Book Review: The Courage to Be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi


Review

The Courage to Be Disliked offers a radical take life and relationships that is unafraid to subvert conventional wisdom. The book offers provocative proclamations:

“The first time I attended a lecture on Adlerian psychology, the lecturer, Oscar Christensen, who was a disciple of one of Adler’s disciples, made the following statement: “Those who hear my talk today can be happy right now, this very instant. But those who do not will never be able to be happy.”

Yet is carries the spirit of a sincere yet subversive examination on normal social thinking. While each antithesis alone can be considered self-serving or destructive, the world-view it offers as a whole is revolutionary and empowering. The book leans on individual subjectivity to a degree that leaves its vulnerable to individual delusion and abuse. However, the book tackles the fundamental contradictions between individual and society with an earnest and conscientious courage. I’ve given some of its ideas a try and have seen benefits already. I found this book on Bloomberg’s Best Books of 2018

On Style

While the Table of Contents looks intimidatingly long, in fact each chapter is only a few pages, and once can get a good sense of the argument by simply reading the pithy chapter titles. The use of a Socratic back-and-forth between an un-named Philosopher and Youth provided a motivating sense of conflict and progress, yet sometimes the Youth’s exasperated denials came off as contrived and ridiculous. The book is also clearly grounded in contemporary Japanese society, with frequent references to the modern Japanese phenomena of ‘shut-ins’ or Hikikomori, adults or adolescents who willingly isolate themselves from society.

Thoughts and Key Take-Aways

I have an exceedingly long chapter-by-chapter list of quotes, which means either this book makes a lot of incredible points or I’m just terrible at simplifying things. I offer here some points that resonated personally and commentary.

Trauma Does Not Exist

The title of Chapter 3, “Trauma Does Not Exist,” represents the book’s shockingly subversive opening. The Philosopher argues that we need to move from a cause-and-effect view of life to instead question the purpose of our present actions.

When you treat a person’s life as a vast narrative, there is an easily understandable causality and sense of dramatic development that creates strong impressions and is extremely attractive. But Adler, in denial of the trauma argument, states the following: “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.”

He is not saying that the experience of a horrible calamity or abuse during childhood or other such incidents have no influence on forming a personality; their influences are strong. But the important thing is that nothing is actually determined by those influences. We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences. Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.

The Courage to be Happy

This resonated with my personal principles.

PHILOSOPHER: To quote Adler again: “The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.” You want to be Y or someone else because you are utterly focused on what you were born with. Instead, you’ve got to focus on what you can make of your equipment.

I found this quote to be inspiring, but many of my friends thought it lacked empathy.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.”

I mostly agree with my friend’s criticism. Simply put, this thinking overlooks the fact that for some people it takes far more courage to overcome their past and change their lifestyle than others. It assumes that you can already meet your basic needs of food, shelter, and safety, and that you have the mental bandwidth to dedicate towards self-improvement. This ignorance of material circumstances is an overall weakness of the book, yet I believe the idea that all one needs to be happy is courage is still an empowering message.

All Problems Are Interpersonal Relationship Problems

PHILOSOPHER: We can repeat it as many times as you like: All problems are interpersonal relationship problems. This is a concept that runs to the very root of Adlerian psychology. If all interpersonal relationships were gone from this world, which is to say if one were alone in the universe and all other people were gone, all manner of problems would disappear.

This seemed like a radical over-simplification at first glance, but when I started to reflect, it comes down to the fact that all individuals must live and depend on society. This gives us great benefits yet also problems.

Why Babies are the Strongest People

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. They use their misfortune to their advantage and try to control the other party with it. By declaring how unfortunate they are and how much they have suffered, they are trying to worry the people around them (their family and friends, for example), and to restrict their speech and behavior, and control them. The people I was talking about at the very beginning, who shut themselves up in their rooms, frequently indulge in feelings of superiority and use misfortune to their advantage. So much so that Adler himself pointed out, “In our culture weakness can be quite strong and powerful.”

YOUTH: So weakness is powerful?

