One of the major discoveries made by Sigmund Freud was his theory called the Oedipus complex. This theory is also one of the most controversial theories Freud is associated with. What Freud meant by the Oedipus complex is rather simple to understand. The little boy begins to develop a sexual attachment and desire for his mother. He wants her, and in the mind of the boy the father becomes a rival. Hostility toward the boy's father grows and he wants to replace him, and even do away with him. The boy fears his rival father's ability to castrate him thus taking away his prize possession, the penis (Fromm 1980). The Oedipus complex can include the relationship of daughter and father, but for the purposes of this essay we will focus on the individual relationships between a son and each parent figure (mother and father assumingly). .
One may think this theory to be possible for a small few, but are quick to claim they do not and never have had a sexual attachment to their mother. But Freud claimed in a letter written to his colleague Wilhelm Fliess, "I have found the phenomena of (a boy) being in love with (his) mother a universal event in early childhood" (Breger 2000). Just as Freud believes this phenomena to be universal, incest itself is thought to be universally taboo. "There is a spate of hypotheses attempting to explain the universality of the incest taboo, each focusing on a different issue. They range from an assumed innate horror or revulsion at the idea of incest, and economic and political advantages of marrying out, to the breakdown in authority that would result if parents had sex with their children" (Van Der Elst 1999). Freud's universal belief makes his theory difficult to understand for the many who think it taboo to have sexual feelings toward one parent, and sparking an intense rivalry with the other. Freud's error was theorizing that these feelings of deep attachment to the mother, and heated rivalry with the father stemmed from a sexual desire.