{Book Review} The Courage to be Disliked by Kishimi and Koga

Last year I had a personal goal to read 52 (good) books in a year. While I’m not surprised, I am yet surprised I actually pulled it off. I actually read 54! I will post a list of them all in a future blog, but for now, here’s one I enjoyed a lot. The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga is a sort of Japanese self help book. While I dislike the term ‘self help’ and rarely use it IRL, I’ll roll with it for the purpose of this blog.

In few words, I loved the book and I recommend you give it a go. I like it so much that I took heaps of notes and also summarized my understanding of it in a little drawing.

In an easy, conversational style between a philosopher and a young man, the book sheds light on how we can peel off a few layers, understand what we want and our direction in life, how to rid of past traumas and stop being afraid to be who we want to be (regardless of what others want us to be), so we can be happier. It is based on the philosophy of Alfred Adler and it includes the concept of contributing to the community as a key element towards achieving happiness. Below are my favorite takeaways.

On past, future, change and meaning:

  • We are not determined by past experiences (or traumas); no experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We are determined by the meaning we give our experiences. Yes, these experiences can influence our personality and the influence can be strong, but nothing is determined by those influences.
  • We are not controlled by the past nor by our emotions.
  • The question isn’t ‘what happened ‘ but ‘how was it resolved’.
  • What happened in our lives until this point should have no bearing on how we live from now on. We are living in the here and now and we can determine our own life.  This is similar to the message that Eckhart Tolle promotes, whom I also recommend you read.
  • People are not driven by past causes, but they move towards goals that they set themselves.
  • We are not born with a specific personality that is unchangeable. We select it (unconsciously) around the age of 10. Our personality is our worldview, our outlook on life and this is possible to alter at any given point once we become aware of it.
  • Change is uncomfortable and scary and requires great courage.

On interpersonal relationships:

  • When we enter into interpersonal relationships, it is inevitable that to a greater or lesser extent we will get hurt and we will hurt someone too.
  • All problems are interpersonal relationship problems. There is no such thing as worry that is completely defined by the individual; so called internal worry does not exist. Whatever the worry that may arise, the shadows of other people are always present. So when we experience a feeling of inferiority, that’s not an objective inferiority (an objective fact) we’re feeling, but a subjective feeling of inferiority (a subjective interpretation) that arises by comparing ourselves with others. I absolutely loved the discussion on the feeling of inferiority v. inferiority complex and how close and intertwined the later is with the superiority complex. Instead of what we tend to think that they are at opposite poles, they actually walk hand in hand!
  • We are all on the same level playing field and we should only be in a competition with our ideal self, not try to be greater than others. We should just strive to move in a forward direction without competing with another.
  • There are 3 social ties : with the world, friendship, and love. Any issues we have in these areas are at the core of our interpersonal relationships issues.
  • Wishing to be recognised by other people will lead to a life of following expectations held by other people who want you to be ‘this kind of person’. If you are not living your life for yourself, then who is going to live it for you?

I loved the concept of ‘Separation of tasks‘ – in general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks or having ones own tasks intruded on. Here the concept of task has more a meaning of responsibility.

On freedom and belonging:

  • Freedom is not being afraid to be disliked by other people.
  • If you are disliked by someone it is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.
  • We’re all looking for a feeling of belonging, to be part of a community. We can only truly belong to a community if we actively commit to a community, not by just being here. But by switching our thinking from ‘what will this person give me’ to ‘what can I give this person ‘.
  • Community in this book is defined to include the entire universe, the past and the future, and everything from living things to inanimate objects.

On equality and contribution:

  • The book makes a distinction between vertical and horizontal relationships, highlighting that all relationships should be horizontal, meaning we are all different yet equal.
  • The book further goes to make a point that encouragement in the form of words of gratitude, respect, joy come from horizontal relationships, while rebuke or praise come from passing judgment, from a feeling of superiority, thus vertical relationships.
  • The book further makes a distinction between assisting someone versus interfering with their tasks (=responsibilities, life).

As in my drawing above, the book can be summarized as an ongoing cycle:

I have concern for others -> I am beneficial to the community-> I am equal but different to others-> I have worth -> I have courage to face life on my own terms.

3 last thoughts.

The courage to he happy comes from self acceptance at a level of being, not from acts.

Life is not linear. Life is a series of dots; a series of moments called the here and now.

Life in general has no meaning. But we can assign meaning to life. The only meaning life has is the one we are giving it.

If I change, the world will change. No one else will change the world for me.

I’m curious, have you read this book? Or is this a book you’re keen to read? Let me know below.

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