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Book Summary — Courage to be Disliked

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If you ever asked yourself what the point of life is. Stop here. Read the book. It presents Adlerian psychology about how to change your mindset to follow a simpler and happier life.

Simplicity

The world is simple and life is simple, too.

That is not because the world is complicated. It’s because you are making the world complicated.

None of us live in an objective world, but instead in a subjective world that we ourselves have given meaning to.

At present, the world seems complicated and mysterious to you, but if you change, the world will appear more simple. The issue is not about how the world is, but about how you are.

Change

If we focus only on past causes and try to explain things solely through cause and effect, we end up with “determinisim”. Because what this says is that our present and our future have already been decided by past occurrences, and are unalterable.

In Adlerian psychology, we do not think about past “causes” but rather about present “goals”.

What are you trying to achieve right now and you create the state around it — ie anxiety, fear, blushing, etc. In Adlerian psychology, this is called “teleology”.

We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences — the so-called trauma — but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purpose. We are not determined by our experiences, but he meaning we give them is self-determining.

We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences.

Anger — example

You did not fly into a rage and then start shouting. It is solely that you got angry so that you could shout. In other words, in order to fulfil the goal of shouting, you created the emotion of anger.

The goal of shouting came before anything else. That is to say, by shouting, you wanted to make the waiter submit to you and listen to what you had to say. As a means to do that, you fabricated the emotion of anger.

Anger is a tool that can be taken out as needed. It can be put away the moment the phone rings and pulled out again after one hangs up. The mother isn’t yelling in anger she can’t control. She is simply using the anger to overpower her daughter with a loud voice and thereby assert her opinions.

We are not controlled by emotion.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle is the tendencies of thought and action in life.

How one sees the world. And how one sees oneself. Think of lifestyle as a concept bringing together these ways of finding meaning.

In a narrow sense, lifestyle could be defined as someone’s personality, taken more broadly, it is a word that encompasses the worldview of that person and his or her outlook on life.

Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.

Life is decided Here and Now

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. That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.

All Problems are Interpersonal Relationship Problems

My feelings about my height were all subjective feelings of inferiority, which arose entirely through my comparing myself to others. That is to say, in my interpersonal relationships.

Value is something based on a social context. The value given to a one dollar bill is not an objectively attributed value, though that might be a commonsense approach. If one considers its actual cost as printed material, the value is nowhere near a dollar. If I were the only person in this world and no one else existed, I’d probably be putting those one dollar bills in my fireplace in wintertime. Maybe I’d be using them to blow my nose. Following the exact same logic, there should have been no reason at all of me to worry about my height.

And once the interpersonal relationship reaches the revenge stage, it is almost impossible for either party to find a solution. To prevent this from happening, when one is challenged to a power struggle, one must never allow onself to be taken in.

Life is not a Competition

Adler recognises that the pursuit of superiority — ones’ trying to be a more superior being — is a universal desire, but the pursuit is the mindset of taking a single step forward on one’s own feet, not the mindset of competition of the sort that necessitates aiming to be greater than other people.

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.

It does not matter if one is trying to walk in front of others or walk behind them. It is as if we are moving through a flat space that has no vertical axis.

We do not walk in order to compete with someone. It is in trying to progress past who one is now that there is value.

You’re the only one who’s worried how you look.

Admitting Fault is Not Defeat

You sense that it is a power struggle, step down from the conflict as soon as possible. Do not answer his action with a reaction. That is the only thing we can do.

The first thing that I want you to understand here is the fact that anger is a form of communication, and that communication is nevertheless possible without using anger.

Admitting mistakes, conveying words of apology and stepping down from power struggles — none of these things are defeat.

Human Behaviour

Two objectives of behaviour:

  1. be self-reliant
  2. to live in harmony of society

Then the two objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours are the consciousness that

  • I have the ability
  • People are my comrades

These objectives can be achieved by facing what Adler calls “life tasks”.

  1. Tasks of work
  2. Tasks of friendship
  3. Tasks of love

There is no value at all in the number of friends or acquaintances you have. And this is a subject that connects with the task of love, but what we should be thinking about is the distance and depth of the relationship.

Adler does not accept restricting one’s partner. If the person seems to be happy, one can frankly celebrate that condition. That is love. Relationships in which people restrict each other eventually fall apart.

The Life-Lie

Adler called the state of coming up with all manner of pretexts in order to avoid the life tasks the “life-lie”.