PHILOSOPHER: Adler says, “In fact, if we were to ask ourselves who is the strongest person in our culture, the logical answer would be, the baby. The baby rules and cannot be dominated.” The baby rules over the adults with his weakness. And it is because of this weakness that no one can control him”

The Terrifying Implications of Competition

PHILOSOPHER: It is connected with the subject of competition. Please remember that. If there is competition at the core of a person’s interpersonal relationships, he will not be able to escape interpersonal relationship problems or escape misfortune.

YOUTH: Why not?

PHILOSOPHER: Because at the end of a competition, there are winners and losers.

PHILOSOPHER: This is what is so terrifying about competition. Even if you’re not a loser, even if you’re someone who keeps on winning, if you are someone who has placed himself in competition, you will never have a moment’s peace. You don’t want to be a loser. And you always have to keep on winning if you don’t want to be a loser. You can’t trust other people. The reason so many people don’t really feel happy while they’re building up their success in the eyes of society is that they are living in competition. Because to them, the world is a perilous place that is overflowing with enemies

Stop Interfering, or Separate Tasks

This idea, which has echoes of a Stoic philosophy, has already helped me reduce my controlling tendencies. It’s helped me reduce a lot of worry and frustration and made me much happier as a result. However I am suspicious of the idea that one can clearly separate all tasks.

PHILOSOPHER: In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on. Carrying out the separation of tasks is enough to change one’s interpersonal relationships dramatically.

YOUTH: Hmm. I don’t really get it. In the first place, how can you tell whose task it is? From my point of view, realistically speaking, getting one’s child to study is the duty of the parents. Because almost no child studies just out of enjoyment, and after all is said and done, the parent is the child’s guardian.

PHILOSOPHER: There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think, Who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about by the choice that is made? When the child has made the choice of not studying, ultimately, the result of that decision—not being able to keep up in class or to get into the preferred school, for instance—does not have to be received by the parents. Clearly, it is the child who has to receive it. In other words, studying is the child’s task.”

Freedom is the Courage to Be Disliked, Belonging is Contributing to a Community

These are two central ideas of the book that must be considered together. Otherwise, the first half gives license to be an asshole, and the second half can lead to repression of self-flourishing.

On freedom:

PHILOSOPHER: In short, that freedom is being disliked by other people

YOUTH: Huh? What was that?

PHILOSOPHER: It’s that 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.

YOUTH: But, but . . .

PHILOSOPHER: It is certainly distressful to be disliked. If possible, one would like to live without being disliked by anyone. One wants to satisfy one’s desire for recognition. But conducting oneself in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living, and is also impossible. There is a cost incurred when one wants to exercise one’s freedom. And the cost of freedom in interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people.

On community:

PHILOSOPHER: Furthermore, community feeling is the most important index for considering a state of interpersonal relations that is happy.

… Now, take that a step deeper. If other people are our comrades, and we live surrounded by them, we should be able to find in that life our own place of “refuge.” Moreover, in doing so, we should begin to have the desire to share with our comrades, to contribute to the community. This sense of others as comrades, this awareness of “having one’s own refuge,” is called “community feeling.”

I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being a people-pleaser. I, however, never explicitly related being disliked to freedom. My first two years at Amherst, I worried that either something was wrong with me or Amherst’s social scene. My last two years, I slowly realized that I grew up with values I was not willing to sacrifice, and there is no strict right or wrong in personal values.

Moreover, I think focusing on a smaller community is a powerful idea that extends beyond personal relationships – Sam Altman argues that “There are two time-tested strategies to change the world with technology. One is to build something that some people love but most people think is a toy; the other is to be hyperambitious and start an electric car company or a rocket company.” (Stupid Apps and Changing the World)

Arguments and Power Struggles

I am definitely guilty of turning discussions into confrontations. It’s a habit cultivated from years of debate, MUN, and mock trial during high school that has bled into and almost certainly damaged many personal relationships.

PHILOSOPHER: The moment one is convinced that “I am right” in an interpersonal relationship, one has already stepped into a power struggle.

YOUTH: Just because you think you’re right? No way, that’s just blowing things all out of proportion.

PHILOSOPHER: I am right. That is to say, the other party is wrong. At that point, the focus of the discussion shifts from “the rightness of the assertions” to “the state of the interpersonal relationship.” In other words, the conviction that “I am right” leads to the assumption that “this person is wrong,” and finally it becomes a contest and you are thinking, I have to win. It’s a power struggle through and through.”

Praise and Yardsticks

This book strongly criticizes praise, arguing that:

The example of animal training that you just gave is also emblematic of the hierarchical relationship—the vertical relationship—that is behind the praising. When one person praises another, the goal is “to manipulate someone who has less ability than you.” It is not done out of gratitude or respect.

I think the logical flaw here is that it extends the potential of ‘manipulation’ inherent in unequal relationships into all possible instances of praise. However, I believe the praise can still be accomplished with gratitude or respect even when there are power imbalances. Nevertheless, the book offers a penetrating look at the dynamic of ‘vertical relationships’:

And the measure of what is good or bad about that act is that person’s yardstick. If receiving praise is what one is after, one will have no choice but to adapt to that person’s yardstick and put the brakes on one’s own freedom. “Thank you,” on the other hand, rather than being judgment, is a clear expression of gratitude. When one hears words of gratitude, one knows that one has made a contribution to another person.

Quotes

Chapter 2: Why People Can Change

Philosopher: If we focus only on past causes and try to explain things solely through cause and effect, we end up with “determinism.” Because what this says is that our present and our future have already been decided by past occurrences, and are unalterable. Am I wrong?

No. This is the difference between etiology (the study of causation) and teleology (the study of the purpose of a given phenomenon, rather than its cause). Everything you have been telling me is based in etiology. As long as we stay in etiology, we will not take a single step forward.

Chapter 3: Trauma Does Not Exist

PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, trauma is definitively denied. This was a very new and revolutionary point. Certainly, the Freudian view of trauma is fascinating. Freud’s idea is that a person’s psychic wounds (traumas) cause his or her present unhappiness. When you treat a person’s life as a vast narrative, there is an easily understandable causality and sense of dramatic development that creates strong impressions and is extremely attractive. But Adler, in denial of the trauma argument, states the following: “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.”

YOUTH: So we make of them whatever suits our purposes?

PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. Focus on the point Adler is making here when he refers to the self being determined not by our experiences themselves, but by the meaning we give them. He is not saying that the experience of a horrible calamity or abuse during childhood or other such incidents have no influence on forming a personality; their influences are strong. But the important thing is that nothing is actually determined by those influences. We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences. Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.

Chapter 5: How to Live Without Being Controlled by the Past

PHILOSOPHER: I am not denying that emotion exists. Everyone has emotions. That goes without saying. But if you are going to tell me that people are beings who can’t resist emotion, I’d argue against that. Adlerian psychology is a form of thought, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to nihilism. We are not controlled by emotion. In this sense, while it shows that people are not controlled by emotion, additionally it shows that we are not controlled by the past.

Chapter 7: Are You Okay Just As You Are?

PHILOSOPHER: To quote Adler again: “The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.” You want to be Y or someone else because you are utterly focused on what you were born with. Instead, you’ve got to focus on what you can make of your equipment.

Chapter 9: People Always Choose Not to Change

PHILOSOPHER: Say there’s someone who worries about himself and says, “I am a pessimist.” One could rephrase that to instead say, “I have a pessimistic view of the world.” You could consider that the issue is not personality but rather the view of the world. It seems that the word “personality” is nuanced and suggests being unchangeable. But if we’re talking about a view of the world, well, then, that should be possible to alter.

YOUTH: Hmm. This is kind of confusing. When you speak of a lifestyle, do you mean a way of living?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, you could put it that way. To be a little more accurate, it is the way one’s life should be. You probably think of disposition or personality as something with which you are endowed, without any connection to your will. In Adlerian psychology, however, lifestyle is thought of as something that you choose for yourself.

PHILOSOPHER: Maybe you haven’t been aware of your lifestyle until now, and maybe you haven’t been aware of the concept of lifestyle either. Of course, no one can choose his or her own birth. Being born in this country, in this era, and with these parents are things you did not choose. And all these things have a great deal of influence. You’ll probably face disappointment and start looking at other people and feeling, I wish I’d been born in their circumstances. But you can’t let it end there. The issue is not the past, but here, in the present. And now you’ve learned about lifestyle. But what you do with it from here on is your responsibility. Whether you go on choosing the lifestyle you’ve had up till now, or you choose a new lifestyle altogether, it’s entirely up to you.

On the other hand, if one chooses a new lifestyle, no one can predict what might happen to the new self, or have any idea how to deal with events as they arise. It will be hard to see ahead to the future, and life will be filled with anxiety. A more painful and unhappy life might lie ahead. Simply put, people have various complaints about things, but it’s easier and more secure to be just the way one is.

YOUTH: One wants to change, but changing is scary?

PHILOSOPHER: When we try to change our lifestyles, we put our great courage to the test. There is the anxiety generated by changing, and the disappointment attendant to not changing. I am sure you have selected the latter.

YOUTH: Wait… Just now, you used the word “courage.”

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.”

Chapter 10: Your Life Is Decided Here and Now

YOUTH: An excuse not to change?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. I have a young friend who dreams of becoming a novelist, but he never seems to be able to complete his work. According to him, his job keeps him too busy, and he can never find enough time to write novels, and that’s why he can’t complete work and enter it for writing awards. But is that the real reason? No! It’s actually that he wants to leave the possibility of “I can do it if I try” open, by not committing to anything. He doesn’t want to expose his work to criticism, and he certainly doesn’t want to face the reality that he might produce an inferior piece of writing and face rejection. He wants to live inside that realm of possibilities, where he can say that he could do it if he only had the time, or that he could write if he just had the proper environment, and that he really does have the talent for it. In another five or ten years, he will probably start using other excuses like “I’m not young anymore” or “I’ve got a family to think about now.”

YOUTH: I can relate all too well to how he must feel.

PHILOSOPHER: He should just enter his writing for an award, and if he gets rejected, so be it. If he did, he might grow, or discover that he should pursue something different. Either way, he would be able to move on. That is what changing your current lifestyle is about. He won’t get anywhere by not submitting anything.

PHILOSOPHER: No, you are not being criticized. Rather, as Adler’s teleology tells us, “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.

YOUTH: My life is determined at this exact point?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, because the past does not exist.

Chapter 11: Why You Dislike Yourself

Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships… you are afraid of being negated by other people. You’re afraid of being treated disparagingly, being refused, and sustaining deep mental wounds. You think that instead of getting entangled in such situations, it would be better if you just didn’t have relations with anyone in the first place. In other words, your goal is to not get hurt in your relationships with other people… Now, how can that goal be realized? The answer is easy. Just find your shortcomings, start disliking yourself, and become someone who doesn’t enter into interpersonal relationships.

PHILOSOPHER: Admitting is a good attitude. But don’t forget, it’s basically impossible to not get hurt in your relations with other people. When you enter into interpersonal relationships, it is inevitable that to a greater or lesser extent you will get hurt, and you will hurt someone, too. Adler says, “To get rid of one’s problems, all one can do is live in the universe all alone.” But one can’t do such a thing.

Chapter 12: All Problems Are Interpersonal Relationship Problems

PHILOSOPHER: Oh, but being alone isn’t what makes you feel lonely. Loneliness is having other people and society and community around you, and having a deep sense of being excluded from them. To feel lonely, we need other people. That is to say, it is only in social contexts that a person becomes an “individual.”

PHILOSOPHER: We can repeat it as many times as you like: All problems are interpersonal relationship problems. This is a concept that runs to the very root of Adlerian psychology. If all interpersonal relationships were gone from this world, which is to say if one were alone in the universe and all other people were gone, all manner of problems would disappear.

YOUTH: That’s a lie! It’s nothing more than academic sophistry.

PHILOSOPHER: Of course, we cannot do without interpersonal relationships. A human being’s existence, in its very essence, assumes the existence of other human beings. Living completely separate from others is, in principle, impossible. As you are indicating, the premise “If one could live all alone in the universe” is unsound.”

Feelings of Inferiority Are Subjective Assumptions

YOUTH: In other words, the feelings of inferiority we’re suffering from are subjective interpretations rather than objective facts?

PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. Seeing it from my friend’s point of view that I get people to relax or that I don’t intimidate them—such aspects can become strong points. Of course, this is a subjective interpretation. You could even say it’s an arbitrary assumption. However, there is one good thing about subjectivity: It allows you to make your own choice. Precisely because I am leaving it to subjectivity, the choice to view my height as either an advantage or disadvantage is left open to me”

Chapter 14: An Inferiority Complex Is an Excuse

PHILOSOPHER: Adler recognizes that feelings of inferiority are something everyone has. There’s nothing bad about feelings of inferiority themselves.

YOUTH: So why do people have them in the first place?

PHILOSOPHER: It’s probably necessary to understand this in a certain order. First of all, people enter this world as helpless beings. And people have the universal desire to escape from that helpless state. Adler called this the “pursuit of superiority.”

… The counterpart of this is the feeling of inferiority. Everyone is in this “condition of wanting to improve” that is the pursuit of superiority. One holds up various ideals or goals and heads toward them. However, on not being able to reach one’s ideals, one harbors a sense of being lesser.

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. One tries to get rid of one’s feeling of inferiority and keep moving forward. One’s never satisfied with one’s present situation—even if it’s just a single step, one wants to make progress. One wants to be happier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the state of this kind of feeling of inferiority. There are, however, people who lose the courage to take a single step forward, who cannot accept the fact that the situation can be changed by making realistic efforts.… “The inferiority complex, on the other hand, refers to a condition of having begun to use one’s feeling of inferiority as a kind of excuse. So one thinks to oneself, I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed, or I’m not good-looking, so I can’t get married. When someone is insisting on the logic of “A is the situation, so B cannot be done” in such a way in everyday life, that is not something that fits in the feeling of inferiority category. It is an inferiority complex.

PHILOSOPHER: The real issue is how one confronts that reality. If what you are thinking is, I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed, then instead of I can’t succeed, you should think, I don’t want to succeed.

Chapter 15: Braggarts Have Feelings of Inferiority

PHILOSOPHER: A familiar example would be “giving authority.”

YOUTH: What does that mean?

PHILOSOPHER: One makes a show of being on good terms with a powerful person (broadly speaking—it could be anyone from the leader of your school class to a famous celebrity). And by doing that, one lets it be known that one is special. Behaviors like misrepresenting one’s work experience or excessive allegiance to particular brands of clothing are forms of giving authority, and probably also have aspects of the superiority complex. In each case, it isn’t that the “I” is actually superior or special. It is only that one is making the “I” look superior by linking it to authority. In short, it’s a fabricated feeling of superiority.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, they are clearly connected. Now, there is one last example I’d like to give, a complex example that deals with boasting. It is a pattern leading to a particular feeling of superiority that manifests due to the feeling of inferiority itself becoming intensified. Concretely speaking, it’s bragging about one’s own misfortune.

YOUTH: Bragging about one’s own misfortune?

PHILOSOPHER: The person who assumes a boasting manner when talking about his upbringing and the like, the various misfortunes that have rained down upon him. If someone should try to comfort this person, or suggest some change be made, he’ll refuse the helping hand by saying, “You don’t understand how I feel.”

YOUTH: So they reveal their feeling of inferiority and use it to their advantage?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. They use their misfortune to their advantage and try to control the other party with it. By declaring how unfortunate they are and how much they have suffered, they are trying to worry the people around them (their family and friends, for example), and to restrict their speech and behavior, and control them. The people I was talking about at the very beginning, who shut themselves up in their rooms, frequently indulge in feelings of superiority and use misfortune to their advantage. So much so that Adler himself pointed out, “In our culture weakness can be quite strong and powerful.”

YOUTH: So weakness is powerful?

PHILOSOPHER: Adler says, “In fact, if we were to ask ourselves who is the strongest person in our culture, the logical answer would be, the baby. The baby rules and cannot be dominated.” The baby rules over the adults with his weakness. And it is because of this weakness that no one can control him”

PHILOSOPHER: Of course, the words of the person who has been hurt—“You don’t understand how I feel”—are likely to contain a certain degree of truth. Completely understanding the feelings of the person who is suffering is something that no one is capable of. But as long as one continues to use one’s misfortune to one’s advantage in order to be “special,” one will always need that misfortune”

Chapter 17: You’re the Only One Worrying About Your Appearance

PHILOSOPHER: It is connected with the subject of competition. Please remember that. If there is competition at the core of a person’s interpersonal relationships, he will not be able to escape interpersonal relationship problems or escape misfortune.

YOUTH: Why not?

PHILOSOPHER: Because at the end of a competition, there are winners and losers.

PHILOSOPHER: This is what is so terrifying about competition. Even if you’re not a loser, even if you’re someone who keeps on winning, if you are someone who has placed himself in competition, you will never have a moment’s peace. You don’t want to be a loser. And you always have to keep on winning if you don’t want to be a loser. You can’t trust other people. The reason so many people don’t really feel happy while they’re building up their success in the eyes of society is that they are living in competition. Because to them, the world is a perilous place that is overflowing with enemies

PHILOSOPHER: Earlier, didn’t you say, “I can’t celebrate other people’s happiness with all my heart”? You think of interpersonal relationships as competition; you perceive other people’s happiness as “my defeat,” and that is why you can’t celebrate it. However, once one is released from the schema of competition, the need to triumph over someone disappears. One is also released from the fear that says, Maybe I will lose. And one becomes able to celebrate other people’s happiness with all one’s heart. One may become able to contribute actively to other people’s happiness. The person who always has the will to help another in times of need—that is someone who may properly be called your comrade.

Chapter 19: Admitting Fault is Not Defeat

“PHILOSOPHER: You don’t seem to understand yet. It’s not that you mustn’t get angry, but that there is no need to rely on the tool of anger. Irascible people do not have short tempers—it is only that they do not know that there are effective communication tools other than anger. That is why people end up saying things like “I just snapped” or, “He flew into a rage.” We end up relying on anger to communicate”

PHILOSOPHER: One more thing about power struggles. In every instance, no matter how much you might think you are right, try not to criticize the other party on that basis. This is an interpersonal relationship trap that many people fall into.

YOUTH: Why’s that?

PHILOSOPHER: The moment one is convinced that “I am right” in an interpersonal relationship, one has already stepped into a power struggle.

YOUTH: Just because you think you’re right? No way, that’s just blowing things all out of proportion.

PHILOSOPHER: I am right. That is to say, the other party is wrong. At that point, the focus of the discussion shifts from “the rightness of the assertions” to “the state of the interpersonal relationship.” In other words, the conviction that “I am right” leads to the assumption that “this person is wrong,” and finally it becomes a contest and you are thinking, I have to win. It’s a power struggle through and through.”

“PHILOSOPHER: In the first place, the rightness of one’s assertions has nothing to do with winning or losing. If you think you are right, regardless of what other people’s opinions might be, the matter should be closed then and there. However, many people will rush into a power struggle and try to make others submit to them. And that is why they think of “admitting a mistake” as “admitting defeat.”

Chapter 20: Overcoming the Tasks That Face You in Life

“PHILOSOPHER: First, there are two objectives for behavior: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. Then, the two objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviors are the consciousness that I have the ability and the consciousness that people are my comrades.”… “ Adler made three categories of the interpersonal relationships that arise out of these processes. He referred to them as “tasks of work,” “tasks of friendship,” and “tasks of love,” and all together as “life tasks.”

“None of these are examples of the work itself becoming disagreeable. What is disagreeable is being criticized or rebuked by others through the work, getting labeled as having no ability or being incompetent or unsuited to the work, and hurting the dignity of one’s irreplaceable self. In other words, everything is an interpersonal relationship issue.”

Chapter 21: Red Strings and Rigid Chains

The kind of relationship that feels somehow oppressive and strained when the two people are together cannot be called love, even if there is passion. When one can think, Whenever I am with this person, I can behave very freely, one can really feel love. One can be in a calm and quite natural state, without having feelings of inferiority or being beset with the need to flaunt one’s superiority. That is what real love is like.

Chapter 22: Don’t Fall for the “Life-Lie”

In relationships between lovers or married couples, there are times when, after a certain point, one becomes exasperated with everything one’s partner says or does. For instance, she doesn’t care for the way he eats; his slovenly appearance at home fills her with revulsion, and even his snoring sets her off. Even though until a few months ago, none of it had ever bothered her before.

YOUTH: Yes, that sounds familiar.

