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Book review: The courage to be disliked

book review

The goal of the book: explore ideas by Alfred Adler, the lesser known third giant of psychology


Life is simple

World is, in all ways, astonishingly simple place. The world is simple and life is simple too. We make the world complicated. Everyone lives inside their own subjective reality, that is unique to them. There is no escape from that subjectivity, we cannot see the world objectively. World seems complicated because of this subjectivity.

Past does not control the future

We can choose not to be controlled by our past. Our current behavior is not determined by our past. Thinking about cause and effect means that the past controls the present in a very deterministic way. We should think less about past causes and focus more on present goals. Freudian etiology focuses on causes and effects and teleology focuses on present goals. If someone is anxious and doesn’t want to get out, he might have had the goal of not going out before being anxious and is producing anxiety in order not to go out.

If the past determined everything and couldn’t be changed we who are living today would no longer be able to take effective steps forward in our lives. People are not driven by past causes, but by present goals. The important thing is not what one is born with, but what use one makes of that equipment.

Trauma doesn't define us

Adler goes one step further and denies trauma altogether. We don’t suffer from traumatic experiences, we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. Trauma doesn’t determine or define us. We can still choose by giving the meaning to those events. Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself. You are the one who decides how you live.

Anger is a tool for submission

People fabricate anger in order to dominate others. Anger is a tool for submission. Anger is a means to achieve a goal.

We can always choose our lifestyle and change

People can always change. They just lack courage.

We choose our lifestyle (view of world and self) to best fit our environment. Since we have chosen it in our childhood, we can choose it again in adulthood, and replace the old one if it’s no longer useful. It’s our responsibility to choose our lifestyle. Some courage is needed in order to do that and people find it hard since they don’t have the courage, so they remain in one lifestyle.

Don't be afraid of criticism

It’s easy to find an excuse for not pursuing your dreams. Sometimes the reason is the lack of courage to put up your work for criticism. There’s another reason of keeping the possibility open, beleiving that one is great without having the proof.

Separation of tasks

All interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people's tasks, or having one's tasks intruded on. You can't bring a horse to water and have it drink it too. Task has to be performed by the person who is going to receive the result of the choice that was made.

If your parents are unhappy with the career you decide to pursue, it's not your job to make them coming to terms with that emotion. They are passing their judgment onto you, so that is their task and you shouldn't interfere. Your job is to choose the best path that you believe in, regardless of their emotions.

Living a life-lie

In order not to be disliked, people constantly gauge other people's feelings while swearing loyalty to all of them. This is a great contradiction - swearing loyalty to all people out of single-minded desire not to be disliked. If one is living to satisfy other people's expectations and one is entrusting one own's life to others, that is the way of living in which one is lying to oneself.

The two objectives for behavior

The two objectives for behavior:

  • to be self-reliant
  • to live in harmony with society

The two objectives for psychology that supports this behavior:

  • the consciousness that I have the ability
  • the consciousness that people are my comrades
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