The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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I have a hard time approaching women.





































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Misc Movie clip

Male 1: I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed an exhibit more.  

Male 2: The artist’s choice to make that still life a monochrome was a stroke of genius. It conveyed such despair.

Male 1: Yes. It was so refreshing to see a sad peach.


Dr. Kenner:      Have you ever gone to a museum or looked in an art gallery and you say, “Oh my God. That is junk. That is crap. I can do so much better than that, and not only that, I would never, never consider painting a sad peach. I would not want to isolate despair in a painting. I would want a painting to give me hope and when I look through my own mind,” I’ll speak as myself now, when I look through my own mind, that is what I want from artwork. Whether it’s a movie or a book or whether it’s a statue or a painting, what I want to do is to make me feel excited about my life, excited about the possibilities, excited about my world. So when I leave a movie theater after I’ve paid a lot of money to go in there – I don’t buy the popcorn but paid a lot of money – I want to feel like, “Wow, that was a great movie. I feel better about the world. I feel better about my life.” And that is the wonderful role of art. If you want to learn more about the role of art in your life, there is a little book, The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. If you want to experience something wonderful in art, you could read her novels – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Those books changed my life. I went back to school and got my PhD in psychology and instead of knitting socks on circular needles.


I have a hard time approaching women. 


I am Dr. Ellen Kenner. My show is The Rational Basis of Happiness. I’m a clinical psychologist and I can take your calls and questions and any problems you’re having in your life. My number is toll-free, 1-877-DR-KENNER. And you can go to my website,, lots of information on it. And right now, I want to welcome Jeff to the show. Jeff, you’re having some difficulty in dating?


Jeff:                 Yes Dr. Kenner. My problem is, I have a very tough time approaching women that I’m attracted to, say if I’m out at a bookstore or strange women that I’m attracted to, strangers to me. I just have a very hard time approaching them. That’s not really the unusual thing. A lot of us are like that. But I’m very familiar with your work. I’m familiar with other psychologists, I’ve gone over this issue time and time again, and even though I believe I know the basic principles to go about approaching women under these conditions, I still have this problem. I still have this problem where I shut down. I get very nervous. I can’t seem to get over it. 


Dr. Kenner:      Have you ever or do you know how to take a nervous emotion and tease it apart and actually get to the bottom of it and then to mine some data that doesn’t support that feeling and end up with a much less nervous emotion?


Jeff:                 Yeah. I should say that I have made strides in this area and I do approach women at times, but usually I have to be very reassured that a woman likes me as well or has an interest in me as well. I go through this process and it usually takes a lot of time. That’s one of my problems as well.


Dr. Kenner:      What do you say to yourself? Let’s say I’m a strange woman or a stranger, and I’m in Barnes and Nobles or Borders bookstore. You see me and you want to approach me. What would your first thought be?


Jeff:                 My first thought is, “What is she going to think of me?” What I should interject here is that I know the principle is that I should be thinking primarily what I think of her. When I speak with her, I want to know who she is and if she’s right for me. But I still have that premise that she is judging me, I’m not going to measure up. So I have some insecurities in this regard. I understand the principle, but I still can’t seem to put it into action.


Dr. Kenner:      So if that’s what you’re feeling, that you’re not going to measure up, and you know what you want to be feeling – like if you go in to buy a car, or what is something you’ve bought recently?


Jeff:                 I actually bought a car less than a year ago.


Dr. Kenner:      You don’t think, “Will I measure up to the car?” You think what?


Jeff:                 I think, “Will this car be right for me? Will it give me enough gas mileage to go back and forth to work each day?” I kick the tires and slam the doors.


Dr. Kenner:      Love it. You need to kick the tires and slam the door of women. Obviously not literally. The fact that you can capture that attitude in buying an inanimate object, a car, you can see that you have that mental policy already in your mind of what would please me? What would I enjoy? And I'm not saying that in a relationship, she’s going to be judging you equally, but if you’re always thinking, “I’m defective and if I get too close she’s going to criticize me again,” my guess is you’ve had a lot of history practicing that from your childhood?


Jeff:                 Right.


Dr. Kenner:      I can remember in my own family, bringing home the report card was a moment that I kind of stood and I was being evaluated by my parents and by my teachers. The little comments, “Ellen needs to read more,” that they would write on it. I’m inadequate. I’m a failure. I’m a loser. It could be that I’m unlovable if you have a parent you feel rejects you. Whether or not they do is a separate issue, but if you have a parent that makes you feel unlovable because you don’t follow their values, then –


Jeff:                 I had that with my father.


Dr. Kenner:      Tell me about that.


Jeff:                 For instance, I was a very skinny kid, and when I was going through high school I was lifting weights in order to be more attractive to women, primarily, girls back then of course, and I would set goals for myself. I wanted to be 160 pounds by this time, and my father would say, “You’ll never do it. I talked to someone who knows about weightlifting and you can’t possibly do that.” My father would undercut me a lot.


Dr. Kenner:      That is a parenting error – actually a logical fallacy. It’s called the fortune-telling error. I could walk into my son’s room and say, “It’s a mess and you’ll never become anything in life.” What did I just do? I made a huge leap from one little messy room that everyone has, I have it, to, “You’ll be a failure in life,” coming from an important person? It primes you to feel like people are always evaluating you and you notice we don’t think that they’re evaluating us positively. They’re always flaw finding, looking for problems with us.


Jeff:                 Another thing I noticed, if I can bring it up briefly, is I notice sometimes when I know that a woman likes me … for instance, I like a woman right now. Before I go to work, I stop by her Starbucks each day. There’s a woman there who smiles at me, or had been smiling at me and eyeing me and showed some interest in me, and I would ignore her and I would ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I thought very hard about this and introspected a lot, and I found out that I felt a sort of anger toward women. This is my way of getting back at women from my past who rejected me. And it’s just a way of treating women as a collective and not treating her as one.


Dr. Kenner:      Wonderful that you’re able to see each person as an individual. Notice your self-talk is all important. All that stuff you say to yourself when you’re in Borders about to introduce yourself and everything you say to the other woman, or you don’t say to the Starbucks woman and then you start to generalize about women, all of that self talk is important. That’s what needs to be challenged. Sometimes you have to go back and actually put an invisible father in an empty chair and talk back to him in private. In therapy we call that the empty chair technique, where it’s like, “Dad, I’m sick of this. I can lift weights. I’m going to do what I want,” and that somewhat liberates you to say, “I’m in the driver’s seat.” Sometimes you take those significant events and can replay them. I would recommend the book Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky on my website, Thank you so much. I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner.