0 Contents 2 Background 1-8 Problems 


1-8-12 * Bruno Bettelheim


It is 2006 09 27. I just went on the internet to find Bruno's name as author of The Children Of The Dream. Then the search with his name showed a Wikipedia and other references that discredited Prof. Bettelheim. This leaves me with much difficulty. 

I will share a couple dehumanizing characterizations of Bruno and a few thoughts about them.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Published: March 15, 1990


Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, the eminent psychoanalyst who committed suicide on Tuesday, had been demoralized by a series of setbacks in his health, family life and work, friends said yesterday. 

''My feeling was that Bruno was a fighter some time back, but that recently he was quite depressed over illness and family relations,'' said Dr. Fritz Redlich, emeritus chairman of the psychiatry department at Yale Medical School. 

Dr. Bettelheim, who was 86 years old, suffocated at a retirement home in Silver Spring, Md., after taking pills and placing a plastic bag over his head, the authorities said. The contents of a note found by the authorities were not disclosed. 

A Series of Hurts 

Dr. Redlich, Dr. Rudolf Ekstein, a Los Angeles psychoanalyst, and others who knew Dr. Bettelheim said that the blows that took the biggest toll were the death of his wife, Gertrud, in 1984; a stroke in 1987 that left him unable to write as he wanted, and a recent estrangement from his daughter Ruth Bettelheim, a clinical psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif. 

Dr. Ekstein, perhaps Dr. Bettelheim's closest friend in recent years, said, ''Sometimes when he felt down, he would speak to me about how when the pain is so great and one is useless, one should do like Socrates, who took hemlock when he was sentenced to death.'' 

The final straw seems to have been Dr. Bettelheim's move six weeks ago from an elegant apartment in Santa Monica overlooking the Pacific Ocean to Charter House, a retirement home in Silver Spring, apparently to be closer to another daughter, Naomi Pena. Neither of Dr. Bettelheim's daughters was available for comment. 

''The rest home was a disappointment after his own apartment,'' said Dr. Redlich. ''He was very much a man used to directing his own life; he was unhappy there.'' 

A Final Conversation 

The last of his friends to speak with Dr. Bettelheim was Jacquelyn Sanders, a psychologist who now directs the Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago, which Dr. Bettelheim directed from 1944 to 1973 and raised to international prominence. Dr. Sanders called Dr. Bettelheim Monday night to arrange to see him while she was in Washington next week. 

''His tone of voice was, if anything, a little stronger,'' said Dr. Sanders. ''But when I asked if I could come by next week, he said simply, 'It depends on what shape I'm in.' '' 

''We would all have loved to see him forever as a survivor,'' said Dr. Ekstein. ''Some people saw him as a sort of god. But then you can't be a god anymore.'' 

From wikipedia

Bruno Bettelheim (August 28, 1903 - March 13, 1990) was an Austrian-born American writer and child psychologist. ...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Bettelheim

Beyond Bettelheim's psychological theories, controversy has existed regarding his history and personality. After Bettelheim's suicide in 1990, his detractors claimed that Bettelheim had a dark side. He was known for exploding in screaming anger at students. Three ex-patients questioned his work, characterizing him as a cruel tyrant and critics such as Richard Pollak, alleged that he was a pathological liar who invented much of the official biography of his life before reaching the United States. It seems his only degree was in art history not psychology. Critics also claim that he spanked his patients despite publicly rejecting spanking as "brutal". Treatments based on his autism theories to help children, some reporting rates of cure around 85%, were questioned.

Bettelheim also caused controversy with a claim that homosexuality may cause psychological damage to individuals. He was asked to clarify this claim, in particular on two points: What damage? How do you know the damage can be attributed to homosexuality and not to the negative reactions by family and society, manifested often in psychological and physical persecution? Bettelheim did not respond. His claim could be easily dismissed and was ...

The Creation of Dr. B: A Biography of Bruno Bettelheim

--The New York Times-- A "devastating" book written with "exquisite politeness . . . . Bettelheim seems to have re-enacted the archetypal American success story of inventing a false past, concocting a new formula for snake oil and selling it to the public with flummery. Under Mr. Pollak's magnifying glass, Bettelheim is seen in a new, harsh light, and stands exposed as a brilliant charlatan.

To find these harsh rejections of the man and his ideas to my mind amounts to liberal academic dehumanization rather than respect for the wisdom of experience that Bruno had. I feel sure the criticisms have the majority political support of the gay and lesbian community that dehumanize Bruno as homophobic and support of the social workers that dehumanize parents for spanking their children.

