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Bergler, E. (1961). To what Length the Neurotic's Distortions Can Go…. Am. Imago, 18(4):391-398.

(1961). American Imago, 18(4):391-398

To what Length the Neurotic's Distortions Can Go…

Edmund Bergler, M.D.

It is a well known fact in the psychopathology of neuroses that neurotics distort reality to suit their unconscious aims. This tendency makes them unreliable; projections, prevarications, outright lies are not uncommon.

The case reported below has one distinguishing feature: In analysis a writer-patient quoted certain statements made by his wife. These made her appear to be a cross between a half-idiot and a complete shrew, and portrayed him as the “innocent victim.” Subsequent events brought out the fact that all of these statements had actually been made by the husband himself. He had intended them ironically, but his wife, a woman without a conscious “sense of humor,” did “misunderstand” his remarks and later repeated them. The patient did not disclose this sequence; it was deduced by his repetition of the identical procedure in the transference.

Mr. A., a man of forty, had come to me to “straighten out his marital mess,” which by that time had lasted fourteen years. In our initial interview he appeared to be a rather ironic individual, who immediately launched into a tirade against marriage. Most of his ammunition consisted of quotations from “witty authorities,” as he called his literary witnesses. In the short time at his disposal he managed to use the following epigrams:

Matrimony is a bargain, and somebody has to get the worst of the bargain.

Marriage — a souvenir of love.

Love is the star men look up to as they walk along, and marriage the coal-hole they fall into.

More things belong to marriage than four bare legs in a bed.

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