and unenlightened!  Only assholes have Egos!”

While it is true that Ego, when overdeveloped and maligned, produces narcissism and an unrealistic sense of self-importance, the opposite extreme is just as toxic.  Oedipus-sufferers use fear of developing an inflated Ego as an excuse to run from Ego development in any capacity.  “I don’t want to be like one of those jerks!” It is every man’s right and responsibility to develop his own Ego.

Ego Development, Plain & Simple

By “Ego,” I mean it exactly as you have come to understand it in our popular culture, as simply “attitude.”  Having an Ego means that you have internalized and are aware of your own self-worth.

Develop an attitude!  Believe it!  Run over the reasons in your mind that make you believe that you are an amazing person!   Show it off a little!  Do it!

One cannot feel ashamed and proud at the same time.  Pride, therefore, is the only antidote to the toxic shame that comes inevitably with a neglectful father and/or an overbearing, consuming mother.

Ego is nothing short of emotional independence.  Most of us men who struggle with emotional difficulties wear the “mask” of adulthood: we go to work, we brush our teeth and we pay our bills on time.  However, when it comes to our emotional independence from women, we’re lost in that department.

Attitude and Ego come hand-in-hand, because Attitude is your personality’s expression of it’s right-to-exist.


See also: A Three-Part Treatise on Healing the Oedipus Complex


Author: Devin Stone

4 thoughts on “How the Oedipus Complex Destroys Men”

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have often wondered why I always feel like a child in a man’s body. Compared to peers my age, it is apparent that I have some sort of arrested development. I can’t seem to treat other adults as equals.

    To top that off, I just came to realize that I am highly unnatural when it comes to interaction and reactivity with women. In fact, I remember choosing to be gay at some point during my adolescence to avoid ‘soiling’ the pure and innocent image of the Mother. I have grown with the belief that women are clean and I as a man am dirty and shameful. Although I cannot rule out genetics’ role in my sexuality, I can sift through past memories of my childhood when I had crushes on girls who were in some way similar to my mother.

    Recently I’ve been trying to find ways I can recover my masculinity that has been shamed into submission, and make total love with the feminine that I have allowed to control me. I’m sick and tired of feeling like a child in the world, and I’m sick and tired of being unable to assert my existence and being. I want to be able to look a girl in the eye and not feel like I have to prevent them from becoming interested in me sexually by putting on a childlike facade. I want to be able to walk shirtless on the beach or by the pool without feeling dirty and ashamed about the eyes of women on me. I want to be able to relate to women and men as equals and not superiors who I have to impress.

    This problem has been impacting all areas of my life. Though to be fair I have to say that things are beginning to look up for me in some ways. I look forward to the day when I can effortlessly be. I trust that God, or That Which Is, is showing me the way.

    I would like to pose to you a question if I may, Devin: having read my dilemma, would you have any sound advice for me to undertake in order to accelerate my process of development?

    Thank you for this article and your time. God bless you, whatever that may mean to you!

  2. This is an excellent article and I appreciate you writing it. I am a depth (Jungian) psychotherapist and am anxious to turn some of my male clients onto this article.

    All males suffer the “mother wound” and struggle their whole life to mitigate the negative impact of that wounding. A present father is the solution toward much less suffering. Most mothers will tend toward holding their sons too close if father is not there, as you say, to help usher the boy into manhood.

    This isn’t to say that single mothers cannot raise boys into good men…but she has to be more conscious than is typical to do so.

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