The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Isn't it selfish to follow your advice about assertive communication?









































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


Dr. Kenner:      Mia, you have a question about selfishness, yes? Tell me what your question is.


Mia:                 Just the language going back and forth between talking to the person/talking at the person, saying “you” versus how I feel. I’ve gone back and forth with those two types of languages.


Dr. Kenner:      So you’re aware of the difference between “you language” – you make me angry. You infuriate me. You’re an idiot. You’re stupid – and instead you can say, “I feel hurt. I feel angry. I’m frustrated.” If you say “I” what does that mean about you?


Mia:                 It’s about yourself. Ego comes in the way.


Dr. Kenner:      It gets in the way?


Mia:                 Well, ego is not a positive thing, is it? Ego gets in the way of you bonding with someone and communicating, right?


Dr. Kenner:      Okay. Well, picture two people together. Let’s picture you and me together, and I don’t want my ego to get in the way and we’re trying to figure out a place to eat and you don’t want your ego to get in the way. So I say, “Mia, where would you like to go to eat?” And what would you say? Remember, your goal is to be selfless. No self. What would you say?


Mia:                 I would ask you the question. I would say, “Well, where would you like to go?”


Dr. Kenner:      “You know, I really don’t care. All I want to do is make you happy, Mia, so where would you like to go?”


Mia:                 Okay, and then I would answer. I would say I would like to go to a restaurant.


Dr. Kenner:      See, you’re going to mess up! You’re going to be selfish, right? So if you continue to be selfless, what would our conversation sound like? “Listen, wherever you’d like to go honey. Where would you like to go Mia?” And you would say to me, “Wherever you want to go Ellen.”


Mia:                 Right. It would go back and forth and we wouldn’t go anywhere.


Dr. Kenner:      We wouldn’t go anywhere. So you can see the ridiculousness of selflessness. If there is no self-expression, then there’s no you. And multiply that in every area of my life. “What movies do you like Mia?” “Oh, I don’t care, whatever you like.” “What books do you want to read? What food do you like? What would you like to do for a hobby?” “Whatever you like, Ellen.” “Well, I don’t like anything, because I want to please you.” Can you see how foolish that is? Think of it applied to sex, to romance. “Honey, what makes you feel good?” “Oh, don’t worry about me. Don't worry about me. What makes you feel good?” “Oh, I can’t tell you what makes me feel good. I need to be selfless. I don’t want to have an ego, a self.” It is an impossible – and I’m going to put the next word in quotes – “moral” code. We have been taught that the ego is bad. That it’s bad to express yourself. Would you want to be married to a man who has no opinion, who has no values, who never expresses himself, who only wants to reflect your values?


Mia:                 No.


Dr. Kenner:      Why?


Mia:                 Because that’s not … you would just be alone, pretty much.


Dr. Kenner:      Wonderful way to phrase it. You would be alone and it would just be worse than being alone, because you would have the potential of an exciting, self-valuing partner who has self esteem and self respect and listen to all of these “selfs” and self confidence, who values his health, his body, his mind, and you would be with someone who is through-and-through self valuing. We’re taught that that’s bad. What is wrong with this picture?


Mia:                 I don’t see it. There’s no meaning. There’s no value in the relationship. There’s no connection.


Dr. Kenner:      There’s no you and there’s no him. And so let me give you, there are three things you need to separate out. There is such a thing as a person who is a doormat, a selfless person.  “Whatever you want honey. That’s okay. Of course I’m happy.” The person is not happy, but they think it’s moral to give up themselves, to be the martyr. And then fast-forward many decades, and that same person is saying, “I did for my kids. I did for my husband. I did for my parents. And I’m so sick of doing for people. I am so angry and now I’m going to live for myself.” Listen to the anger in the voice, right? So much resentment, they can’t live for themselves anymore. They don’t know how to. And so instead, they lash out. There are two views. One is the selfless doormat and the other view, which is normally presented as the alternative to the doormat, is the person who doesn’t give a damn about anybody else. “It’s my way or the highway. You do what I say.” You think of a very authoritarian father or mother. “You are going to do what I said. You shut your mouth. You listen to what I say. We’re going to this restaurant. I don’t want to hear from you. Kids should be seen but not heard.” You know, that view.


Those people exist, but they’re not self valuing. They are not valuing their own minds. They are not selfish. They are self-destructive. Nobody wants to be around them. They’re cold. They’re insensitive. You were saying, I know that’s one of the questions you shared with the screener, but that’s not the same as being self-respecting. If you value yourself, you both are honest. I can say to my husband, “Where do you want to go to dinner?” “I’d like to go to an Italian restaurant.” “I don’t eat garlic and peppers. Do you mind if we go to Chinese?” And he’d say, “Let’s go to Chinese this time, and maybe we can go to Italian another time and you could get those meals without garlic and pepper.”


I know we’re at the end of time. I’d recommend the book The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. She talks about that third view.


Mia:                 The Virtue of Selfishness?


Dr. Kenner:      Right. By Ayn Rand.


Mia:                 Okay. Thank you.


Dr. Kenner:      Thank you very much for the call Mia.