Adler never discusses life tasks or life lies in terms of good and evil. It is not morals or good and evil that we should be discussing, but the issue of courage.

Desire for Recognition

If one takes appropriate action, one receives praise. If one takes inappropriate action, one receives punishment. We are brought up with an education of reward and punishment. It leads to mistaken lifestyles in which people think,

if no one is going to praise me, I won’t take appropriate action

and

If no one is going to punish me, I’ll engage in inappropriate actions, too

When you get that recognition, would you say that you’ve really found happiness? Do people who have established their social status truly feel happy?

When trying to be recognised by others, almost all people treat satisfying other people’s expectations as the means to that end. And that is in accordance with the stream of thought of reward-and-punishment education that says one will be praised if one takes appropriate action.

What is it about our interpersonal relationships that is robbing us of our freedom?

Do not live to satisfy the expectations of others.

If you are not living your life for yourself, then who is going to live it for you? you are living only your own life.

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.

Wishing so hard to be recognised will lead to a life of following expectations held by other people who want you to be “this kind of person”.

In other words, you throw away who you really are and live other people’s lives.

How to Separate Tasks

Do not behave without regard for others.

To understand this, it is necessary to understand the idea in Adlerian psychology known as “separation of tasks.”

We need to think with the perspective of “Whose task is this?” and continually separate one’s own tasks from other people’s tasks. One does not intrude on other people’s tasks.

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

There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think,

Who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about by the choice that is made?

Adlerian psychology does not recommend the noninterference approach.

Noninterference is the attitude of not knowing, and not even being interested in knowing that the child is doing. Instead, it is by knowing what the child is doing that one protects him. If it’s studying that is the issue, one tells the child that that is his task, and one lets him know that one is ready to assist him whenever he has the urge to study. But one must not intrude on the child’s task. When no request are being made, it does not do to meddle in things.

The act of believing is also a separation of tasks. You believe in your partner, that is your task. But how that person acts with regard to your expectations and trust is other people’s tasks.

Intervening in other people’s tasks and taking on other people’s tasks turns one’s life into something heavy and full of hardship. If you are leading a life of worry and suffering — which stems from interpersonal relationships — learn the boundary

“From here on, that is not my task.” And discard other people’s tasks.

That is the first step toward lightening the load and making life simpler.

All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in.

On the other hand, what kind of judgement do other people pass on that choice?

That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about.

One can build good relationships. The separation of tasks is not the objective for interpersonal relationships. Rather, it is the gateway.

The three life tasks are work, friendship and love.

Real Freedom

To human beings, not wanting to be disliked by others, is an entirely natural desire, and an impulse. Kant, the giant of modern philosophy, called this desire “inclination.”

A stone is powerless. Once it has begun to roll downhill, it will continue to roll until released from the natural laws of gravity and inertia. But we are not stones. We are beings who are capable of resisting inclination. We can stop our tumbling selves and climb uphill. The desire for recognition is probably a natural desire. So you are going to keep rolling downhill in order to receive recognition from others?

Are you going to wear yourself down like a rolling stone, until everything is smoothed away?

When all that is left is a little round ball, would that be “the real I”? It cannot be.

We think that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. We seek to be free from interpersonal relationships. However, it is impossible to live all alone.

In short, “freedom is being disliked by other people”.

It’s that you are disliked by someone. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.

Conducting onself in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living, and is also impossible.

There is a cost incurred when one wants to exercise one’s freedom. And the cost of freedom in interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people.

Interpersonal Relationship Cards

He hit me that time, and that is why our relationship went bad, is a Freudian etiological way of thinking. The Adlerian teleology position completely reverses the cause-and-effect interpretation.

But if I can think, I brought out the memory of being hit because I don’t want my relationship with my father to get better, then I will be holding the card to repair relations. Because if I can change the goal, that fixes everything.

Even if he had no intention to repair relations on his side, I would not mind in the least. The issue was whether or not I would resolve to do it, and I was always holding the interpersonal relationship cards.

Many people think that the interpersonal cards are held by the other person. That is why they wonder, How does that person feel about me? and end up living in such a way as to satisfy the wishes of other people. But if they can grasp the separation of tasks, they will notice that they are holding all cards. This is a new way of thinking.

When one is tied to the desire for recognition, the interpersonal relationship cards will always stay in the hands of other people.

Please do not think of the separation of tasks as something that is meant to keep other people away; instead see it as a way of thinking with which to unravel the threads of the complex entanglement of one’s interpersonal relations.

