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Nathaniel Branden

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As I have said elsewhere, Nathaniel Branden is one of the authors I have learned the most from and have the most respect for. Here are notes from his books and tapes. His website is http://nathanielbranden.com I have links to some of his books on my bookstore page. His best tape set, in my opinion, is the six tapes set of Honoring the Self which I can't find anywhere, not even on his website, where it used to be avaliable If anyone has a copy of this please let me know!!

I don't agree with everything he says, for example our beliefs about feelings and self-esteem differ; and he comes across as judgmental sometimes. (And see this quote where he sounds like a typical defensive parent.) Also, I would rather we didn't see him in a suit and tie on nearly every page of his website, (especially since he is such a vocal advocate of non-conformity) but still I recommend his work. (May 2005 note, he has dropped the tie.)


Table of Contents

Some good quotes from his webpage


- From one of his tapes on self-esteem

- The Six Pillars of Self Esteem

- Honoring the self-tapes

- Transcript of side 1 of Honoring the Self | Side 2 | Side 3 | Side 4 | Side 5 | Side 6 | Side 7

Sentence completion exercises (Highly recommended)

The Psychology of Romantic Love

A discouraging quote from Branden about parents, where he sounds like a typical defensive parent

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From a cassette tape

To be real is to be integrated - body, thoughts, feelings, expressions

No pain is so destructive as the one you refuse to face

No suffering is so enduring as that which you refuse to acknowledge

When you repress feelings you deny yourself access to key data

People begin to pretend they don't have needs that have long been denied [first to them, then by them]

When you repress thoughts or feelings you are avoiding something connected with pain

Another problem is that they are part of you, so you are diminishing your sense of self - he calls it disowning your feelings

Denying feelings might work in short term and as a child, but not in long term, and not as an adult

He says the way out is through - the emotions are messages, experience them fully - don't be afraid of them- but he doesn't give much help on how to manage emotions - he just repeats "the way out is through"

To the boy who had dreams of doing something great, of changing the world, his father, instead of encouraging him, would say, "Don't take yourself so seriously, don't be a dreamer. Go mow the lawn if you want to do something great."


Honoring the Self - Side 5

I remember as a child being enormously bewildered by the behavior of

I perceived the strangeness of superficiality in their values, a lack of
congruence between their statements and feelings, an anxiety that seemed
to saturate much of the atmosphere around me. And an overwhelming sense
that often the adults did not know what they were doing. It seemed to me
they were lost and helpless, while pretending to be in control.

This experience was painful and sometimes frightening. I desperately wanted
to understand why people behaved as they did. Somewhere in my mind, at
quite a young age there must have been a conviction that knowledge is
power, safety, security, serenity.





The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

Your life is important. Honor it. Fight for your highest possibilities.

p. xiii

I first lectured on self-esteem and its impact on love, work, and the struggle for happiness in the 1950's and published my first articles on the subject in the 1960's. The challenge then was to gain public understanding of its importance. "Self-esteem" was not yet an expression in widespread use. Today, the danger may be that the idea has become fashionable. It is on everyone's tongue, which is not to say that it is better understood. Yet if we are unclear about its precise meaning and about the specific factors its successful attainment depends on -- if we are careless in our thinking, or succumb to the oversimplifications and sugarcoatings of pop psychology -- then the subject will suffer a fate worse than being ignored. It will become trivialized. That is why...we begin our inquiry...with an examination of what self-esteem is and is not.

p 21 "Our motive is not to prove our self-worth, but to live up to our possibilities". [And by so doing, others may see our worth to the species.]