To me many liberals and academics are nice people but are like the person that told people how to ride a bike because he or she had lecture courses, had books on "How to ride a bike" and passed all there written test to become certified in bike riding with out getting on a bike!

Yes! Sadomasochism is evil but to equate that with anger evoked in a caring person in reaction to self-destructive behavior is also evil. Yes! There needs to be research but "key hole" research and political bias in areas with an academically narrow scope and ignorance is a poor substitute for the caring and wisdom of a man that professionally and humanly cared for the dehumanized victims of Nazi Concentration Camps. He was bought free of the Nazi system just before the official orders to murder the inmates! He went on to help people overcome self destructive behavior and be responsible as a life long process.

My friend Mabel White from the Movement Against Psychiatric Abuse had many friends that were recovering alcoholics and some insights into there difficulties. Also, my restaurant community was where I sat to eat meals, do my course work for graduate studies and grade papers from teaching Physics. This was a gathering place for AA people after there meetings and a community center for many.

I saw that many recovering alcoholics had nature characteristics in common. I found that Bruno's characterization of Israeli Holocaust Survivors contained an insight into the nature of some recovering alcoholics.

Survivors fell into three categories, two successful at holding a job and having a family and one not. One of the successful groups repressed the past and would not discuss it. They were disciplined and relatively insensitive. The other successful group was mostly healed by sharing there experience to the point that they were focusing on the here and now with relative ease and sensitivity.

The third whose life was characterized as unable to hold a job or maintain a home and raise children. This group seem caught in the middle of the other two in the sense that they were unable to suppress  there bad experiences and were also unable discuss them to the point of healing.

There were two observations of child care effect I remember in particular. One was of children raised in a hippy commune where it was group sex and the children belonged to everyone. The observation was that the children were neglected and no one formed a quality child rearing bond (I regret I am unable to find a reference to this on the net). Second, I enjoyed Bruno's observations of children raised in a kibbutz. They were so close that they were like brother and sister and when grown preferred to marry outside their group. This shows an effect that is social and not biological.

I did a search for Bruno's degrees and found the following book reference that puts Bruno in a better light.

Rising to the Light: A Portrait of Bruno Bettelheim
by Theron Raines
About the Author

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Theron Raines served in the air force as a navigator; later, he earned degrees from Columbia College, Columbia University, and Oxford University. He has been a literary agent for many years, and his distinguished client list has included, apart from Bruno Bettelheim, James Dickey, Winston Groom, Raul Hilberg, Willie Morris, and Cynthia Ozick.

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1983, after years of trying to persuade Bruno Bettelheim to write his autobiography, Theron Raines, his friend and literary agent, himself undertook to tell the life of the renowned but often controversial child psychologist. With no thought of writing a conventional biography, Raines began a series of interviews in which Bettelheim reflected at length upon the major moments triumphs, crises, and tragedies of his extraordinary life. Rising to the Light is the fascinating synthesis of these encounters and of Raines's interviews with counselors, teachers, and former students from the world-famous Orthogenic School.Here is Bettelheim's sudden passage from a life of wealth and luxury in Vienna to the appalling brutality of Dachau and Buchenwald, where his intellect helped him survive the horrific conditions that often broke down a prisoner's personality. His understanding of the parallels between the extreme situation of a concentration-camp prisoner and the inner world of a disturbed child would shape him as a therapist. Here is his voyage from the Old World to the New, and his professional ascent in Chicago, where he developed a total therapeutic milieu for children unable to survive emotionally at home or in any other school. Though he had no specialized training, he was uniquely qualified by his uncanny insights into children and his deep Freudian and post-Freudian convictions about human nature and behavior. Based on his success as a clinician and teacher, he would go on to become a best-selling author. But toward the end of a long life, Bettelheim would succumb to a stroke and to a devastating depression intensified by his feelings of uselessness when he was no longer able to do the work that had been his daily salvation for so many decades. Raines, who visited him twice in his last weeks, also gives us the days just before the puzzling suicide of this man who had endured and built so much.
Despite his demonstrably tireless commitment to children, Bettelheim's reputation was blemished after his death by attacks on his writings and his unorthodox clinical methods, in particular his use of physical discipline in the psychotherapeutic setting. Raines's conversations with Bettelheim have much to tell us about this bitterly disputed aspect of his legacy, and they reveal a complex man who had to explore the boundary between compassion and brutality.
Rising to the Light is a portrait of a great teacher; it gives us a more direct line of sight into the Bettelheim enigma than any other book is likely to provide.


"Attempting to counteract all the attacks and exposes of Bettelheim that have appeared since his suicide in 1990, this warm biography...tries to restore the controversial psychologist's celebratory status as therapist, writer, and teacher." Hazel Rochman, Booklist