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Brenman, E. (1996). Bruno Bettelheim. The Other Side of Madness. By Nina Sutton. London: George Duckworth. 1995. Pp. 524.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:833-836.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:833-836

Bruno Bettelheim. The Other Side of Madness. By Nina Sutton. London: George Duckworth. 1995. Pp. 524.

Review by:
Eric Brenman

There must be few readers who are not aware of the savage outcry against Bruno Bettelheim following his suicide in March 1990. There was a deluge of complaints, the most damning of which came from children he had treated at the famous Orthogenic Clinic in Chicago. This was later followed by atrocity stories from some members of staff and students. It was sad indeed as Bettelheim had on many occasions made it clear that he did not want a biography and now these accusations were widely published some weeks after his death.

The gist of the complaints was concerned with the contention of fraudulence and hypocrisy. Bettelheim was accused of posing as a dedicated therapist who emphasised that the child, whether psychotic or not, must above all be treated with complete respect. Yet it was contended that he hit the children, crushingly humiliated them, and would publicly denigrate a child who was ‘in error’ as an example from which other children could learn. This does not seem to have been the breakdown of a man at the end of his life, as Nina Sutton quotes episodes as far back as 1966, some twenty-four years before his death. The violent criticisms were given the most extensive publicity, culminating in worldwide circulation in Newsweek magazine, who dubbed him Beno Brutalheim. The intensity of the condemnations was no doubt amplified by the fact that Bettelheim had achieved universal acclaim as the ‘miracle Doctor’, and from the success of his numerous writings on his concentration camp experiences, the importance of fairy tales, and particularly on the Orthogenic School treatment of autism.

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