Here at West of Wild, we’re obsessed with books that offer fresh perspectives and a new mindset for engaging in our global community. A healthy mindset is often overlooked in conversations about health and beauty, but our inner and outer worlds are inevitably connected.
The Courage To Be Disliked is a book that gives readers a new perspective for engaging with the world. It proposes that the key to happiness involves a very simple switch in perspective that anyone is capable of achieving.
Book Review: The Courage To Be Disliked
The Courage To Be Disliked is written as a provocative dialogue that suggests an entirely new way of looking at yourself, your past, and your interpersonal relationships. The dialogue is set between a young man and an old philosopher, the former who seeks the answer to one of life’s greatest questions: How does one achieve happiness?
Meant to convey the essential tenants of Adlerian psychology, The Courage To Be Disliked offers simple answers to some of life’s biggest ailments – including the answer to how anyone can achieve happiness at any time.
The Courage To Be Disliked and The Adlerian Theory of Psychology
A stark contrast to the Freudian thought college of cause and effect, punishment and reward theories that dominant our time, Alder begins by denying that any past trauma exists. He argues that it is the meaning we give to perceived trauma that has the power to influence our lives.
While shockingly dismissive at first, it is also incredibly liberating to know that each one of us has the immeasurable power to change our ‘story’ at any time.
Here are some of our favorite take aways from The Courage To Be Disliked:
The Past Has No Meaning And You Change Your Life At Any Moment.
In Adlerian psychology, trauma is definitely denied – and thus takes the standpoint that no experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure, rather it’s the meaning we give those experiences that are self-determining. To quote the authors:
“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live”.
The Courage To Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumiake Koga
Adlerian psychology holds the view that “No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on” and that “the important thing is not what one is born with but what use ones makes of that equipment”.
It Takes Courage To Change Your Lifestyle And Be Happy.
Adlerian psychology defines lifestyle as the tendencies of thought and action in life. In other words, lifestyle is how you see the world and how you sees yourself; lifestyle can comprise your personality or your outlook on life. Furthermore, it is something you can choose for yourself and change at any time. Consequently, you have the ability to choose it over again.
The authors note, however, that despite this ability to change, many people choose to stay in their familiar and predictable lifestyle in order to avoid the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with choosing a new one.
All Problems Are Interpersonal Relationship Problems.
The authors argue that it’s basically impossible to not get hurt in your relations with other people, and that to some extent, it is inevitable that you’ll get hurt and you may hurt someone, too. According to Adler, the only way to get rid of your problems is to live in the universe alone.
However, one of the essential tenants of Adlerian thought is that most of your interpersonal relationship problems can be alleviated by a simple change in mindset: viewing your friends and family members as comrades, as opposed to competitors. When you’re able to view others this way, the authors suggest that your interpersonal problems will decrease dramatically and you can live in greater harmony with society.
Desire For Recognition Constrains The Freedom You Have To Live Your Life.
Under the Adlerian theory of psychology, there is no need to be recognized by others and you must not seek recognition. Adler reasons that the need for recognition leads you down the wrong path in life and it is a horrible ‘life-lie’ to live to satisfy other people’s expectations:
“When one seeks recognition from others, and concerns oneself only with how one is judged by others, in the end, one is living other people’s lives.”The Courage To Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumiake Koga
Learn To Separate Your Life Tasks From Other People’s Tasks, And Do Not Interfere With Other People’s Tasks.
According to Adler, all interpersonal relationship problems are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or by other people intruding on your tasks. The way to know whose task is whose is by asking yourself: who is ultimately going to benefit from the choice made whether to complete the task?
It is important to first recognize where your tasks end and other’s begin. Then, you can simply discard other peoples tasks. According to Adler, this will lighten your mental load and make life much simpler. A phrase the author’s suggest to use when letting go of other people’s tasks is to think to yourself “From here on, that is not my task.”
When It Comes To Your Life, All You Can Do Is Choose The Best Path For You.
And when you decide to choose your path for yourself, it’s only natural that at some point you may get lost. Furthermore, if people choose to pass judgment on that path, that is their task and there’s nothing you can do about it.
