The courage of being disliked

“The courage to be disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga was conceived as a Socratic dialogue between a young man and a philosopher. It embodies the perfect example of how one book, opened by chance one day, can be a game-changer for the rest of your life.

The book starts from the premise that life is simple, and happiness is available to anyone, at any given time. The key to change as is to everything is ourselves.

“The problem doesn’t lie in how the world is constructed but in how we are constructed”.

Courage or the lack of?

The young man came to the philosopher to demolish his theory and destroy his belief. He is determined to find counterarguments at every turn. In reality, he was more lost than ever, too afraid to take chances and to admit his faulty vision of what life is all about.

The philosopher, on the other hand, didn’t start out on a confrontational note, as the young man, but retraced his own journey through the arguments laid at the feet of the young man. The interesting thing about his approach was that he was not set to prove the young man wrong, but to lead him, through questions, to the ultimate truth, thus, setting him free. What’s interesting is the way he leads the young man to find his own truth, guiding him to reach conclusions and naming them only after. His teachings have roots in the twentieth-century school of psychology of Alfred Adler.

The choice is always yours


To support the idea, the philosopher tells us about his grandfather, who was injured during the war. He was hit by a bomb, caught on fire, and injured his face badly. From all aspects, it was a tragedy. As a result, it would have been easier for him to decide, from that moment on, that the world is a terrible place and people are his enemies. However, every time his grandfather would travel by train, people would offer him their seat. He made a choice, every day, that the world is a wonderful place, and that people are not the enemy.

In his book entitledWisdom of the Ages”, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer mentions the same thing, only differently explained. According to Dr. Dyer, it doesn’t matter how many places you move into, how many people you meet, if you are still the same. If you are an insufferable person, finding fault with everything and everyone, it will not matter how many places you go to or how many people you meet. You will always find fault somewhere else instead of looking within yourself.  

It’s not by chance that we say: if you want the world to change you have to change the way you look at the world. Nobody can do that for you.

The idea is not new


The idea is really simple, much as is life:

  • All our problems are rooted in interpersonal relationships
  • People can change and can be happy from this moment on
  • The issue lies not in our capabilities but in our courage

Much as Dale Carnegie in “How to stop worrying and start living”, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga insist that the past shouldn’t matter, and our future cannot decide today. The fact that we set goals for ourselves means we are constantly living in a state of expectation, lost forever, wandering towards something. If we perceive life as a line, with a set goal, we miss the moments in between. Concentrate on what you can do today, not as a part of a line, but as a moment in itself. Bring it meaning and abundance.

Unlike Sigmund Freud and Carl Young, we cannot live a present in the shadow of the past. According to their theories, our present is the result of a past causality. This cancels our free will and makes us captive to a reality already decided and set for us. If, as Adolf Adler suggests, we understand the present as a result of a present decision, it’s much easier, and possible, for all of us to identify the cause based on the effect. The difference lies in our present purpose.

A husband and a wife get along great. All of a sudden, the wife finds her husband’s habits irritating. The same habits that she once loved, it’s what drives her mad. The issue is that the wife has already decided that their life is not a fruitful one. As a result, all her husband’s habits turned into annoying habits. One morning her mind made up that their life is not great anymore. The result is her finding fault with the habits she once loved.

Punishment-reward education and its consequences


Adolf Adler’s psychology is not based on the acknowledgment principle. Our problems appear the moment we are disappointed about not having been acknowledged. It is faulty thinking, based on the principle of punishment and reward. If we do something, we do it for the simple reason that it feels good. We don’t do it for the acknowledgment it comes with it. In fact, the more we seek acknowledgment, the more disappointed we are. Just as children do things only to get their parents’ attention, whether those things are positive or negative. The attitude is a result of the punishment-reward type of education.

Moreover, the moment we seek acknowledgment, we automatically put ourselves in an inferior position, without even realizing it. If we are all equal and all capable, why would we seek somebody else’s acknowledgment? That would mean that we feel somebody else is far more superior to us from the beginning. This is where we trap ourselves in a vicious circle. On the one hand, we would welcome equality, not feeling inferior to anybody, on the other, when we seek acknowledgment, we imply, from the start, that somebody is superior to us and it’s their approval and recognition that we seek.

When we seek recognition, we, indirectly, try and behave in a manner that is pleasant to others but not necessarily pleasant to us. Our lack of courage is translated into the fear of action. We cannot change because we are afraid of not being liked or appreciated.

“Feeling important is the core desire of our being”, as Dale Carnegie puts it in “How to win friends and influence people”. From this comes the burden of acting in a manner that is not offensive to other people. That’s what makes us feel trapped in our own existence. The pressure of acting in a generally acceptable manner, in order to gain the respect and admiration of those around us. Our dilemma is right in our grasp and we choose to see it. The moment we are living our lives according to the standards and principles of others is the moment we live somebody else’s life instead of our own.

Gaining back our courage


We are the cause of our own inability to deal with other people. According to Adler, the cause of our problems lies in human relationships. It is also in the midst of other humans that we find our true nature. The key is in our hands. What we do with it makes the difference. We humans have clear tasks:

  • Work
  • Love
  • Friendship

Our unhappiness lies in the mixture of our tasks with that of others. Our unhappiness lies in the desire to interfere with other people’s tasks when that is not our responsibility. Just as parents mix their tasks with that of their children, leading to future misunderstandings and contempt. When a child is sad because his parents choose to deal with the task of work in a different way than that of his own, is where problems arise. The moment parents overstep their tasks with that of their children as regards school, it’s normal that feelings of failure invade them.

Takeaways from “The courage to be disliked”


         We live a life we feel trapped into because we constantly seek the need to be acknowledged while trying to feel worthy at the same time. Our every move is based on the “liking principle” explained by Robert Cialdini in his “Influence: the psychology of persuasion”. We live a life that would be suitable to other people instead of ourselves, afraid of being rejected and judged at every step. The moment we find the courage to be ourselves, without basing our moves on the opinions of others, is when we are truly free and live our lives. Trying to fit into somebody else’s set of standards is not only exhausting but also damaging. We end up living a life that we are unhappy about and making those around us miserable as well.

         Our happiness lies not in the hands, lives, and other people’s patterns. Much as with “Emotional Intelligence”, we should live a life independent of everything and everybody. When we fail to satisfy our own existence, irrespective of others is when we find ourselves living a free life, ironically turning us into better individuals in a much happier society.

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