page title icon Book Summary Review: The Courage to be Disliked

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The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness is a self-help/philosophy book by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Published in 2013, the book encourages people to stop worrying about how others think about them, but to embrace and liberate themselves. Taking the readers through the 19th-century teachings by Alfred Adler, the authors offer insights into relationships, happiness, and personal growth. 

The book is written in dialogue form between a young man and a philosopher offering advice on how to live a happier life. Through their dialogue, readers get lessons from various topics, including the importance of relationships, personal responsibility, and the power of self-reflection, among others. From the below book summary, one learns that the book is based on a simple principle: We have the power to find happiness within ourselves. In this case, no complicated formula can be used to find happiness. This book summary will capture the book’s key concepts, central ideas, and practical advice from the five nights that the young man spent with the philosopher.  

The First Night: Deny Trauma

The most controversial topic during the first night, or maybe the whole book, is that trauma does not exist. Interacting with the young man, the philosopher shared about the Adlerian psychology concept. This psychology is based on Alfred Adler, the Austrian psychotherapist and philosopher. According to him, No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences—the so-called trauma—but instead, we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.

The above statement is hard to swallow, given the traumatic experiences we face in day-to-day activities. However, Adler wanted to convince us that trauma only affects our lives when we give meaning to it. When the philosopher shared the above, the boy narrated a case of his friend who had anxiety and fear linked to leaving the house. According to the young man, the boy never wanted to leave the house because of the trauma he had earlier experienced. Challenging this statement, the philosopher argued that the boy created the goal not to leave the house. 

The Courage to be Disliked

The Second Night: All Problems are Interpersonal Relationship Problems

One week after the first night, the boy returned for more philosophy lessons. During the second night of meeting the philosopher, the boy argued that he disliked himself. The young boy argued, No matter what I do, I can’t find anything but shortcomings, and I can see no reason why I’d start liking myself. According to the authors, You notice only your shortcomings because you’ve resolved not to start liking yourself.

In this chapter, the authors also touched on the concept of lifestyle. In most cases, lifestyles are shaped by our inferiority feelings that are primarily rooted in our childhood experiences. How do we overcome such feelings? According to the book, overcoming the feelings of inferiority and creating the lives we want requires us to embrace uniqueness and individuality.   

The Third Night: Discard Other People’s Tasks

During the third night of the book, the authors discussed how to achieve real happiness. In most cases, we get engaged in activities that make us loved by others. According to Adlerian psychology, we cannot live trying to satisfy other people’s expectations. On the contrary, we should discard the human need to be recognized. What happens when we seek recognition from others? In most cases, it leads us to follow what they expect from us. If we get consumed with satisfying other people’s expectations, it becomes a difficult life to live.

The book also emphasizes that we hold the cards for our interpersonal relationships. The philosopher shared about his bad relationship with his father. According to the young man, the poor relationship probably resulted from a bad encounter in the past. Challenging this statement, the philosopher argued that such a thought cements the Freudian etiology way of thinking, where past trauma impacts the future. Instead of blaming his troubled relationship with his father on past experiences, the philosopher argued that he had the responsibility of mending the relationship.

The Fourth Night: Where the Center of the World Is

A week after the third night, the young man called the philosopher for more lessons. He was concerned about the previous lesson on freedom and needed clarification. He argued, The idea of separating tasks is certainly a useful one. You had me completely convinced last time. But it seems like such a lonely way to live. Separating the tasks and lightening the load of one’s interpersonal relations is just the same as cutting one’s connection to other people. And, to top it off, you’re telling me to be disliked by other people? If that’s what you call freedom, then I’ll choose not to be free! From this statement, the young man was struggling with the idea of loneliness occurring after the tasks’ separation. 

During this night, the philosopher emphasized the importance of self-acceptance toward leading a meaningful and fulfilling life. In most cases, we are prone to conforming to societal expectations and norms that leads to unhappiness and frustration. However, the authors encourage readers to embrace their individuality and uniqueness. When receiving praise from others becomes our goal, we are more prone to choose their way of living and neglecting our path. From this night’s conversations, we learn that a sense of belonging is something we acquire through our efforts and not something we are endowed with at birth. 

The Courage to be Disliked

The Fifth Night: To Live in Earnest in Here and Now

During the fifth night, the book offers practical guidance towards creating a meaningful and fulfilling life. According to the philosopher, the key to fulfillment and happiness is taking responsibility for our lives, staying true to ourselves, and developing a sense of social interest. To have the courage to be disliked, we have to look at others as equals and not above or below us. In this context, redefining our hierarchy in the world can change our lives for good.  

Key Lessons from the Book

  1.  No experience, including trauma, is a cause of failure–past traumas should not be viewed as excuses for failure. 
  2. The courage to be happy hinges on the courage to be disliked.
  3.  Your unhappiness and challenging life should not be blamed on the environment or past experiences; it should be blamed on your lack of courage to be disliked.
  4. Avoid working hard to satisfy the expectations of others.
  5. We determine our future by the meaning we give to our past experiences.
  6. Loneliness is defined as having other people, society and community around you while feeling excluded from them.
  7. Interpersonal issues come after we intrude on other people’s tasks or have ours intruded.
  8. Do not live your life to please others.
  9. You have the power to choose your life’s path.
  10. Comparison is a trap–we all have our unique life paths.

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