The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Happiness requires . . .

Does happiness require self-sacrifice, or moral ambitiousness?








































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


Dr. Kenner:      I am Dr. Ellen Kenner and my show is The Rational Basis of Happiness. Of course it means what? It means that you can't have happiness by running to mystics and reading tarot cards and the rest. That's all nonsense. It means that you want to own your own mind. Love your life. Unapologetically pursue your dreams, your goals, provided you never violate anybody else's rights. You never step on other people. Now, how do you do that? It's not easy. Most of us are taught that the good person is the person who, what? Just kind of lowers their head and says, "Oh, woe is me. I'm a good person because I don't want anything for myself. I need a new car but I don't want it. I just need it." People have to use the word "need." I need new shoes. I need new clothes. I need a vacation. Not "I want a vacation." People are apologizing all over the place. Why are they apologizing? They're apologizing because they've been taught since they were very young two conflicting views on morality. One is the American spirit. The pick yourself up from the bootstraps, think for yourself, have wonderful friendships and pursue wonderful goals. The other view, which they hear in a secular version and they hear on Sundays, is that there are so many needy people in the world and need takes priority over you. Anybody who needs something is more important than you, so you have to give your time, your effort, your energy, your money, to anybody - whether you know them or not, whether you like them or not, whether they're good or bad - anybody who needs you. And then you are imprisoned for life, because you never can feel good about pursuing your dreams. That is why I love a rational code. Thinking clearly so you have a really good foundation in your life. You have a good moral code. Honesty, integrity, being productive. Having a sense of pride. Thinking for yourself. And above all, being rational. Having independence. Those are all rational virtues.


Where do you find such a code? Does it even exist? Typically you're offered a choice - might makes right, this kind of niche code where you get away with what you can and you can connive and manipulate other people. You aren't going to like yourself if you do that. And other people aren't going to like you. Even if you get away with it, you live with yourself for life and you will know you're a corrupt person.


Or you can go the other route - I'm a Mother Theresa. I give to everybody. I don't want anything for myself. I don't like material goods. I don't like worldly goods. And then you look at people who are happy, who are smiling, and you feel envious and jealous, and then you get to a certain point. You're doing for your kids, you're doing for your husband, and you say, "What about me? I may have sacrificed my whole life and now I'm really angry." That doesn't make for long-range happiness does it? 


What about a moral code that tells you to treat others respectfully? They pursue their dreams, you pursue your dreams, and you trade, value for value, to mutual benefit, and it's a wonderful, wonderful life for you. It doesn't mean you don't have hard times, but you use your mind. You don't just go to mystics that tell you what to do and you just don't go on your emotions, on unanalyzed emotions, on a whim. You think about how to set goals for yourself, how to pursue them, how to get over setbacks that will happen in pursuing any goal, whether it's a career or romantic relationship or better relations with your kids. You want to set good goals for yourself.


So that's what this show is all about - pursuing your rational happiness. If you want to know more about the foundations, you can go to my website, Again, I'm a clinical psychologist and you can also read more. You can go to, a website. She wrote The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and she identified a rational moral code. And it may just give you another opportunity to the codes that you've been taught, another perspective, another view. And it's up to you to see whether you like it better. Which gives you better guidance for your own long-range happiness, if that's what you're after?


Now, later on in the show, when I first had my kids, I can remember way back when - they're in their 20s now - but I can remember my husband would pull me away from my kids. Why would he do that? People who have kids, if you're the hubby, you're saying, "I know why," and you're exactly right. The sexual relationship, when you first have kids, kind of goes out the window. Mom is so busy with an infant 24/7, or dad is busy too, and mom may be nursing and it just doesn't feel sexy anymore. Her chest doesn't feel like she's a female anymore, she's more of a mommy and it's very disconcerting. So I loved what my husband did. I would say he would handcuff me - he never handcuffed me obviously, but it's fun imagery - he would take me away for a bed and breakfast weekend. We'd get a sitter for the kids. He might do this every six weeks or every month, and we would have couple time. It helped us stay connected during a period that otherwise can be very rough. So later on in the show, I will be talking about this topic, intimacy, with Dr. Barry McCarthy. He's an author and therapist and we'll be discussing your marital intimacy. So stay tuned because he's got several tips on how to keep the intimacy alive, between you and your partner.


Again, I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner on The Rational Basis of Happiness, and I think I have some time for a very quick question. "Dr. Kenner, my ex-husband Max and I have two children. After our divorce, Max remarried a woman named Mary. Mary is now fighting for more custody of our kids. She's been overstepping our custody agreement. I am a professional. I am a very mentally fit mom. I am drug and alcohol free. Why is Mary, the stepmom, tenaciously going after custody of my kids? Is this some sort of psychological disorder? Belinda." 


There is no psychological disorder called Possessive Stepmother-itis. There is nothing like that. But I can imagine for you it's got to be incredibly disturbing. These are your top values. They're your kids. You don't want the stepmother to step in there and pretend she is the mother and you're not and try to just erase you from the picture, which is what it sounds like she's working in that direction. Neither you or I can get inside of Mary's mind, the stepmom's mind, and find out why is she going after your kids? What's up with this woman? But you can look at some possible motives. One of them is financial - maybe she doesn't want your ex-husband Max to pay you child support, and so it's a financial thing. If she has the kids, they keep the money. Maybe your ex-husband has told lies about you and you look like the evil mother and so she's rescuing the kids. Well, if that's the case, you need the truth to come out in the open. Maybe she's very insecure and she thinks that you're more confident, you're a professional, and so she's trying to make her domain the kids and look more important in your ex-husband's eyes, or she may be jealous of you and your ex-husband maybe too, and they may be looking to undermine your happiness. People do collude in that and that's a huge problem. Or maybe she never had kids and she wants a big family and so your kids she wants as her kids. What you need to do is get legal advice asap. You want to keep a log of every time she oversteps her bounds. You want to protect the kids from this noise as much as possible, from the custody noise, and you want to obviously get the legal advice. Find out more about Mary's character.