A leading psychologist has described the relationship between Iris Robinson and her teenage lover as something akin to a Greek tragedy.
Dr Raman Kapur, a clinical psychologist who specialises in psychotherapy, believes the wife of the First Minister and her lover Kirk McCambley are victims of the Oedipal complex — the term used to describe when a young man falls in love with his mother.
Mrs Robinson, who sensationally admitted to cheating on her husband earlier this week, was 59 at the time of the affair. Mr McCambley — the son of a close family friend — was just 19.
Dr Kapur explained the term was derived from the Greek mythical character Oedipus who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, and is used to describe the feelings which centre around the desire to possess a parent of the opposite sex.
He said the theory was quite commonly used in the world of psychoanalysis and could be applied in the case of Mrs Robinson and Mr McCambley. He explained it appeared both parties had become infatuated with each other or were “taken over by the power of mad love” and found themselves doing things “they know they shouldn’t be doing”.
But he could not say whether he believed one person was more in control of the relationship than the other.
There has been speculation that at the time of the relationship Mr McCambley has just suffered a bereavement, prompting concerns that he may not have been in the right frame of mind.
“I think it’s too hard to say from the outside if this is a case of one person being in more control than the other,” Dr Kapur said. “I think somewhere both people would have felt there was something really good here.
“There is, however, a sense of what they call Oedipal triumph. As the older person, she (Iris) would have felt special and thought ‘I have attracted a young man so maybe I’m not an old woman anymore’. And the young man will be thinking ‘well, I don’t have to worry about my peers because I can attract a really powerful older woman’. So there’s that sense of triumphantism that they have both done something extra-ordinary or something special.
“The thing about the Oedipal triangle is that the person does feel special. The young man in this case, Kirk, felt special because he could attract the prowess of a very powerful older woman. For Iris, she felt powerful in the sense that she could attract the interest of a young man. It’s when that power takes over that sanity goes out the window. If you are being kind to them and understanding of the vulnerable parts of their personalities, you could say they got taken over by the mad passions of love.
“That is what mad love is, I mean people have killed for love. If you look up in the original Greek myth the son actually kills the father to be with the mother. So you could use the Greek myth as a way of explaining this. It is a widely accepted formulation within psychoanalysis and understanding this type of difficulty.
“There is also a tragedy in that ordinary human emotion has led to two victims here.”