The courage to be disliked appeared on my Twitter timeline sometime ago. A quick look online told me it is one of the bestselling books. However, what intrigued me was its title. Once I started reading it, I was introduced to Alfred Adler, a psychologist contemporary of Freud and Jung but rarely known outside the psychology circles. His approach is contrarian to the other two. He sees the future independent of the past and interpersonal relationships at the core of our joys and sorrows. It denies theories around trauma. I also assume there is a fair bit of Judaism inbuilt in these principles.
The book is in the form of a conversation between a young seeker and an older philosopher who counsels based on Adler’s philosophy. Both characters are unnamed, letting you assume that you could be one of them, or letting you identify with both of them at different points in the conversation. Youth has typical problems of the age like relationship issues, family issues, and self-esteem issues. He starts by sharing one problem and the philosopher leads him from one aspect of the philosophy to other. The layers start opening up in form of issues at one end and answers at another end.
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I have been reading a lot of Indian scriptures lately and they are always in the form of a conversation or a dialogue. One person is curious and the other person answers his questions, which sometimes leads to many more questions. In between the answer, the philosophies or Sutras are inbuilt. Sometimes examples are cited from stories or anecdotes from the past. So, it was very interesting to see a very well-structured modern book in the form of a dialogue.
Some of the points I highlighted in The Courage to be Disliked:
Self is determined not by our experiences themselves but by the meaning we give them.
Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. It is not that you lack competence. You lack courage, the courage to be happy.
Loneliness is having other people and society and the community around you and having a deep sense of being excluded from them. To feel lonely, we need other people.
All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.
It is crucial to not mix up ‘feeling of inferiority and ‘inferiority complex.
Boasting is an inverted feeling of inferiority.
In our culture weakness can be quite strong and powerful.
Two objectives for behavior – to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. It needs consciousness that I have the ability and that people are my comrades.
Etymologically, the individual comes from indivisible.
Interpersonal relationships are a source of both happiness and unhappiness.
You are not the center of the world.
In the act of Praise – there is an aspect of being ‘the passing of the judgment by a person of ability on a person of no ability.
Being normal is not being incapable.
If I change, the world will change.
The language used is very simple, very conversational. The concept is explained with absolute clarity. Even if you disagree, you still understand what is being conveyed. I wish more philosophies were explained in such an easy manner.
In a nutshell, the book tells you to take responsibility for your life and your happiness. It kind of detaches you from society in the sense they are not held responsible for your suffering. At the same time, it asks you to derive your happiness from contributing to the harmony of society. It asks you to look at people as your comrades instead of your competition.
In a way, it tells you exactly what Bhagwad Geeta tells you – To be detached without being indifferent. To look for the larger goal of society and attachment is the source of all our sorrows. Judaism is mentioned a few times in the book, so I assume some tenets come from there but since I have not studied that ever, I am unable to relate to it.
Read it to expose your mind to this line of thought.