J Am Psychoanal Assoc 1991;39(3):641-68
Current controversies about the centrality of the Oedipus complex in psychoanalysis are difficult to resolve unless we address three obstacles in the way of rational examination. The first is that the Oedipus complex, Freud's "shibboleth" of psychoanalysis, is politically controversial. Second is the great difficulty in agreeing upon the definition and boundaries of the Oedipus complex, especially the necessary complexities introduced with the negative Oedipus complex, female sexuality, the nature of the preoedipal, and counteroedipal fantasies and actions. The third obstacle involves basic questions of psychoanalytic epistemology: our criteria for evidence to prove or disprove any particular proposition. I conclude that the awareness of these difficulties signifies a certain maturation in our thinking and that the complexity introduced by these obstacles can in time provide the groundwork for a set of formulations that is richer and closer to the complexities and ambiguities of the clinical situation.