All you can do is face your own tasks in your own life without lying. What other people think of you is their task, and it has no bearing on your life. When one is tied up in other people’s opinions of them and the desire for recognition, the interpersonal relationship cards will always be in the hands of others.
According to Adler, it is not until you understand that you are holding the cards to your interpersonal relationships that you will be free.
Freedom Is The Capacity To Be Disliked By Other People.
Under the Adlerian theory of psychology:
“[if] you are disliked by someone it is proof your are exercising your freedom and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles…the cost of freedom in interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people…the courage to be happy includes the courage to be disliked”.The Courage To Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumiake Koga
The Goal Of Interpersonal Relationships Is A Feeling Of Community.
According to Adler, interpersonal relationships are both the source of happiness and unhappiness. The authors note that if you’re living your life constantly concerned by how you are seen by others, this is considered a self-centered lifestyle, where your only concern is with the “I”.
To understand community feeling, one must make the switch from attachment to self to concern for others. According to Adler, each individual is part of the community, not its center. Furthermore, he argues that a sense of belonging in a community is something that one acquires through one’s own efforts- not something one is endowed with at birth.
To thrive in a community and achieve the goal of community feeling, one needs to have the mindset of: “What can I give to this person or community?“. This is the opposite of thinking: “What will this person give me?“
All Interpersonal Relationships Should Be Horizontal Relationships.
That is, one should view others as neither above or beneath them, but equal to them. Under the Adlerian theory of psychology, one can cultivate horizontal relationships by refraining from giving praise or rebuking someone.
This is because, in the act of praise, there is a sense of judgment being passed from someone with ability to someone with no ability. Acts of praise unconsciously create hierarchical (vertical) relationships where one person is beneath the other.
To Gain Community Feeling, One Needs To First Have Self-Acceptance, Confidence In Others And Contribute To Others.
Self-acceptance is acknowledging the things one can change and the things one cannot change about oneself. In other words, having the courage to accept yourself just as you are and having the courage to change the things you can change.
Confidence in others is having unconditional confidence in others without doubt in your heart and without a need for conditions or security. When you accept yourself and believe in others, you can start to see other people as your comrades.
Once you see others as comrades, you can find refuge in your community and gain a sense of belonging: a feeling that it’s “okay to be here”. This leads to contribution to others, a primary tenant of Adlerian theory, and according to Adler, the key to happiness.
Life Is A Series Of Moments Called “Now”.
Adler suggests that one should shine a light on the here and now that is so bright, one is unable to see the past or the future.
To better grasp this concept, the authors suggest that you picture yourself on a stage in a theater and the lights are dim. When the lights are dim, you can see out in the audience. The ability to see the audience when you are on stage is used as a metaphor for not living in the present moment. That is, if you are casting a dim light on the here and now, you are living in a dim twilight where you are always trying to perceive your past and your future.
Shine A Bright Spotlight On The Present Moment
However, if you turn up the spotlight on the here and now (the present moment), it will be so bright on the stage that you cannot see the audience (the past and future). All you can do is dance on the stage.
The authors propose that it is only when you are shining a bright light on the present that you will realize that:
- The life that lies ahead of you is a completely blank page;
- There are no tracks that have been laid for you to follow, and;
- There is no story there.
Life In General Has No Meaning, Only You Can Assign Meaning To Your Life.
In the book, Adler is quoted as saying that “life in general has no meaning.” However, the authors note that as individuals, we have the ability to assign meaning to our lives. Furthermore, they note that our individual power to change the world is immeasurably great.
As a star to help guide you toward a happy and meaningful life, Adlerian psychology holds up contribution to others.
Contribution To Others
Adler maintained the theory that it doesn’t matter what you are doing in the here and now, or if people dislike you. As long as you are guided by the aim of contribution to others, you will not lose your way. Furthermore, you can do whatever you want in life.
Whether you are disliked or not, you can pay it no mind and you can live earnestly in the here and now with freedom. There is no need to compete with anyone or have a destination. As long as you are dancing, you will get somewhere.