"If one error is to deny the importance of self-esteem, another is to claim too much for it. In their enthusiasm, some writers today seem to suggest that a healthy sense of self-value is all we need to assure happiness and success. The matter is more complex than that. Self-esteem is not an all-purpose panecea. Aside from the question of the external circumstances and opportunities that may exist for us, a number of internal factors clearly have an impact -- such as energy level, intelligence, and achievement drive. (Contrary to what we sometimes hear, this last is not correlated with self-esteem in any simple or direct way, in that such a drive can be powered by negative motivation as well as by positive, as, for example, when one is propelled by fear of losing love or status rather than by the joy of self-expression.) A well developed sense of self is a necessary condition of our well being but it is not a sufficient condition. Its presence does not guarantee fulfillment, but its lack guarantees some measure of anxiety, frustration or despair.

He then adds this footnote:

One difficulty with much of the research concerning the impact of self-esteem, as I said in the Introduction, is that different researchers use different definitions of the term and are not necessarily measuring or reporting the same phenomenon. Another difficulty is that self-esteem does not operate in a vacuum; it can be hard to track in isolation; it interacts with other forces in the personality.

Chapter 14 - Self-esteem in the schools

p. 202

"To many children, school represents a 'second chance' -- an opportunity to acquire a better sense of self and a better vision of life than was offered in their home."

Branden says a teacher who can "project confidence in child's goodness and competence" and who "treats boys and girls with respect" can "offer a powerful antidote" to the many dysfunctional messages a child may receive in the home.

Branden suggest that a teacher who "refuses to accept a child's negative self-concept and relentlessly holds to a better view of the child's potential" can be the turning point in a childs life. When Branden says such a teacher can sometimes even literally save a child's life, I agree. A suicide may be prevented when a begins to feel a glimmer of hope after years of hopelessness. A death by abuse at the hands of a parent, step-parent or a mother's current sexual partner might be prevented if the child feels empowered enough and worthy enough to report the abuser.

Branden's sentence completion exercises

(from the book/tape set "Honoring the Self")

Mother was always....

My actual answers the first time I did this exercise: cutting down Dad, shouting, talking in a loud voice, putting herself down, threatening me with big trouble, talking about her weight, complaining about the neighbors, aching and moaning, arguing with Dad, bossing us around, in control, cleaning, cooking, doing dishes, talking about other people, judging others, judging everything, complaining about Dad's pipe, dramatic

Added later when I was writing about respecting someone's need for sleep: vacuuming, dusting. Making sarcastic remarks. (Steven could walk right past two feet of dust and never notice it.)

Complaining because I didn't take something up the stairs with me when I went.


With mother I felt...

My answers: controlled, afraid, disapproved of, criticized, compared, guilty, responsible, blamed, restricted, bored, annoyed, depressed, drained, tuned out, invalidated, underestimated, interrupted

Mother gave me a view of myself as

My answers: a trouble maker, a rebel, a clown, mischievous, inferior, inadequate, a playboy, a capitalist, greedy, selfish, inconsiderate, impolite, rude, disobedient, immature

Father was always....

My answers: angry, getting yelled at by mom, smoking his pipe, late for work, driving dangerously, complaining about other drivers, passing cars, scaring us, frustrated, watching tv, trying to help others

With father I felt...

My answers: enslaved, afraid, loved (camping, fishing, baseball, skating,) disliked, troublesome, admired (dallas), respected, listened to, empowered, embarrassed (camping trip-tv dinner)

All my life...

My answers:

I have felt controlled, underestimated, envious, judgmental, needy, afraid, worried, compulsive, urgent, pressured, passionate, different, invalidated, superior

I have been a non conformist, a rebel, different

I have wanted to change things, teach people lessons & teach them &help them & get my way; to be free

One of the things I'd like you to know about me....

One of the things I don't want you to know about me....

If I were more honest about my feelings...

The bad thing about admitting my pain to myself is...

My answer: It will hurt, it will show my insecurities, I may feel depressed, discouraged, hopeless

The bad thing about admitting my fear is...

I'll have to face it

If I were to be honest about myself about my anger...

I would realize I still get angry more than I want to. I would think that it is deeply imprinted in my brain circuitry

The good thing about denying my excitement is...

I won't be let down when things don't happen as I envision - People won't invalidate me and think I am crazy, or childish

When I think of how I try to protect myself by denying my feelings and emotions...

