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Bergler, E. (1951). The Marshal Ney Formula. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(2):172-179.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(2):172-179

The Marshal Ney Formula

Edmund Bergler, M.D.

Marshal Ney, one of Napoleon's bravest generals, was once possessed by mortal fear while watching a battle and found his knees knocking together. He looked down at them and said: “Go on, knock, it's nothing compared to what you'd do if you knew where I was going to take you in a few minutes.” After uttering this classical dictum, the marshal directed his horse into the midst of battle.

I believe that the Ney anecdote can be successfully used in clinical analysis to explain to the patient the difficult problem of achieving “detachment” from his neurotic symptoms. This detachment gives us the necessary “breathing spell” to destroy the basis of the neurosis.

Analyst and patient are constantly talking at cross purposes: the analyst stresses the unconscious basis of the patient's symptoms and signs; the patient, however, stresses the subjective suffering of his “real” symptoms and can be brought to attend only with greatest reluctance to the basis on which his symptoms rest. He wants something unachievable from analysis: a quick relief from suffering presented on a platter via a “magic formula” of the “Open Sesame” type.

Psychoanalysis is a “long range” procedure; it has little to offer for quick and immediate “relief” from suffering. Patience is one of the necessary prerequisites for patient and physician alike. The difficulty is that the patient has to live through these long months and half years; hence, we have to tell him what to do when his “intolerable” symptoms and signs “attack” him once more.

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