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The Courage to Be Disliked

Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

A long-format conversation between a professor and his student which covers the work, concepts, and theories of Alfred Adler.
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aetiology - the study of causation

teleology - the study of the purpose of a given phenomenon, rather than its cause

On past experiences

Experience is neither success or failure. We are not determined by experiences, but by the meaning we give them.

Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.

People fabricate anger

Emotion, like anger, is a tool we use to achieve a goal.

For example, during a heated argument, a mother yells at her daughter with her loud voice out of anger, when the phone rings, the mother realizes the person on the other line is her school teacher. Suddenly she changes the tone of her voice. Once the phone conversation is over, she continues to use her loud voice to express her anger and overpower her daughter. Emotion can be turned on and off.

If everything was determined by the past and couldn’t be changed, then we wouldn’t take the effective steps to move forward with our lives. We would end up as hopeless folks and pessimists.

On wanting to achieve the goals and experience as the people you admire

It’s not what you were born with, but how you equip yourself with what you already have.

You want to be someone else because you are so fixated with what you are born with. You feel like you entered this world with a disadvantage.

Focus on what you can make with what whatever resources, or tools you have access to in order to progress and move forward.

On lifestyle

People can change at any time. You are unable to change because you are making the decision not to.

Some people choose not to change because it is easier and more secure to just remain one way. Lifestyle changes are hard to see and act upon because its easier to see a future full of anxiety, unhappiness and pain.

When we try to change our lifestyles, we put our courage to the test. Change generates anxiety and disappointment.

On now

No matter what you’ve done prior to this point in your life, it should have no meaning to how you live from now on. Living in the ‘here and now’, determines your own life.

Why you dislike yourself

They discuss the story of a woman who has a fear of blushing all the time and wants to resolve it. She wants to stop her blushing habit because she finds it embarrassing when engaging with a man she has a crush on. Later they discuss that actually the fear is fabricated and an excuse for her own inability to confess her feelings. So the fear is a kind of insurance for when he rejects her.

Get people to accept who you are now, and regardless of the outcome, have the courage to step forward.

It’s impossible to not get hurt by other people. Going back to the theory that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. At some point when you enter into interpersonal relationship you will get hurt, or you will hurt someone. In order to get rid of all problems, you basically need to be the only person in the universe.

All problems are interpersonal relationship problems

Alone and loneliness are two different things. In order to feel lonely, we need other people. If you were alone, loneliness would not even be a concept. As long there is someone out there one will always feel lonely.

If you were the only person left in the universe, you would be free of all life’s problems, but you aren’t! Which is why all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. They come from relationships and the people in your environment.

Feelings of inferiority are subjective assumptions

An example I can relate to. Being short is seen as a disadvantage. However, once you see the advantages of being short, you might think that being short is not so inferior. People tend to see short people as less threatening therefore it is easier to open up to them. Whatever it may be, you can transform the value of something and remove the inferiority that comes along with it.

We cannot alter the objective facts, but subjective interpretations can be altered as one likes(the short height example). We live in a subjective world.

What you and other people ‘value’ is subjective as well. Example in the book: A dollar could mean money to you, it could be just a piece of paper to someone else. The problem with ‘value’, it also stems from interpersonal relationships.

Inferiority problem is an excuse

The inferiority complex is the condition of having begun to use one’s feeling of inferiority as a kind of excuse. For example, “I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed”, or “I’m not good looking, so I can’t get married.” When in reality there is no relationship between the A and B, but you convince yourself there is.

Confront your reality. ‘I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed’ really is ‘I’m not well educated, so I don’t want to succeed.’ It’s because you don’t have the courage to take one step forward and make realistic efforts to change.

Superiority complex stems from one person feeling so inferior that they need to boast and flaunt their superiority.

In our culture, weakness is powerful. It can be the driving force to move forward. Who is stronger adults vs babies? Babies. They have no problems, barely any interpersonal relationships, no concept of inferiority or superiority.

