What Would Freud Think?
In the classic tragedy of OEDIPUS, in which we find an incestuous relationship at its core, Oedipus marries his mother, Queen Jocasta, after killing his father, King Laius of Thebes. Their true identities are only known to the reader, making the story all the more gruesome to read. They unwittingly marry one another, unaware that they are related by blood. When Oedipus realizes that he’s married his own mother and that he killed his true father, he stabs his eyes out.
It’s a classic tale of unnatural consummation, and the results are disastrous.
Fast forward to the early twentieth century. Location: Austria. Freud’s interest in the development of children vis-à-vis the “Oedipus complex” is immortalized. The concept is still discussed in highly intellectual circles, and the term is also tossed about in mundane, everyday life jabbering.
In simplest terms, Freud’s psychoanalytic understanding of this complex is dichotomic – there are two opposing emotional poles. One pole is bent on a wish for one parent to die, while the other pole is the realm of love and absolute adoration for the other parent. This love is connected to sexual desires, albeit juvenile, for the other parent.
The hatred is directed toward the father, and the love is connected to the mother (the maternal source that granted the child life). These desires, i.e. the wish to kill their father in order to have complete access to their mother’s love and affections, are short lived. But what happens when this complex is inverted and, let’s say, the father goes after his own daughter?
Fast forward again. This time to 2008, but let’s stay in the same location: Austria. The man, Josef Fritzl, inverted the oedipal complex, and a most horrifying story has surfaced in Austria, the birthplace of Freud. At the age of 73, Fritzl was recently arrested. He confessed to fathering 7 siblings with his own daughter! His daughter, Elizabeth F., was kidnapped by her own father in 1984. She was drugged and locked up in a cellar below their home. He raped her repeatedly. Her mother, meanwhile, believed that Elizabeth had run away. A few of the children were “dumped” off at the parents’ doorstep with notes on them that claimed that Elizabeth had joined a cult, and was not allowed to raise her children.
Three others stayed with the mother in the sound proof dungeon, a light-free prison only accessed by Fritzl. At one point a child died shortly after its birth, and Josef Fritzl told authorities that he had incinerated the body shortly thereafter. He is now the most famous criminal in the world.
I simply can’t wrap my head around this story. The children who stayed in the cellar with their mother were recently exposed to the world. They’d never seen LIGHT before! It’s cruel beyond words. I am at a loss to understand this Herr Fritzl.