Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Courage to be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

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 thinking.

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 happier life.

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

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