If you use your misfortunes as an advantage to be ‘special’, you will always need that misfortune.

On competition

We are moving on the same flat level plane as our comrades. Measure your value by your own progress, not with someone else.

If you see one person as your competitor, you will see the whole world as your enemy.

On life tasks

Human behavior is to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. To support these behavior believe you have the ability and that people are your comrade.

On satisfying others

Seeking recognition means you’re living your life for others. Live life for yourself.

Ridding yourself from interpersonal problems

Ask yourself, ‘whose task does this belong to?’. Dig deep to find the conclusion, ‘Is this your task?’, or ‘Can this task belong to someone else?’

Gordian Knot

Alexander the Great paved his own path by cutting through the Gordian Knot. Our interpersonal relationships, just like the Gordian Knot, must be approached by new methods instead of conventional methods.

Use new methods to measure the depth and distance of an interpersonal relationship. Keep in mind, it’s best to maintain a moderate distance.

Accepting disapproval

It’s ok to be disliked. Do not mind what others think of you. If you are the opposite, you’re living your life for others and will never be free.

On community

It’s not ‘what will this person give me?’, more like, ‘what can I give this person?’.

We are all connected to a community and never really alone. For example, you buy a loaf of bread, someone needs to deliver that bread to the supermarket, someone needs to pump fuel in that vehicle for delivery, someone needs to bake that bread, someone needs to make the ingredients for that bread, someone needs to provide the heat to make that bread, someone needs to provide the natural resources to turn that energy into heat, etc etc.

When in doubt, listen to the larger voice of the community.

Living in fear of a relationship falling apart is an unfree way to live.

On encouragement

Life task fulfillment has nothing to do with ability, but has everything to do with courage. Have the courage to face a life task.

By praising someone, you’re indirectly suggesting that they don’t have the ability, yet you do. So giving praise is a no-no.

How to feel you have value

Instead of praising, express gratitude. Thank others for allowing you to be part of one’s journey toward progression.

Push for Horizontal relationships(us), not vertical relationships(you vs me).

You have a sense of worth when you are able to be beneficial towards a community.

On self

Anyone can behave like a king when they’re alone.

Make the switch from self attachment to concern for others. In order to do so, you can approach the following points:

Young people out walk the adults

Accept that the young are improving their lives faster than the adults. If you have changed your life at 40 and share that with a 20 year old, and that 20 year old changes because you share your methods. That 20 year old has already surpassed you. When you contribute to a community, people will pass you, especially the young.

Be happy now

One quick way to be happy. Change your perspective to, “I am contributing to a community and am being of use to others.” Even if your contributions are not visible, or are not followed by positive feedback, in the end, you are the one who decides.

What is happiness?

Happiness is the feeling of contribution.

More on contribution

Do not look for recognition when contributing. There is no freedom in that.

If you’re obsessed with the desire for recognition, you lack self acceptance, confidence in others, and feel no contributions to others.

The pursuit to be normal

Normal does not mean incapable. Aim to be mediocre, not special.

Life is not vertical, more like a series of dots

We think of life as a line aiming toward a mountain top. Instead, life is like a series of dots, or rather moments. Those moments are the ‘here’ and ‘now’.

You can’t plan out life.

Live life like a dance. We are moving around and around, never in one place. Changing our movements and direction at any given time.

The greatest life-lie

Saying you will do this, or you will do this when the time comes means you are postponing life.

Life is simple. There’s no need for objectives; live in the moment. The more emphasis you put on life may result in likelihood of you forgetting what it means to live in the moment.

The greatest life-lie: not living in the here and now. Do not reflect on the past or the future. Shine a light on the now instead.

The guiding star

When you feel like you are losing sight of happiness, let contributing to others be your guiding star.

If ‘I’ change, the world will change. No one else will change the world for me.

Start your change and disregard others.

The world is simple, and life is too


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