Summary and review: “The Courage To Be Disliked,” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

The Courage to be Disliked Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

The Courage to be Disliked: Overview and Review

The Courage to be Disliked, which sold more than 3.5 million copies in Asia, uses an ongoing conversation between a philosopher and a student to explain Adlerian psychology.

Alfred Alder was an ophthalmologist-turned-psychologist and friend of Sigmund Freud. Eventually Alder broke from Freud’s philosophy to create his theory of Individual Psychology:

Adler’s approach focused on the importance of nurturing feelings of belonging in the individual within the context of his community. He believed that a person’s feelings, emotions, thinking, and behavior can only be understood in the context of that person’s life experiences.

Adler focused on the effects of feelings of inferiority and inadequacy on an individual’s mental health. These feelings, Adler believed, are usually a result of early age devaluation, a physical limitation, or a lack of empathy. While feelings of inferiority can cause neurotic behavior, they can also be a source of motivation.

The name “individual psychology” is a bit of a misnomer. The theory states that the individual is a sum of their entire environment, experiences, and relationships. All are tightly linked and interpersonal relationships are the root of a person’s problems.

The book explains Alder’s philosophy as an ongoing conversation between a philosopher and an apprentice.

The Courage to Be Disliked: Summary of Ideas

My notes and highlights follow below.

This world is astonishingly simple and life itself, is too. 

Well water that is 60 degrees all year around seems warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We cannot escape our own subjectivity. 

Adlerin psychology is accepted as a culmination of truths. His influence appears in Carnegie’s works and in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

In Alderian psychology, the past doesn’t matter. It’s not about past causes, but present goals. 

Teleology - the study of the purpose of a given phenomenon, rather that it’s cause. (For example, creating feelings of anxiety, even physical symptoms, to avoid going out / leaving the house.)

“We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”

We make of our experiences whatever suits our purposes. 

“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.”

“Every one of us is living in line with some goal. That is what teleology tells us.”

Anger is a tool taken out as needed in support of a behavior we want to carry out (yelling at a waiter who spills coffee, for example). It’s a means to achieve a goal. 

Freudian etiology (focus on the causation of a condition) denies our free will and treats humans like machines. 

Adler: “The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.”

Focus on what you can make with your equipment. 

Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage ... you lack the courage to be happy. 

Adler — “To get rid of one’s problems, all one can do is live in the universe all alone.”

All problems are interpersonal relationship problems. 

Pursuit of superiority=desire to escape the helpless state we are born into

A feeling of inferiority can be an excuse. We convince ourselves of a causal relationship (low education = can’t make money) when there is none whatsoever.

Superiority complex: people cannot manage a feeling of inferiority over the long haul, so they attach themselves to something or someone of authority to create a feeling of superiority. 

The healthy pursuit of superiority is the mind-set of taking a single step forward on one’s own feet, not the mindset of competition—trying to be better than others. 

“A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to others; it comes from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.”

“When one is trying to be oneself, competition will inevitably get in the way.”

“Once one is released from the schema of competition, the need to triumph over someone disappears. One is also released from the fear that says, maybe I will lose.”

Anger is a form of communication, and communication is possible with anger.

The moment you are convinced that “you are right,” you’ve entered a power struggle.

“Only when we take away the lens of competition can we begin to correct and change ourselves.”

“What You are lacking is the courage to be happy.”

Adler has two objectives for behavior: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. 

Three categories of interpersonal relationship “tasks:”
-tasks of work
-tasks of friendship
-tasks of love

“There is no work that can be completed by oneself.”

“Everything (every problem) is an interpersonal relationship issue.”

Adlerian psychology states there is no need to be recognized by others, and the desire should be ignored. 

Judaism - if you are not living life for yourself, then who is going to live it for you?

“In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on. 

When you’re stressed because others aren’t completing their tasks to your expectations, learn the boundary — “From here on, that is not my task.” And discard other people’s tasks. 

What others feel about you is their task, not yours. Delineate what is your task (doing your work, for example, and what is someone else’s task—your boss’ approval of it).

It’s natural to have questions about how one should live, but we shouldn’t abdicate that responsibly to others—which is what we do when we seek recognition and reward. 

We seek freedom from interpersonal relationships, which is impossible. Real freedom is being disliked by (some) other people, and releasing our attachment to it. 

The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. 

A way of living in which one is constantly troubled by how one is seen by others is a self-centered lifestyle in which one’s sole concern is with the ‘I.’”

The need to belong to community is a basic human desire. 

You are part of a community, not its center—the concept of a globe vs map. The globe has an infinite number of centers. 

Community feeling is the much-debated key concept of Adlerian psychology. 

People are never truly alone or separate from community, and cannot be. 

Don’t cling to the small community right in front of you. There will always be more “you and I” and more “everyone,” and larger communities that exist. 

Don’t praise—it creates a hierarchal relationship. 

Praise is a judgement that is passed by a person of ability onto a person without ability. 

It is only when a person is able to feel that he has worth that he can possess courage. 

When one is able to feel “I am beneficial to the community” that one can have a true sense of worth.

Adler: “Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: you should start.”

If you build even one vertical relationship, you will be treating all your interpersonal relationships as vertical. 

*There is only one vertical relationship. 

The tasks of friendship require a steady courage. 

Self-acceptance | confidence in others | contribution to others 

Self-affirmation - “I can do it” can create a superiority complex. 

We do not lack ability. We just lack courage. It all comes down to courage. 

Trust is something that comes with set conditions (e.g. a loan). 

Interpersonal relationships are build on confidence—believing in others without any set conditions. 

Confidence doesn’t mean you maintain confidence indefinitely if you are betrayed—you are free to sever a relationship at any time. 

Contributing to others, rather than being about getting rid of the “I,” is actually something one does in order to be truly aware of the worth of the “i.”

Self-acceptance: accepting one’s irreplaceable “this me” just as it is.

Confidence in others: to place unconditional confidence at the base of one’s interpersonal relations rather than seeding doubt. 

Do not think of or treat life like a line. Think of it as a series of dots. Life is a series of moments. 

A well-planned life is not something to be treated as necessary or unnecessary, as it is impossible. 

Treat life like a dance. The dancing itself is  the goal, and no one is concerned with arriving somewhere by doing it. 

Since one is dancing, one does not stay in the same place. But there is no destination. 

Kinetic vs energial — kinetic has starting and end points

Thinking you can see the past or predict the future is proof you are living in a dim present. The past has noting whatsoever to do with your here and now, and what the future may hold is not a matter tho think about here and now. 

Freudian etiology = life is a big story based on cause and effect. 

Shining a spotlight on the here and now is to go about doing what one can do now, earnestly and conscientiously. 

“I contribute to others” is the North Star that gives life meaning. 

If I change, the world will change. This means the world can be changed only by me and no one else will change it for me. 

You should start. With no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.