"I wish I had done this 30 years ago." Rush returns and describes his therapy as a "wonderful process," "amazing," telling us "I'm so excited about what I learned and I want to tell you all about it." His euphoria about therapy is not the image that most people have of this soul-searching process. From the outside, many people think of therapy as arduous, draining and tear-jerking - a place where you go to express anger openly or experience guilt and pain - possibly to learn unfavorable things about yourself. All that is true. Therapy requires mental effort and if successful, involves your experiencing many intense emotions. As with any important value in life (e.g., raising kids, training to become a star baseball player, becoming a neurosurgeon, achieving a heartwarming romantic relationship) the good things come with effort, with understanding, with overcoming obstacles and with a range of emotions. Rush certainly puts in admirable effort everyday for his talk show, for which he has earned his sense of self-efficacy and self-respect. His effort and success are commendable (regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his content). What he wished he had discovered 30 years ago is that same sort of ambition, turned inward - to understand and improve oneself is tremendously liberating. And even with all the "pain" in therapy, the outcome is often euphoric.
Why is it important to discover how your mind works and how to improve it? We would laugh if someone asked us why we need to discover how to use a computer or cell phone or car — the answer is obvious. The more knowledge we have of computers, the more enjoyment we get from them, the more we can expand our ability to explore the net, design websites, take red-eye out of our favorite family pictures or know how to fix that frozen cursor. The same is true of mental functioning. The more we know about how our mind works, the more enjoyment we get from thinking and the more clarity and ability we have to set goals, to solve problems, to deal with conflicts reasonably, to achieve self-esteem and happiness. Our thinking capacity doesn't become our enemy, hiding dirty facts about us which we then need to drown in alcohol or drugs, in obsessive compulsive behaviors, in overeating, or in workaholic behavior. Instead, if we learn how to think well, i.e., rationally, we enjoy thinking about our motives, purposes, goals, dreams...we enjoy having an active mind, not a mentally lethargic one nor an evasive one. Rush's mind is always "on the go"extrospecting —now he has discovered the joy of introspecting— having his mind "on the go" with the purpose of understanding himself, understanding his relationship with others, discovering ways to improve his mental functioning. He can identify and correct thinking errors or wrong moral guidance and he can explicitly commend himself for his admirable qualities.
Rush wishes he could go back 30 years and make different choices. We are continuously faced with choices (i.e., should I spend the holidays with my chaotic family or take a getaway with my partner, should I apologize to my kids for the emotional abuse or not, should I change careers or not, should I lie to my boss or not, should I get a job or continue to sponge off my relatives). We need to know how to make choices that increase our chances of achieving an enduring happiness. A momentary relief from emotional pain by drinking, drugging, gambling or overeating does not buy us lasting joy and destroys our self-esteem. What gives us the guidance we need to make choices? Principles, specifically moral principles rational self-interest, an earned pride, honesty, integrity, earning our own keep, having a solid and clear sense of justice, thinking and acting on our own judgment, and being fact focused — that is, having a rational, integrated, moral code. The alternatives, the wrong moral code (e.g., "might makes right,' "eat-drink-and be merry for tomorrow you may die," "others come first," "be humble", "go by blind faith," "conform") will not motivate you to think rationally. A grab bag of clashing ideas, (live to please others, live to please myself) makes every choice painful — it leaves you without inner clarity (damned if you do and damned if you don't). Being dishonest (even little white lies), sponging off others (by kissing up to them or by intimidating them), blindly following your emotions or the crowd, always turning the other cheek, trying to run others lives or letting others run your life are psychological deadly "virtues" —following these leads to self-doubt and self-contempt. A rational moral code makes choice-making easier and living pleasurable.
Notice that Rush discovered one of these killer-virtues and challenged it he discovered that he can't try to live his life by making other people happy — the code of self-sacrifice is wrong. Rush says, "I can no longer turn over the power of my feelings to anybody else, which is what I have done a lot of in my life. I had thought that I had to be this way to be appreciated or understood and in the process I denied who I was and I denied the people I was talking to, relating to who I really am....You can boil it down to one particular essence — I can't be responsible for anyone's happiness but my own, and if I allow somebody else the power to determine my happiness — well that's not something I want to do — I can't do any longer. It just means I can't depend on other people to make me happy — I'm the only one who has control over that.
The purpose of a code of virtues, i.e., a moral code, philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand says, "is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." Her rational moral code, unlike the irrational ones that abound, help you make better choices to preserve and promote your own life. Successful therapy helps you learn to think better, i.e., more rationally — to correct errors, to flourish in your life and to gain increasing confidence in your mind — self-esteem is mind esteem. And that is why therapy can leave Rush feeling euphoric.