I think: I don't do that anymore

Honoring the Self

Branden talks about his relationship with Ayn Rand. She was much older than he was. He said he was looking for a guide and mentor. Then when he was about 40 he realized he was his own mentor and guide and no longer needed her.


"The essence of self-awareness is learning to notice; learning to pay attention."


He talks about "sub-selves" such as

1) the child self. He says we all have a child self within us, but we may have disowned it by repressing it; by denying its needs and perceptions and feelings. He says "we may have believed that was necessary" so we could survive in our families; so we could get the approval we needed so we wouldn't get rejected and die.

2) The opposite gender self. The male part of each female and the female part of each male. He says the famous psychologist Carl Jung believed that in highly creative people this opposite gender self is stronger than in the average person.

3) The sage self. The wisest, most intuitive part of us. The part of us which is most aware of our deepest needs & highest possibilities. He also says the sage self may be the "voice of evolution" within us. He says it is easy to ignore it because it speaks only in whispers. (But I would say this voice is louder in some than in others and it really isn't that easy to ignore it because it keeps speaking to us our whole life so we ignore it only at our own peril and loss.)

He calls these various sub-selves "magnificient resources" and says they can enrich and enliven us.


He tells us to pay attention to our internal signals. He says these can be sensations, desires, emotions, memories, thoughts, images or fantasies. He says in effect that often we ignore or try to fight off the signals because they conflict with what we have been taught and thereby threaten our sense of security. He says "this is what makes maintaining self-awareness an important challenge."

Next he talks about how we try to resist these internal signals and how he recommends we accept this resistance rather than try to resisit it as well. He says "If you can't accept the feeling, the thought or the memory, accept the resistance." He says "if we stay with the resistance at the conscious level it will begin to melt."

"We become off center when we try to fight ourselves. When we flow with what is, we re-gain balance and control."

"When we fight ourselves we keep ourselves in a state of conflict and tension"

Then he gives the example of a client of his who says it is hard for them to speak freely because they are concerned with his approval. He tells them to repeat "Nathaniel., I really want your approval." After they have done this a few times, they are relaxed and can then tell him what they were earlier afraid to say. He says this is because the feeling has been owned and accepted rather than merely thought and resisted.

He says what really is important for the client in a case like this is not the approval itself, but the acceptance of the desire for it. (or we might say acceptance of the fear of disapproval and rejection)

"Blocking our feelings impairs solid contact with our own inner experience."

"Unfortunately many people who want to change begin by repudiating what they are and looking forward to what they want to become, but it doesn't work that way."

"We can't move successfully towards our goals by disowning what we are now. You cannot leave a place you have never been. You cannont leave an anger you have never accepted. You cannot let go of a pain you have never experienced."

Next is a discussion of integration and goals and healing.


Next he talks about how "Contact with feelings may often begin the process of self-healing, but it is hardly the end of the process. It doesn't automatically bring on the thinking, honesty, integrity and attitude of self-responsibility that our well-being ultimately requires."


"A fear that is experienced and acknowledged can be dealt with"


"We can accept our feelings without being obligated to be run by them."


Self-acceptance is realism -- what is, is. What I feel, I feel, what I think. What I have done, I have done.

"Reason and emotion do not have to be adversaries -- and shouldn't be."

"If rationality entails respect for the facts of reality, that includes the facts concerning our own psychological state."

"Reason is the process which allows us to organize and integrate the contents of our awareness."



The essence of self-assertion is to respect your own values and to live by your own judgment. In this way you experience integrity.

"The choice to be conscious is the ultimate act of self-assertion. The decision to be true to the judgments of your own mind is an act of self-assertion. The choice to see is an act of self-assertion. Humility and insecurity are associated with downcast eyes, are they not? Throughout the world today the most punishable crime in any dicatatorship is self-assertion -- the exercise of independent judgment and independent sight in defiance of authority. It is an act of self-assertion to challenge any dogma, whether it be in religion, science, government, or the teaching of your parents. It is an act of self-assertion to ask "why" and to refuse to accept a gun, a club or a frown as an answer."

