The Rational Basis® of Selfishness

"The RATIONAL Basis" is a registered trademark of Dr. Ellen Kenner

Part 1: Values and Happiness

You have probably been told, throughout your life, that you are second class, less important than others. It's not said in those terms. It's said in disguise - in simple comments such as:

"Take care of everyone else first before you take care of yourself" or
"Do this just because—I don't want to hear any lip from you" or
"Be polite, don't say what's on your mind - it might hurt others feelings" or "Keep quiet and do what your father says" or
"I don't care what you want. I know what's best for you and you'll do what I say".

These simple statements often translate over time into the more generalized rule to put others first (i.e. you come last). The idea, that others are more important than you, destroys your life and happiness when it becomes your mental operating policy. This notion, "others are more important", is a vicious idea. It typically cuts you down just as you are discovering your own interests and values in life. And values and valuing skills are essential to your happiness.
By valuing skills I mean valuing yourself as a person by achieving good character traits (e.g., honesty, independence in thought and action). You want to fundamentally admire the person you are. You want to feel worthy of pursuing, not your mother's, not your father's, nor your spouse's dreams for you, but your rational dreams. Your parents had their chance to pursue their own dreams. If they defaulted on that, they don't get a second chance by living their dreams through you. Don't allow them to push you into the career of their choice, not yours.

What are YOUR rational dreams? Have you paused long enough to take stock of what makes your life worth living? What have you always wanted to achieve or to accomplish? Did you want to become an inventor, or to be a dancer or an actress, or to write a novel, or to learn to fly a plane? Have you had a lifelong hidden fascination with the culinary arts? Maybe you dreamed of opening your own restaurant… but your parents wanted you to become a lawyer. You gave in. You told yourself "to be respectful of them". Did this choice cost you your happiness? When you abandon your possible dreams…well, you know the rest of the story all too well. What do youwant in life?

Notice I did not say "should"—what "should you do"—that word will typically send you on a thought path marked "duty" and "guilt" - typically an unearnedguilt.. What are your deepest interests? I said what do you want to achieve? What are your buried dreams? What would make you wake up each morning, pop out of bed with vigor to start the day with an interest you love? Why would you want to spend another year, day or hour of your life on unchosen duties imposed by others?
Now be careful. This does not mean that you can abandon your children. You have valid responsibilities that you have chosen. But how much of your day (today for example?) is being spent doing things that are your personal rational interest or passion…and how much of today will you whittle away on less important or unchosen obligations.

If you find that you are whittling away your life, if you feel trapped with unchosen obligations and chores, how do you gently disentangle yourself from this psychological prison? How do you mentally recapture your right to your own life? How do you do so as a self-respecting, responsible person? In this process of recapturing your own life there is one major mistake you can make.When you have spent your life existing to please others, catering to their every need at the expense of your own happiness (the servant or slave version of life) you may conclude that you now want to break free. But many people break free in a disastrous, equally bad way. They switch from slave to slave driver. They may think "I've sacrificed so much for others—now it is time for them to sacrifice for me." "I've been pushed around just about enough—now it's time for me to do the pushing". They start to manipulate and take advantage of others. This is the slave driver/bully version of life—it is another fatal mistake. You still believe that life involves sacrifices—either you serve others or they serve you. You now choose the latter.

I am suggesting a much healthier alternative to the slave or bully version of life. You can respect yourself and your ability to think. You can learn to speak up assertively and to identify your strongest rational interests. You can do the thinking and take the actions needed to achieve your values… without ever running roughshod over others.
If you feel trapped, imprisoned, if you allow others to take advantage of you, if you are always trying to please others, if you find yourself frequently apologizing when it is unnecessary or over-explaining yourself—open up those psychological prison doors. Learn the valuing skills to achieve your happiness.

(Part two)