Archive for January 2008

The Psychology of Romantic Love subtitled: Romantic Love in an Anti-Romantic Age

January 31, 2008

“The passionate attraction between man and woman that is known as romantic love can generate the most profound ecstasy. It can also generate, when frustrated, unutterable suffering. Yet for all its intensity, the nature of that attachment is little understood. To some, who associate “romantic” with “irrational,” romantic love is a temporary neurosis, an emotional storm, inevitably short-lived, which leaves disillusionment and disenchantment in its wake. To others, romantic love is an ideal that, if never reached, leaves one feeling as though one has somehow missed the secret of life…. 

“I do not see romantic love as the prerogative of youth. Nor do I see it as some kind of immature ideal, inappropriately adapted from literature, that must crumble in the face of “prac­tical reality.” I do see romantic love as requiring more of us, in terms of our personal evolution and maturity, than we generally appreciate. Indeed. that is one of the central themes of this book.”

A brief excerpt from   The Psychology of Romantic Love    on sale in stores February 1st.


In Defense of Romantic Love

January 30, 2008

“Romantic Love” evokes associations of valentines, violins, and soft music and knights in shining armor—for some people.  For others, it raises the question “Aren’t we too sophisticated for that today?”


            It is unfortunate that a few popular symbols of what people like to call “romance” have replaced the psychological reality of romantic love. We need to think more deeply than that. Valentines and violins have nothing to do with the essential meaning of love between a man and woman (as I conceive them in “The Psychology of Romantic Love”).

            And no, if we want to speak of sophistication, we are not too sophisticated.  We are not sophisticated enough.  The error is already evident in the use of the term “sophistication.”  In this context, it is a frivolous word.

            “Sophistications,” in the modern world, is often the last refuge of people who are simply frightened of passion, devotion, and commitment.

            Many people are so naïve as to believe that if they surround themselves with the trappings of “romance”—if they plant themselves in a glamorous restaurant with soft lights and music—something magical will happen to their relationship. They sit there helplessly, waiting for the ambience to work a miracle.  It never does.

            Externals can be very pleasant, but they are not the core of romantic love.  The core lies within the mind of the individual man or woman.  It is there or nowhere.

            “Being romantic” means treating the relationship as important, behaving in ways that underscore its importance.  Flowers can be a lovely gift, or a meaningless gesture. There are people who know how to be romantic in a hovel; there are people who do not know how to be romantic in a palace.

            As for the image of the knight in shining armor, it is an ambiguous.  It could represent a woman’s longing for a man she can admire.  It could also represent the immature wish for someone coming to rescue her, coming to make the world safe for her.   As such, it is more a projection of adolescent insecurity than a projection of mature love.  From the male perspective, it could represent a man’s desire to achieve an admirable soul and to be so perceived by the woman he loves.  But it could also represent the craving of a man to play hero for a “weak and helpless” female.  Romantic love is a relationship between independent equals, not between a waif and a rescuer.

            But wait a minute.  Nobody dreams of a rescuer on a white horse any more.  Sure they do.  Only the preferred color is black, not white.  And the dream isn’t for a horse.  It’s for a Harley or a Ferrari or a Bentley.

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My Mission Statement

January 29, 2008


I have been asked, what is my mission in this Blog?  I want to share what I have learned about psychological well being and what it takes to achieve it. That is one of the reasons I focus so much on self-esteem  (although at some points I will be writing about ethics or culture or Objectivism or Libertarianism). 

            Most fundamentally, however, I will express my mission another way.  My mission is to inspire readers to honor their life and happiness, and to have the courage to fight for them.

Self-esteem And How It Affects Virtually Every Aspect Of Our Life.

January 24, 2008

No one who is familiar with my writings will be surprised to learn that one of my favorite subjects is self-esteem and how it affects virtually every aspect of our life. Even if I seem to be writing about something else, sooner or later self-esteem has a way of being invited to the party.

Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the fundamental challenges of life and as being worthy of happiness. (For more details, read The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem). Why the definition of self-esteem can be as important as it is controversial is an issue I will address in a future post.

In recent years, I have been increasingly interested in business and career problems as they relate to self-esteem. Here is a simple example

The head of a medium-sized company consulted me because, he said, although he had made a great success of his business, he was depressed and unhappy and could not understand why. We discovered that what he had always wanted to be was a research scientist but that he had abandoned that desire in deference to a father who pushed him toward a career in business. Not only was he unable to feel more than the most superficial kind of pride in his accomplishments, but he was wounded in his self-esteem—because in one of the most important issues of his life, he had surrendered his mind to another human being. This is always dangerous, no matter how brilliant the person to whom one surrenders.

It was not difficult to discover that his depression reflected a lifetime of performing admirably while ignoring his deepest needs. While he operated within that framework, pride and satisfaction were beyond his reach, except to a very limited extent. Until he was willing to challenge that framework, and to face the fear of doing so, no solution was possible.

At this point, someone may want to jump in and say, “Wait a minute, Branden. This is not a story uniquely applicable to business. It’s applicable to every aspect of human relationships.”

“You are quite right.” Probably most of us have heard someone say, “I have accomplished so much. Why don’t I feel more proud of myself?” And these people may not be thinking about business. They might be thinking about their marriage, their beautiful children, or their beautiful home. They may believe that these “successes” are guaranteed paths to self-esteem. They ask, not in so many words, “Haven’t my parents or friends promised me?” (See my treatment of autonomy in my “Taking Responsibility?

Although there are several reasons why someone may not enjoy his or her attainments, it can be useful to ask, “Who chose your goals? You — or the voice of some ‘significant other’ inside you?” Neither pride nor self-esteem can be supported by the pursuit of second-hand values that do not reflect who we really are.

Tying our self-esteem to the approval of “significant others,” and betraying our own judgment in the process, is only one of the tragic mistakes by which we can betray our selves. But it is a common one.

Welcome to the Nathaniel Branden Self-Esteem and Personal Development Blog.

January 21, 2008

Nathaniel Branden

Welcome to the Nathaniel Branden Self-Esteem and Personal Development Blog.


As this is the first day of the Blog, I want to cover a few basics. To begin with, I do not assume that you necessarily know, just because you are here, who I am or what I am about. Perhaps you decided to drop by only because the title intrigued you— or because you hit the wrong key a couple of times.

So, with as much restraint as possible, here are some of the facts.

I am a practicing psychotherapist, a corporate consultant, and a writer. Over eighty per cent of my clients never enter my office. We work via the telephone— from places as far from Los Angeles (where I live) as Ireland, Singapore, and Moscow.


I have a Ph.D in psychology and a background in philosophy. The books that I write tend to represent a blending of these two disciplines. My books include: “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” “The Disowned Self,” “Honoring the Self,” “How to Raise Your Self-Esteem,” “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem,” “Taking Responsibility,” “The Art of Living Consciously,” “Self-Esteem at Work,” “The Psychology of Romantic Love,” and a personal memoir— My Years with Ayn Rand.”  I feel an enormous sense of pride in contemplating these titles and what went into them.

My Blog will primarily but not exclusively focus on psychological issues. It seems certain that at some point politics will demand attention.  I am a libertarian (but not a member of the Libertarian Party).

I look forward to reading your postings and maybe having some fun with you.