Staff review by Chris Saliba
Japanese authors Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga present the
ideas of Austrian psychologist and philosopher Alfred Adler in the
form of a dialogue.
Along with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
is considered one of the greats of psychology. In The Courage to
be Disliked, Kishimi and Koga distil Adler's key ideas and
theories into an accessible dialogue between a youth and a
philosopher. The youth and philosopher meet over five nights, where
the philosopher puts forward the Adlerian recipe for a happy and
contented life, while the youth argues and disputes many of the
central tenets of this school of thought. In the end, over much
intense discussion, the youth is converted to this new way of
The main point of departure that Adler makes from Freud and Jung
is his denial of the importance of past traumas in our psychological
make-up. The Freudian belief that past traumas affect us deeply is
known as an “aetiology”, or cause and effect. Adler, by contrast,
maintains past traumas are not so significant and that we often use
past traumas as an excuse to avoid performing important tasks (social
engagements, for example, or not applying for a new job). Adler calls
this a “teleology”.
So, we avoid perfoming life's tasks and blame events from our
past. Another main cause for inaction is our fear of what others
think. We are all in competition with one another, often judging and
assessing our social standing. Adler says that our interpersonal
relationships are at the core of all our problems. The solution to
this is to concentrate only on our own tasks in life and find the
courage to be disliked by others.
The final plank of the Adlerian philosophy is something called
“community feeling”. While we are encouraged to find some
distance from others, and to disentangle ourselves from feelings of
either inferiority or superiority, we should imagine that we belong
to one large global community. The main goal should be to concentrate
on how we are useful to others. This will lead to a simpler and
The Courage to be Disliked provides an engaging and at
times challenging philosophical dialogue. Many of the complex
emotional states that are described, the feelings we keep hidden from
others, ring true and also explain some of our darker motives. The
philosophy of Adler, as it is distilled here, really strives for a
balance between not worrying too much about what others think and
being active members of our communities. It's about being close to
people, but not too dependent on their opinions of us.
A self-help book that resonates deeply because of the elemental
truths it speaks about the human condition.
The Courage to be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Published by Allen and Unwin. ISBN: 9781760630492 RRP: $24.99
To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.