Then he talks about the Milgram experiments.

Please do your own search on the Milgram experiments. They are VERY interesting. They are about obedience, and they show how afraid people are to disobey authority.

A discouraging quote from Branden about parents, where he sounds like a typical defensive parent

I just found this quote on his website. It seems he is trying to defend himself against his own children having some problems. I am surprised to see this. He sounds like a typical parent. I disagree with him. I don't believe that a child can grow up insecure and self-doubting if the parents were what he calls "impeccable". I am sure I could find ways these parents did not live up to my standards. So I challenge him to show me one case where the parents were "impeccable" and the children grew up insecure. -- S. Hein, April 2004

If parents do everything right, it does not follow necessarily that their children will grow up with healthy self-esteem. Life is more complex than that. Children play an active role in their own development; they are not merely passive clay on which biology and environment write. Parents' behavior can be impeccable, and yet the child may grow up insecure and self-doubting. And it sometimes happens that parents seemingly do everything wrong, and yet the child does well in school, forms good relationships, operates self-responsibly, and gives all the evidence of having a good level of self-esteem. It is almost as if these children were put on earth to drive psychologists crazy.

May 2005 note - No, I don't think so. I think there are just some things that Branden hasn't figured out yet. S. Hein

Some Quotes from Branden's web page

Out of fear, out of the desire for approval, out of misguided notions of duty, people surrender their selves-their convictions and their aspirations-every day. There is nothing noble about it. It takes far more courage to fight for your values than to relinquish them


Some people admire men and women of integrity; others are made nervous-they experience an unspoken sense of reproach, not knowing it lies within themselves


A productive purpose to which you give yourself fully and joyfully is one of the great adventures of life. It is a uniquely human source of happiness. —


It is humiliating to realize that when you drive your self underground, when you fake who you are, often you do so for people you do not even like or respect.


Omitting cases where you are literally coerced, as when someone points a gun at you, you are responsible for your reactions. No one "makes" you enraged to the point of turning violent. No one "makes" you become sarcastic and abusive. No one "makes" you do the things you are ashamed to take responsibility for.


Blaming is a dead-end. What is needed is to focus on solutions, which entails discovering your own resources and mobilizing the will to use them. What are you willing to do to make your life better?


Your desire for love from others is inseparable from your desire for visibility. If someone professed love for you but when talking about what he or she found lovable named characteristics you did not think you possessed, did not especially admire, and could not personally relate to, you would hardly feel nourished or loved. You do not merely wish to be loved; you wished to be loved for reasons that are personally meaningful to you and that are congruent with your perception of yourself. Celebrities and beautiful people in general often feel invisible in spite of having numerous admirers precisely because they recognize that their fans are in love with their own fantasy of the person, not the real person.


It is not enough to have a good idea. You must develop it, fight for it, work to win supporters for it, do everything in your power to see that it gets translated into reality. (slightly modified)


You are not likely to bring out the best in people or nurture their creativity if every time you hear about their problems you instantly give a solution. Encourage people to look for their own solutions-and project the knowledge that they are capable of doing so.


With regard to fear of the disapproval of others, the problem is not that you want to be liked. Who does not prefer being liked to disliked? The problem is where this desire stands in your hierarchy of values. Does it stand at the peak, above integrity and self-esteem? The question is not whether you want to be liked, but what you are willing to give in exchange. Are you willing to give up the judgment of your mind? The tragedy for many people is that their answer is yes. I call this a "tragedy" because so much suffering is traceable to this surrender.


for more quotes click the refresh button repeatedly on this link: http://nathanielbranden.com

Page 2 of Branden

Notes from romantic love part

High regard for the other person

Admiration - Then he says respect.

"Nothing is more important than that two people respect each other."

Do you like your partner?