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Bruno Bettelheim: The Other Side of Madness Paperback – 3 Sep 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; New edition edition (3 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071562850X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715628508
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,237,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mira de Vries on 7 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Bruno Bettelheim's name is infamous among parents of autistic children. Presumably he coined the term "refrigerator mothers," blaming autism on the cold behavior of the autistic child's mother. (To this day, it is widely assumed that only children are autistic. I don't know what people think happens to autistics when they turn into adults.) It took a doctor named Rimland, who had an autistic son, to famously challenge this view. Not that mothers had not protested such injustice before, but doctors are simply taken more seriously by other doctors. Rimland himself turned into a quack peddling megavitamins for the supposed cure of autism. As for Bettelheim, according to Sutton, his biographer, when he realized he could not cure autism, he stopped accepting autistic "patients" for treatment at his "school."

In spite of his being famous for it, the term "refrigerator mother" appears nowhere in the biography. Rimland is mentioned briefly as an opponent of Bettelheim's methods. Ironically, although Bettelheim mis-identified the cause of autism, his proposed "cure" was no doubt indeed the best way to care for autistic children, as well as all other children. If Sutton's description is correct, then during the three decades that Bettelheim directed the "Orthogenic School" in Chicago, the care involved lots of individual attention, acceptance of children the way they were, and no psychoactive drugs. Ironically Bettelheim himself spent the last years of his life taking antidepressants.

Sutton seems to have researched Bettelheim's life thoroughly. Yet the inclusion of remarks about Bettelheim's thoughts, feelings, motives, and moods, as though she were psychoanalyzing him, constantly raises the question, "Is this true?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Having never studied psychology, I was afraid of this book at first. Then I discovered it is easy to read and talks about things familiar to me: childhood hurts, mother-children relationships, anti-Semitism, abuses of all kinds - and how to deal with them and go forward. I travel all over the world and everywhere I go it goes. It gives me strength. It is a precious book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Having never studied psychology, I was afraid of this book at first. Then I discovered it is easy to read and talks about things familiar to me: childhood hurts, mother-children relationships, anti-Semitism, abuses of all kinds - and how to deal with them and go forward. I travel all over the world and everywhere I go it goes. It gives me strength. It is a precious book.
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It's not accurate 23 Oct. 2006
By Charles Pekow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, this is a case of an author who had a preconceived notion about the subect of her biography and refused to change it in spite of the evidence. People often don't change their ideas when they are discredited -- a notion the Freudians say applies to everyone but themselves -- but ironiclly applies to them as much as anyone.

I was at the Orthogenic School Sutton writes about and she interviewed me for the article. I have never been so badly mispreresented or misquoted nor so blatently lied to by an author, though I have been quoted many times in may places about many subjects. Despite the evidence that Bettelheim falsified his research, cruelly treated his wards and advocated sham "cures" for "disturbed" children that actually did them more harm than good, she struggled to paint a positive picture of him.

The author also fell into another trap that the psychoanalytically-inclined are prone to: thinking they know better what someone else thinks than the individual does. She promised me I could control what she said about me in the book. Then she proceeded to print all sorts of unsourced untruths about me -- presenting as fact lies about what I did and how I supposedly felt. I was victimized by Bettelheim and again by Sutton. As the late Barry Goldwater said after his presidential campaign, "if I didn't know Goldwater and had to rely on the press for my information, I would have voted against the son-of-a-bitch myself."

The author is dishonest, the book is not accurate and should not be read or believed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
He managed to make it in life, but not enjoy it 11 July 2011
By Mira de Vries - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Bruno Bettelheim's name is infamous among parents of autistic children. Presumably he coined the term "refrigerator mothers," blaming autism on the cold behavior of the autistic child's mother. (To this day, it is widely assumed that only children are autistic. I don't know what people think happens to autistics when they turn into adults.) It took a doctor named Rimland, who had an autistic son, to famously challenge this view. Not that mothers had not protested such injustice before, but doctors are simply taken more seriously by other doctors. Rimland himself turned into a quack peddling megavitamins for the supposed cure of autism. As for Bettelheim, according to Sutton, his biographer, when he realized he could not cure autism, he stopped accepting autistic "patients" for treatment at his "school."

In spite of his being famous for it, the term "refrigerator mother" appears nowhere in the biography. Rimland is mentioned briefly as an opponent of Bettelheim's methods. Ironically, although Bettelheim mis-identified the cause of autism, his proposed "cure" was no doubt indeed the best way to care for autistic children, as well as all other children. If Sutton's description is correct, then during the three decades that Bettelheim directed the "Orthogenic School" in Chicago, the care involved lots of individual attention, acceptance of children the way they were, and no psychoactive drugs. Ironically Bettelheim himself spent the last years of his life taking antidepressants.

Sutton seems to have researched Bettelheim's life thoroughly. Yet the inclusion of remarks about Bettelheim's thoughts, feelings, motives, and moods, as though she were psychoanalyzing him, constantly raises the question, "Is this true?"

She claims that although Bettelheim achieved great success and respect in the field of psychoanalysis, he himself was obsessed with guilt over being a fraud, because he didn't have an appropriate diploma. Sutton seems to think that Bettelheim had a natural talent for psychoanalysis, and therefore did not need the diploma, so he shouldn't have felt guilty about that. In fact, his successes were based on common sense, such as advising a mother not to nag her daughter to practice her music lessons, but to allow the child to stop the lessons if the child so wished. Sutton does not entertain the idea that perhaps the entire field of psychoanalysis is either common sense or psychobabble, and that any diploma anyone achieves in it is irrelevant. She does, however, acknowledge that inflating one's experience and successes is a normal part of professional behavior.

Reading this biography, I found myself liking Bettelheim more than I had intended. His individualism appealed to me, in spite of my general resentment of anyone who claims to have special understanding of the human mind. I was also surprised to learn how close I once came to meeting Bettelheim. When I lived on Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan in Israel, I had often heard about the famous doctor who had lived on the kibbutz (for only six weeks) and written a book about the way children were raised there, "Children of the Dream." The title was a source of pride to the kibbutzniks, independently of the contents, which were never mentioned. Thirty years later I learned that the famous "doctor" was the now infamous Bruno Bettelheim.

According to Sutton, Bettelheim had what today would be called "suicidal ideation" throughout most of his life, with the remarkable exception of his strong drive to survive during the year he was incarcerated in a nazi concentration camp. Towards the end of his life, when he was in poor physical health and missed his wife who had passed away, he contemplated coming to the Netherlands, laboring under the mistaken impression that he could obtain legal euthanasia here. Sutton fails to point out that that is not so. In the end, Bettelheim took matters into his own hands.

It's a thick book, 524 pages, not a waste of time.

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