Taking Responsibility



This major psychological work presents a brilliant new concept of human nature, of mental health and illness, and of the conditions necessary for the achievement of mental well-being. Nathaniel Branden breaks radically with the mainstream of contemporary psychology, challenging and rejecting the basic premises of both psychoanalysis and behaviorism. His book is a revolutionary contribution to man’s understanding of himself.

From the introduction to “The Psychology of Self-Esteem”:

The central theme of this book is the role of self-esteem in man’s life: the need of self-esteem, the nature of that need, the conditions of its fulfillment, the consequences of its frustration — and the impact of man’s self-esteem (or lack of it) on his values, responses, and goals.

Virtually all psychologists recognize that man experiences a need of self-esteem. But what they have not identified is the nature of self-esteem, the reasons why man needs it, and the conditions he must satisfy if he is to achieve it.

Virtually all psychologists recognize, if only vaguely, that there is a relationship between the degree of a man’s self-esteem and the degree of his mental health. But they have not identified the nature of that relationship, nor the causes of it.

Virtually all psychologists recognize, if only dimly, that there is some relationship between the nature and degree of a man’s self-esteem and his motivation, i.e. his behavior in the spheres of work, love, and human relationships. But they have not explained why, nor identified the principles involved. Such are the issues with which this book deals.

If the science of psychology is to achieve an accurate portrait of man, it must, I submit, question and challenge many of the deepest premises prevalent in the field today — must break away from the anti-biological, anti-intellectual, automaton view of human nature that dominates contemporary theory. Neither the view of man as an instinct-manipulated puppet (psychoanalysis), nor the view of him as a stimulus-response machine (behaviorism), bears any resemblance to man the biological entity whom it is the task of psychology to study: the organism uniquely characterized by the power of conceptual thought, propositional speech, explicit reasoning and self-awareness.

This work serves as the theoretical foundation for much of Branden’s later writings.