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The Sphinx and the Riddles of Passion, Love and Sexuality

Contributions by Stefano Bolognini, Rainer Gross and Sylvia Zwettler-Otte- Preface by Alain Gibeault

Edited By Sylvia Zwettler-Otte

An international cooperation of psychoanalysts presents the role of symbolization in the development of the human mind. Based on Freud’s theory of the Unconscious and of infantile sexuality we have now a deeper understanding of myths like Oedipus and the Sphinx and the representations of human struggles in art. In this book, this is illustrated from prehistoric paintings until poetry of the 20th century. The Sphinx, half animal, half human, represents the elaborations of sexual fantasies revealing desires and fears. She symbolizes an archaic maternal imago, seductive and threatening, omnipotent and enigmatic. She is a symbol of contradictions like drive and reason or gain and loss of knowledge. Case stories show that patients today feel not «devoured by the Sphinx», but by their work («burn out»), by annihilation anxiety, narcissistic or borderline disturbances, psychosomatic problems etc. But the «archaic mother never dies».

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Preface (Alain Gibeault)

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11 Preface Alain Gibeault The authors of this book, Sylvia Zwettler-Otte, Rainer Gross and Stefano Bolog- nini, all emphasize the fact that the Sphinx is a representation of a hybrid crea- ture, half-animal/half-human, with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the head of a human being. It is interesting to note that this kind of representation plays a major role in prehistoric art, bearing witness to the very first paintings made by human beings. For example, in the Chauvet cave dating from 32000 BP (Before Present), there is a man/buffalo, a creature with a human body and hand and the head of a buffalo. If we think of the scene of the well in the Lascaux cave dating from 17000 BP, we can see a wounded buffalo facing a very schematic ithyphallic man with the head of a bird and half-leaning backwards; a stick deco- rated with a bird has fallen from his hands. We could interpret this scene as a realistic scenario in which a man is mortally wounded by a buffalo which is itself wounded; however, it is more probably a symbolic representation of life and death in the confrontation between man and animal. As soon as the man has established some differentiation with respect to the animal, he manifests his wish to identify with the power of the feared animal, experienced as a spirit (Gibeault, 2010). Prehistoric art is the result of a long process of hominization linked not only to biological...

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