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Bergler, E. (1952). Is Psychic Masochism an “Oversimplification”?. Am. Imago, 9(1):79-85.

(1952). American Imago, 9(1):79-85

Is Psychic Masochism an “Oversimplification”?

Edmund Bergler, M.D.

One who speaks lightly and disparagingly of the power of conscience is more than naive: he plays handball with an atomic bomb which he mistakes for a toy.

From the author's THE WRITER AND PSYCHOANALYSIS, p. 18.

Psychic masochism is the scourge of humanity. An individual whose unconscious aim is the enjoyment of self-constructed defeat, humiliation and suffering, for which he pays with consciously perceived depression (as conscience-money and alibi combined), must inevitably have a personal history which is “not too happy.” And even analysts admit that people lead their lives on the conscious as well as the unconscious level.

It was Freud who established the universality of this problem, as well as the genetic picture in psychic (moral) masochism. The genesis comprises: aggression, guilt, libidinization of guilt. My contribution to the problem did not consist of blowing-up what was already known, but of describing the clinical picture in psychic masochism, and its interconnection with the oral level of regression. This clinical picture comprises the “mechanism of orality,” consisting of three steps:

I.   I

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