BitesizedBooks: A Summary of The Courage to Be Disliked: By: Ichiro Kishimi , Fumitake Koga: Part 1( The First Night: Deny Trauma)
This book communicates the school of thought of Adlerian psychology; Which unravels its content through a conversation between a philosopher and a student. The philosopher adopts his views from the works of Adler (One of the three founding figures of depth psychology). The student takes the role of someone interested to learn but his current views contradict and is unsatisfied with the ones of the philosopher.
This book takes a unique approach in communicating its content different from other books which take a definitions-example format to support its ideas. Here ideas are communicated through dialogue, which makes it interactive and easy to ponder by exposing it to opposing views.
The Unknown Third Giant
Alfred Adler is an Austrian psychiatrist who established a new school of psychology at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is generally referred to as “Adlerian Psychology”. Adler was a part of the original core member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society along with Jung, which led by Freud. He split from the group because his ideas conflict with Freud, and proposed one based on his original theory which is called “individual psychology.”
Besides Freud and Jung, Adler is recognized throughout the world as one of the three giants of the field of psychology.
Why people can Change
Imagine you have a friend that doesn’t want to go outside the house and shut himself for years but wants to have a normal life. Maybe to go get a job or make friends, and get along with society. But he has some kind of anxiety that even a single step outside suffers palpitation and his arms and leg shake and couldn’t help himself but to stay the house. What do you make of that?
Perhaps he might have suffered a trauma during his childhood or was too pampered as a child and can’t face reality or reached adulthood without ever feeling loved which made him this. Since before an effect there is a cause, in other words, who we are now is determined by our past experiences?
Adlerian psychology does not think about the “past causes” but rather about the present “goals.” In Adlerian standpoint looks at the situation of your friend, not by his past occurrences, but rather his present goals. He had the goal of not going out of his house beforehand. We are not denying the challenges your friend is facing but the state of fear and anxiety might his means to achieve the goal of not going out. In Adlerian psychology, this is called “teleology.”
Etiology is the study of causation. Teleology is the study of the purpose of the given phenomenon rather than its cause.
Trauma Does Not Exist
“ 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.” — Adler
In Adlerian psychology, trauma is definitively denied. This contradicts Freud’s idea that a person’s psychic wound (trauma) causes his or her present unhappiness. But Adlerian psychology is not saying that the past like horrible calamity and abuse in the past does not influence us but the important point is we are not determined by those influences — We determine our lives by the meaning we give to our past experiences.
People Fabricate Anger
Let’s give an example, imagine there is an incident in a coffee shop where a waiter accidentally spilled a coffee all over a guy’s shirt. The guy flew into a rage and began shouting at the waiter. What can you make out of his behaviour?
You might argue it is because the girl spilled the coffee into his shirt that made him flew into a rage. Because emotions are impulsive and uncontrollable. But let’s counter that with another situation, let say a father disagreeing with his son. The father is arguing with his son and couldn’t help but to shout and be in a rage. Then suddenly, the telephone rang. The father picks up the phone and realizes it was his son’s homeroom teacher. His voice that was thick with anger a short while ago changed. His demeanor became very calm and polite, but then as soon the call stops he went straight back to being angry again.
Teleology is the study of the purpose of the given phenomenon rather than its cause. The latter example illustrates that we can control our emotions. And for our first situation, the guy in the coffee shop has the goal of shouting before anything else. The reason he shouted at the waiter might be because he wanted to make the waiter submit to him and use the emotion of anger to do so. Which on the other hand, can be approach without raising his voice, and most likely given a sincere apology from the waiter and assist him with whatever appropriate measures to resolve the inconveniences brought by the accident.
How to Live Without Being Controlled by the Past
So are we denying emotions? and it is nothing more than a means for achieving a goal? It is not that we are denying emotions, they exist, and everyone has them. The point is that people are not controlled by the past, and so as our emotions. Adlerian teleology is opposing The Freudian etiology that is typified by trauma argument. Adlerian psychology believes that people are not driven by past causes but move toward goals they set.
Socrates and Adler
The Value of Dialogue
When we rush towards answers immediately, we might end up on a shallow terrain. We should appreciate the valuable process of arriving at answers through dialogue. Regardless if that dialogue is between you, someone else, or with groups. You should arrive at answers on your own, not merely rely on what you get from someone else.
Are You Okay Just As You Are?
“ The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.” — Adler
Right now, the reason that you are not happy might be because that you have not learned to love yourself. This is not to say that you are “fine just as you are” because there is always room closer towards the best version of you or your ideal self.
If you are unable to really feel happy with the ways things are. You have the capacity to change the things you can control. But you’ve to put one foot in front of the other, and not stop.
Unhappiness Is Something You Choose for Yourself
Be careful of your internal justification
There is a proposition known as a Socratic paradox, which argues that “No one desires evil.” Even the most hardened criminals are not just motivated to do evil acts. There is a justification for getting involved in crime, and that justification can be restated as an accomplishment of “good.” Obviously, this is not “good” in a moral sense, but to those people, it is being “of benefit to oneself.”
The word “good”(agathon) in Greek, don’t have a moral meaning, this just means “beneficial.” Conversely, the word for “evil” (kakon) means “not beneficial.”
We don’t suffer because of our circumstances, it is of what meaning we are giving those circumstances. Similar to being happy, be careful with your internal justification, you might be feeling unhappy right now because you judged “being unhappy” to be good for you, as “of benefit to oneself.”
People Always Choose Not to Change
Most of us think that personality is something that you are born with and it is something that is no connection to your will. But Adlerian psychology, however, personality is thought of as a “Lifestyle.” In which it is the tendencies of thought and action in life. In a narrow sense, it defines someone’s personality: how one thinks of oneself. Taken more broadly, this encompasses the world view of the person: How someone views the world. Lifestyle is the meaning we perceived life. And it is something that you can choose for yourself, just like adopting a new healthier lifestyle in your diet or habits.
Of course, your first choice was probably unconscious and you have many factors that you can’t control such as — race, nationality, culture, and home environment. And Maybe you are not aware of this concept of “lifestyle” until now. The challenges are not in past but are here in the present. This awareness is your first step to reclaim the freedom to select your lifestyle.
For example, you might characterize yourself with “I am a pessimistic person.” One could replace that instead with “I have a pessimistic view of the world.”
Most people don’t want to change not because they couldn’t, but because they are afraid — afraid of the unknown. The discomfort of change such as anxiety generated by changing or potential disappointments. And with those things they decided to better leave things as they are. But the only antidote to that is courage. Courage to be happy.
Your Life Is Decided Here and Now
“No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on. That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.” — Adler
Don’t focus on your past causes, and should deny trauma. We are not the product of the past, people can change, and select their lifestyle. Sometimes what is holding you back is the uncertainties of change. We need to take the step forward and to have the courage — the courage to be happy.