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.
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
New York University.
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
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.
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.
subsequently admitted to behaving "irrationally" though
in his memoirs he would later admit that he considered Rand's
move a hysterical over-reaction. The two never reconciled, and
Branden remained a 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
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.
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.
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.
Branden has retained most of his strict capitalist politicial
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
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