18 May 2023

Book Review: The Courage to be Disliked

by: Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

I got to know about this book from a quote that my friend Roger Whitney had sent me.

This book is written as a conversation between the “Philosopher” and a young student (“Youth”). I assume it was written in this format to make it more readable and verbalize thru the questions of the Youth, the questions a reader might have. This format, however, did not land well with me. For one thing, I did not really have as many questions as the youth and therefore, the reading was a bit jerky. I would have rather read a normal essay style.

That said, one can learn a lot about Adlerian philosophy. And this is what Roger’s quote was all about.

A few things you might learn about Adlerian philosophy

1. It takes the approach that the past does not matter. This would go against other philosophers like Freud who believed that our current behavior is because of what has happened in the past – called etiology. Adler argues that our behavior is entirely governed by what we want in the future (teleology).
2. All problems are interpersonal relationship problems. Feelings of inferiority are subjective assumptions based on our own comparison with others. On this one, the authors give a nice counterexample of short people. Such values, Adler argues are based on social context. Thus it is really a choice we make. Adler has an interesting way of putting things – Humans are all equal. But not the same.
3. There is an interesting trick Alder goes into – “Discard other people’s task”. Basically, it goes into you do what you need to do. If something is not your task to do, do not worry or think about it. This means not only not seeking recognition but this also means do not fret about what your child is not doing even after you have reminded them. That is their task to do. Worrying will only make you unhappy on something you cannot control. This part of the book does a good job on how to reconcile this with what would therefore then be good parenting exercises.
4. The following quote appealed to me – “Unless one is unconcerned by other people’s judgments, has no fear of being disliked by other people, and pays the cost that one might never be recognized, one will never be able to follow through in one’s own way of living. The courage to be happy is also the courage to be disliked.”
5. In Adlerian philosophy, a sense of belonging is something that one can attain only by making an active commitment to the community of one’s own accord and not simply by being there.
6. In another interesting concept, Adler says “Do not praise”. In the act of praise, there is the aspect of it being “the passing of judgment by a person of ability on a person of no ability”. Instead of praise or rebuke, there should be active “encouragement” that can only come from a horizontal relationship.
7. Adler defines happiness as the feeling of contribution.
8. And finally, Adler believes that life, in of itself, has no meaning. Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.

Posted May 18, 2023 by Rajib Roy in category "Books


  1. By Anonymous on

    I disagree on your interpretation of the 1st point .Freud centered his theories in biology, Adler centered his in the social environment . Both Freud and Adler viewed human development as the result of inner drives. One of the major limitations of Alderian theories is its emphasis on early childhood memories and events. If a person is resistant to exploring these memories, Adlerian therapy cannot be successful. So past is always of significance 🙂

    1. By Rajib Roy (Post author) on

      Hmmm… I am no expert but what I gathered from this book is that Adlerian theories discount childhood memories and events (unlike Freud)


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