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Nathaniel Branden is a psychotherapist and author of psychology books and multiple articles on ethical and political philosophy. In addition to his work on the psychology of self-esteem, Branden has also played a prominent role in developing and promoting Ayn Rand's philosophic system, which is known as Objectivism.
Branden was born in 1930 with the name Nathan Blumenthal in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. He received a BA in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles. He received a Ph.D. in psychology from a small, unaccredited institution known as The California Graduate Institute.
In 1950, after having exchanged letters and phone calls, 19-year-old Branden met novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. The pair went on to develop an eighteen-year personal and professional relationship. Eventually, Rand and the much younger Branden had a romantic affair, despite both being married (they first sought the consent of their spouses).
For many years Branden was considered to be the leading figure in the Objectivist movement, second only to Rand herself. He was the leader of a group of Rand's closest associates known as the "Collective", which also included his wife Barbara Branden and Alan Greenspan. Rand considered him to be her soul mate and designated him her "intellectual heir". In the late 50's Branden founded the Nathaniel Branden Institute to promote Objectivism through guest lectures and educational seminars around the United States. The NBI became enormously successful, and soon expanded to offices all over the US and around the world.
In 1968, the close relationship between Rand and Branden came to an abrupt end when Rand discovered that Branden was having a sexual relationship with a third woman, actress Patrecia Scott. Rand then expelled Branden from the Objectivist movement. In a public announcement, she did not mention the relationship as such, but cited his alleged misuse of funds among other factors in the decision. Branden subsequently admitted to behaving "irrationally"  in his personal relationship with Rand, though he also stated in his memoirs that he considered Rand's move a hysterical over-reaction. The two never reconciled, and Branden remained persona non grata in the Objectivist movement. Shortly thereafter Branden moved from New York to California and married Patrecia Scott (a divorce with Barbara having occurred before his break with Ayn). Scott died in a freak accident in 1977, and Branden married a third time in 1978, wedding businesswoman Devers Israel, from whom he is also divorced.
In 1989 Branden published his account of this time in his life. The memoir was entitled Judgment Day. Then in 1999, Branden re-published a revised edition, entitled My Years with Ayn Rand. Branden's account provides an inside view of Ayn Rand as a person, the development of Objectivism, its inner circle, and the tumultuous relationships between Ayn Rand and her associates.
Branden has since rejected certain elements of the Objectivist philosophy, particularly its cognitivist view of psychology, and his memoirs chronicle many of the emotionally repressive elements of Rand, some of which he argues show up in her fiction. He likewise argued that followers' obsession with Rand herself led to an unhealthy cult of personality within the movement, damaging the common-sense of both Rand and other Objectivists.
As a psychologist Branden has elucidated the crucial role of self-esteem in psychological health, and has outlined the volitional practices he has observed to be essential to achieving and maintaining self-esteem. As a therapist, Branden developed the sentence completion method, a powerful and sophisticated psychotherapeutic tool that can be used both to make unconscious thoughts and feelings conscious, and to transform limiting beliefs and attitudes.
Politically, Branden has retained most of his strict capitalist political views, though some of these have evolved since the split with Rand: for example, unlike Rand, he says he "will leave the door open for emergency situations that I just can’t imagine being resolved in a free market context [like natural disasters and epidemics]. If they could be, then they should be. But the fact of emergencies should not be made as justification for violating individual rights, so as you can see, it’s a very tiny difference." In addition to changing his views on Objectivism, he now views Objectivists differently: "Philosophical principles are no substitute for thinking, yet many Objectivists act as if they were."
Nathaniel Branden continues to write and practice psychotherapy in Los Angeles, California, as well as present seminars and workshops on self-esteem. He is affiliated with the United States Libertarian Party, though he was unenthusiastic about it in the 2004 election. Most "orthodox" Objectivists like those at the Ayn Rand Institute oppose libertarianism outright (see libertarianism and Objectivism for more information).
- Who Is Ayn Rand? (with Barbara Branden) (1962)
- The Virtue of Selfishness (with Ayn Rand) (1964)
- Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (with Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen) (1966)
- The Psychology of Self-Esteem (1969)
- Breaking Free (1970)
- The Disowned Self (1971)
- The Psychology of Romantic Love (1980)
- The Romantic Love Question & Answer Book (1982)
- Honoring the Self (1983)
- How To Raise Your Self Esteem (1987)
- Judgement Day (1989)
- The Art of Self Discovery (1993)
- The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)
- Taking Responsibility (1996)
- The Art of Living Consciously (1997)
- My Years with Ayn Rand (1999)
- 32nd Anniversary Edition of Psychology of Self-Esteem (2001)
Nathaniel Branden's 20 books have been translated into 18 languages, with more than 4 million copies in print.
- Valliant, James S. (2005) The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, Dallas: Durban House. ISBN 1-930654-67-1. This book alleges errors in his biographical work on Ayn Rand.
- Notes from Branden's books and tapes
- The Atlasphere - Social networking site for fans of Ayn Rand
- Objectivist Living - An Objectivist Community dedicated to Ayn Rand and the Art of Living Consciously
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