The Goal of Interpersonal Relationships is a Feeling of Community

Interpersonal relations are the source of unhappiness. And the opposite can be said, too — interpersonal relations are the source of happiness.

Community feeling is the most important index for considering a state of interpersonal relations that is happy.

Community feeling is also referred to as “social interest,” that is to say, “interest in society.” You make the switch from attachment of self (self-interest) to concern from others (social interest).

Consider the reality of the desire for recognition. How much do others pay attention to you, and what is their judgment of you? That is to say, how much do they satisfy your desire? People who are obsessed with such a desire for recognition will seem to be looking only at themselves. They lack concern for others and are concerned solely with the “I.” Simply put, they are self-centred.

Desire for Recognition is Self-Centered

You are Not the Center of the World

It’s a basic human desire to be part of a community and feeling that “it’s okay to be here” — having a sense of belonging.

You are a part of a community, not its center.

In Adlerian psychology, a sense of belonging is something that one can attain only by making an active commitment to the community of one’s own accord, and not simply by being here.

One needs to think not What will this person give me? but rather What can I give to this person? That is commitment to the community.

A sense of belonging is something that one acquires through one’s own efforts — it is not something one is endowed with at birth.

As the gateway of interpersonal relations, we’ve got the separation of tasks, and as the goal, there’s community feeling.

Horizontal Relationships

Generally speaking, there are two approaches: praise and rebuke.

In the act of praise, there is the aspect of it being “the passing of judgment by a person of ability on a person of no ability”. By saying things like “Good job!”, “You’re such a good helper!” a mother is unconsciously creating a hierarchical relationship and seeing the child as beneath her. An animal training example has the same vertical relationship. When one praises another, the goal is “to manipulate someone who has less ability than you.” It is not done out of gratitude or respect.

Whether we praise or rebuke the background goal is manipulation.

Because one perceives the situation as vertical, and one sees the other party as beneath one, that one intervenes. Through intervention, one tries to lead the other party in the desired direction.

Intervention is this kind of intruding on other people’s tasks and directing them by saying things like “You have to study” or “Get into that uni.”

Assitance, on the other hand, presupposes the separation of tasks and horizontal relationships. Concretely speaking, instead of commanding from above that the child must study, one acts on him in such a way that he can gain the confidence to take care of his own studies and his tasks on his own.

One assists someone to solve the task with their own efforts:

It’s the approach of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

This kind of assistance is based on horizontal relationships, it is referred to in Adlerian psychology as “encouragement.”

When one is not following through on one’s task it’s not because they are without ability, but simply that “one has lost the courage to face one’s task.”

The more one is praised by another person, the more one forms the belief that one has no ability. Because giving praise is a judgment that is passed by a person of ability onto a person without ability.

When receiving praise becomes one’s goal, one is choosing a way of living that is in line with another person’ system of values.

For “encouragement” you convey words of gratitude, saying “thank you”, “I’m glad” or “that was a big help”.

The most important thing is not to judge people. “Judgment” is a word that comes out of vertical relationships. If one is building horizontal relationships, there will be words of more straightforward gratitude and respect and joy.

“Thank you” rather than being judgment, is a clear expression of gratitude.

When one hears words of gratitude, one knows that one has made a contribution to another person.

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

You can contribute in two ways “level of acts” but also on “level of being”. Without judging whether or not other people did something, one rejoices in their being there, in their very existence, and one calls out to them with words of gratitude.

If you consider things at the level of being, we are of use to others and have worth just by being here.

Self-Acceptance, Confidence in Others, Contribution to Others

It’s making the switch from attachment to self (self-interest) to concern for others (social interest) and gaining a sense of community feeling. Three things are needed at this point: “self-acceptance”, “confidence in others”, and “contribution to others.”

Self-affirmation is making suggestions to oneself, such as “I can do it” or “I am strong”, even when something is simply beyond one’s ability. It is a notion that can bring about a superiority complex and may even be termed a way of living in which one lies to oneself. With self-acceptance, if you cannot do something, one is simply accepting “one’s incapable self” as is and moving forward so that one can do whatever one can. It is not a way of lying to oneself.

To put it more simply, say you’ve got a score of 60%, by you tell yourself, I just happened to get unlucky this time around, and the real me is 100%. That is self-affirmation. By contrast, if one accepts oneself as one is, as 60%, and thinks to oneself, How should I go about getting closer to 100%? — that is self-acceptance.

