The Wizard from the Land of Psychoanalysis The Wizard from the Land of Psychoanalysis
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Source: Jack Manning/The New York Times/Redux/East News
The Other School

The Wizard from the Land of Psychoanalysis

The Life of Bruno Bettelheim
Aleksandra Kozłowska
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time 13 minutes

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wanted to heal with fairy tales, care and kindness. His psychiatric hospital had no bars on the windows. He intended for his young patients to recover in a pleasant, calm environment. The story of the good doctor sounds like a fairy tale. And who knows – perhaps it was.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, beyond the Danube, Bruno Bettelheim was born. If his life were framed as a fairy tale, it would resemble a saga of a fight against evil – the kind you wouldn’t even read about in the collections of the Brothers Grimm. It would be a tale of the traces that this evil leaves on the human psyche, and how difficult experiences can be turned into something positive. Something enchanting. This fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending, although it ended in precisely the way the protagonist wanted.

Rescue from across the ocean

Bettelheim was born on 28th August 1903 in Vienna, into a wealthy, secularized Jewish family. We don’t know which fairy tales he was told as a child, but it’s safe to assume that his mother or nanny read him Grimms’ Fairy Tales – nowadays, it’s a classic, and at the time it was an extremely popular collection of folk tales combining magic and fantasy with fear and cruelty. As Celeste Fremon wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Bettelheim acknowledged years later that his favourite fairy tale was Hansel and Gretel because “the boy and the girl needed each other”. Perhaps it was his willingness to work together with other young people that prompted the teenage Bettelheim to join Vienna’s Jung-Wandervogel (‘Young Migratory Bird’) – a left-wing, pacifist youth movement – in 1917. Like the other members of the group, he rebelled against authoritarian families and the strict disciplinarian approach of Austrian schools.

Bettelheim’s other passion at that age was psychoanalysis – a new and intriguing discipline of study producing graduates who were boldly venturing into the hidden world of human instincts and desires. He was also fascinated by the creator of psychoanalysis himself, Sigmund Freud, and

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The Life of Viktor Frankl
Agnieszka Drotkiewicz

He survived the Holocaust by being hopeful about the future, and graciously accepted all experiences and people that fate brought his way. Today, the Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl is recognized—alongside Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler—as a key figure of psychotherapy.

In the postscript to his most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl writes: “[…] each of the moments of which life consists is dying, and that moment will never recur. And yet is not this transitoriness a reminder that challenges us to make the best possible use of each moment of our lives? It certainly is, and hence my imperative: Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”

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