live and practice in New York City. He wrote 25 psychology books along with 273
articles that were published in leading professional journals.
Bergler's contribution to psychoanalytic thought was remarkable. Delos Smith,
science editor of United Press International, said Bergler was "among the most
prolific Freudian theoreticians after Freud himself."
“He extended and made clinically usable several of Freud's later concepts, including
superego cruelty, unconscious masochism, and the importance of the pre-oedipal
Hitschmann spoke of his "extraordinary talent for the specialty of psychoanalysis . . .
his command of the entire subject matter, his scientific acumen and literary erudition."
Considered "one of the few original minds among the followers of Freud," Bergler
presented his main ideas in The Basic Neurosis, in which he summarized his massive
original contribution to the field.
Throughout his considerable body of written work, lucid case summaries in each book
reveal clinical brilliance and a highly effective analytic technique. His own writing, as
well as productive collaborations with Jekels, Eidelberg, Winterstein, and Hitschmann,
included works on theory and technique.”
—International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis,
Bergler was Freud’s assistant director at the Vienna clinic in the 1930s, and is
among the first generation of psychoanalyists after Freud. The centerpiece of
Freudian psychoanalysis was initially the Oedipus complex; but Bergler notes that,
over time, Freud began to realize how important the pre-Oedipal phase was in
human development- particularly the earliest- oral- phase.
Unfortunately, many of Freud’s (and Bergler’s) predecessors have not followed
their lead: (p. 57)* “One sometimes has the impression that some colleagues treat
everything ‘beyond Oedipus and the libido’ as unwelcome and bothersome
intruders.” and (p. 62): “Prevailing analytic opinion failed to accept that
substructure de facto and relegated pre-oedipality to a footnote.”
Bergler certainly didn’t. On the contrary, the pre-Oedipal phase was the central
feature of his work. In this essay, we will attempt to outline why he considered the
pre-Oedipal to be so important.
* Almost all material included (with the exception of the Appendix) are quotes from Bergler's
"Curable and Incurable Neurotics" (1961).