(203) 521-9972

Book Review: The Courage to be Disliked…

No one likes to be disliked. The irony is that in our mad scramble to avoid feeling rejected, we hijack our own happiness, according to the book “The Courage to be Disliked,” which is a short read that will leave you thinking for a long time.

In the book by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi, a “philosopher” engages in a Socrates-like dialog with a “youth” to unravel the principles of Adlerian psychology. Anti-Freud, it posits people are not destined to a future determined by their past. People are radically free to adopt a mindset to live the life they want right now.

The book is packed with potent, practical insights that senior leaders can apply immediately to gain more freedom and happiness in their professional and personal lives. In fact, there are too many lessons to share in one post, so broke the list into two.

Here’s part one.


Put the past in the past and focus on present goals

Psychology typically focuses on past wounds causing present unhappiness. Who I am now (effect) is determined by what happened to me in the past (cause). Adlerian psychology rejects this principle. The author said, “We are not determined by our past experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.” He warns of stories about the past serving as excuses to avoid rejection or withhold love, which stalls growth.


Choose happiness

“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.” We have the power to choose our lifestyles. Each and every moment we are making decisions that reflect our highest desires. We might think writing a novel is what we yearn for. But, then it never gets done, why? Maybe the desire to avoid rejection is greater than writing a novel. The question is what do you really want?


Recognize emotions as tools and wield them with goals in mind

“Anger is a tool that can be taken out as needed and can be put away as soon as the phone rings,” the author says. We can trace any emotion back to a desire for something, no matter how subtle. For example, the author explains to the youth that him exploding at a waiter for spilling a drink on him was his desire to make the waiter feel small, beneath him. When you feel a wave of emotion, ask: what purpose is this serving? What do I stand to gain? Am I working toward my highest goals?


Take on only what is yours

What is ultimately your responsibility and what is the responsibility of others? For example, you have a child who is struggling in school. You provide all the encouragement you can in the way of resources and emotional support, but you cannot intervene. The onus is ultimately on the child to follow through. The cliché, you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, is evoked here. Each and every person has their own agency in the world. Honor and respect it and draw distinctions between what is your and someone’s else’s responsibility to lighten the load on your mind.

Adlerian psychology is a psychology for changing oneself, not a psychology for changing others. Instead of waiting for others to change or waiting for the situation to change, you stand on your own two feet and take the first step toward change yourself. You change and others around you have no choice but to adjust.

Stay tuned for the next post where I will share more Adlerian tenets.