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B., H.A. (1950). The Battle of the Conscience. A Psychiatric Study of the Inner Working of the Conscience: By Edmund Bergler, M.D. Washington: Washington Institute of Medicine, 1948. 296 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 19:266-268.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:266-268

The Battle of the Conscience. A Psychiatric Study of the Inner Working of the Conscience: By Edmund Bergler, M.D. Washington: Washington Institute of Medicine, 1948. 296 pp.

Review by:
H. A. B.

This extremely readable and in the reviewer's opinion highly rewarding book is dedicated (in general), as its title indicates, to the proposition that (to quote its author's words from another place) 'Every analysis is confronted with a loser in the "battle of the conscience". Were the patient capable of furnishing suitable defenses before his forum internum, we would never see the patient. To enter analysis means automatically that an unsatisfied portion of inner guilt remains, with which the patient cannot cope. This does not exclude that the patient fought desperately. He did and lost.' This battle fought unconsciously by the patient consists on the one hand of the unconscious ego's fight against the progress of the neurosis per se, and on the other of the unconscious ego's fight with and against the torturing inner conscience. Stated still more concisely: 'Unconscious neurotic feeling of guilt leading to self-punishment may invade every province of human action and reaction… The feeling of guilt is always one participant in every neurosis. It does not cause the neurosis per se, but every neurotic symptom and sign is a compromise between repressed wishes and unconscious guilt' (p. 88). Thus, neurotic feeling of guilt is one of the cornerstones of neurosis: through a 'bribing' or appeasing of the neurotically 'corruptible' inner conscience, payment in unhappiness is made in exchange for the pleasure of living out (in modified form) the unconscious fantasy (p. 16).

Bergler's belief in the three-layer structure of every neurotic symptom (1, id wish; 2, defense resulting from superego protest; 3, defense against the defense, again as the result of superego protest. The second defense mechanism is the neurotic symptom.)

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