The basis or interpersonal relations is founded not on trust but on confidence.

It is doing without any set conditions whatsoever when believing in others. Even if one does not have sufficient objective grounds for trusting someone, one believes. One believes unconditionally without concerning oneself with such things as security. That is confidence.

If one can simply accept oneself as one is, and ascertain what one can do and what one cannot, one becomes able to understand that “taking advantage” is the other person’s tasks, and getting to the core of “confidence in others” becomes less difficult.

Placing confidence in others is connected to seeing others as comrades. So one can gain the sense of belonging, that “it’s okay to be here.”

Work

Labor is not a means of earning money. It is through labor that one makes contributions to others and commits to one’s community, and that one truly feels “I am of use to someone” and even comes to accept one’s existential worth.

With workaholics, the focus is solely on one specific aspect of life.

They probably try to justify that by saying, “It’s busy at work, so I don’t have enough time to think about my family.” But this is a life-lie. They are simply trying to avoid their other responsibilities by using work as an excuse.

All three life tasks — work, family and friends — should be equal.

The greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself. The feeling of “I am beneficial to the community” or “I am of use to someone” is the only thing that can give one a true awareness that one has worth. When we speak of contribution to others, it doesn’t matter if the contribution is not a visible one.

Happiness is the feeling of contribution

That is the definition of happiness.

The reason people seek recognition is that they want to like themselves. They want to feel that they have worth. In order to feel that, they want a feeling of contribution that tells them “I am of use to someone.” And they seek recognition from others as an easy means for gaining that feeling of contribution.

Courage to Be Normal

Why is it necessary to be special?

Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. And it is precisely for this reason that when being especially good becomes a lost cause, one makes the huge leap to being especially bad — the opposite extreme. But is being normal, being ordinary, really such a bad thing? Is it something inferior? Or, in truth isn’t everybody normal?

Self-acceptance is the vital first step. If you are able to possess the courage to be normal, your way of looking at the world will change dramatically.

You are probably rejecting normality because you equate being normal with being incapable. Being normal is not being incapable. One does not need to flaunt one’s superiority.

Life is a Series of Moments

People aim to be at the top of the mountain like mountain climbers.

But if life were climbing a mountain in order to reach the top, then the greater part of life would end up being “en route.” That is to say, one’s “real life” would begin with one’s trek on the mountainside, and the distance one has traveled up and until the point would be a “tentative life” led by a “tentative me.”

Do not treat life as a line, which needs to constantly go up. Think of life as a series of dots. If you look through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is actually a series of dots, in other words, life is a series of moments.

Our lives only exist in moments. Adults who do not know this attempt to impose “linear” lives onto young people. Their thinking is that staying on the conventional tracks — good uni, big company, stable household — is a happy life. But life is not made up of lines or anything like that.

If life were a line, then life planning would be possible. But our lives are only a series of dots. A well-planned life is not something to be treated as necessary or unnecessary, as it is impossible.

The fact that you think you can see the past, or predict the future, is proof that rather than living earnestly here and now, you are living in a dim twilight. Life is a series of moments, and neither the past nor the future exists.

You are trying to give yourself a way out by focusing on the past or the future.

The Biggest Life-Lie

What happened in the past has nothing whatsoever to do with your here and now, and what the future may hold is not a matter to think about here and now. If you are living earnestly here and now, you not will be concerned with such things.

You set objectives for the distant future, and think fo now as your preparatory period. You think, I really want to do this, and I’ll do it when the time comes. This is a way of living that postpones life. As long as we postpone life, we can never go anywhere and will pass our days only one after the next in dull monotony, because we think of here and now as just a preparatory period, as a time of patience.

Life is always simple, not something that one needs to get too serious about. If one is living each moment earnestly, there is no need to get too serious.

When one adopts this viewpoint, life is always complete.

The greatest life-lie of all is to not live here and now.

It is to look at the past and the future, cast a dim light on one’s entire life and believe that one has been able to see something.

Meaning of Life

Life in general has no meaning.

When confronted by the fact of children dying in the turmoil of war, there is no way one can go on about the meaning of life. In other words, there is no meaning in using generalisations to talk about life.

Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.

Why are you lost in life? You are lost because you are trying to choose freedom, that is to say, a path on which you are not afraid of being disliked by others and you are not living others’ lives — a path that is yours alone.

The world is simple and life is too.

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Michael Batko

Michael Batko

Learning Enthusiast

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