PHILOSOPHER: The person feels this way because at some stage she has resolved to herself, I want to end this relationship, and she has been looking around for the material with which to end it. The other person hasn’t changed at all. It is her own goal that has changed.

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Adler called the state of coming up with all manner of pretexts in order to avoid the life tasks the “life-lie.”

YOUTH: Okay . . .

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, it’s a severe term. One shifts one’s responsibility for the situation one is currently in to someone else. One is running away from one’s life tasks by saying that everything is the fault of other people, or the fault of one’s environment. It’s exactly the same as with the story I mentioned earlier about the female student with the fear of blushing. One lies to oneself, and one lies to the people around one, too. When you really think about it, it’s a pretty severe term.”

Chapter 25: Do Not Live to Satisfy the Expectations of Others

PHILOSOPHER: This is the danger of the desire for recognition. Why is it that people seek recognition from others? In many cases, it is due to the influence of reward-and-punishment education.

YOUTH: Reward-and-punishment education?

PHILOSOPHER: If one takes appropriate action, one receives praise. If one takes inappropriate action, one receives punishment. Adler was very critical of education by reward and punishment. It leads to mistaken lifestyles in which people think, If no one is going to praise me, I won’t take appropriate action and If no one is going to punish me, I’ll engage in inappropriate actions, too. You already have the goal of wanting to be praised when you start picking up litter. And if you aren’t praised by anyone, you’ll either be indignant or decide that you’ll never do such a thing again. Clearly, there’s something wrong with this situation.”

So one could think, God is watching, so accumulate good deeds. But that and the nihilist view that “there is no God, so all evil deeds are permitted” are two sides of the same coin. Even supposing that God did not exist, and that we could not gain recognition from God, we would still have to live this life. Indeed, it is in order to overcome the nihilism of a godless world that it is necessary to deny recognition from other people.

YOUTH: So I should be selfish?

PHILOSOPHER: Do not behave without regard for others. To understand this, it is necessary to understand the idea in Adlerian psychology known as “separation of tasks.”

Chapter 26: How to Separate Tasks

PHILOSOPHER: In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on. Carrying out the separation of tasks is enough to change one’s interpersonal relationships dramatically.

YOUTH: Hmm. I don’t really get it. In the first place, how can you tell whose task it is? From my point of view, realistically speaking, getting one’s child to study is the duty of the parents. Because almost no child studies just out of enjoyment, and after all is said and done, the parent is the child’s guardian.

PHILOSOPHER: There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think, Who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about by the choice that is made? When the child has made the choice of not studying, ultimately, the result of that decision—not being able to keep up in class or to get into the preferred school, for instance—does not have to be received by the parents. Clearly, it is the child who has to receive it. In other words, studying is the child’s task.”

PHILOSOPHER: Naturally, one gives all the assistance one possibly can. But beyond that, one doesn’t intrude. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Please think of counseling and all other assistance provided to other people in Adlerian psychology as having that kind of stance. Forcing change while ignoring the person’s intentions will only lead to an intense reaction.

“PHILOSOPHER: This is a discussion that is concerned with the fundamentals of Adlerian psychology. If you are angry, nothing will sink in. You think, I’ve got that boss, so I can’t work. This is complete etiology. But it’s really, I don’t want to work, so I’ll create an awful boss, or I don’t want to acknowledge my incapable self, so I’ll create an awful boss. That would be the teleological way of looking at it.

YOUTH: That’s probably how it’d be framed in your stock teleology approach. But in my case, it’s different.

PHILOSOPHER: Then suppose you had done the separation of tasks. How would things be? In other words, no matter how much your boss tries to vent his unreasonable anger at you, that is not your task. The unreasonable emotions are tasks for your boss to deal with himself. There is no need to cozy up to him, or to yield to him to the point of bowing down. You should think, What I should do is face my own tasks in my own life without lying.

Chapter 30: Desire for Recognition Makes You Unfree

PHILOSOPHER: Maybe it is easier to live in such a way as to satisfy other people’s expectations. Because one is entrusting one’s own life to them. For example, one runs along the tracks that one’s parents have laid out. Even if there are a lot of things one might object to, one will not lose one’s way as long as one stays on those rails. But if one is deciding one’s path oneself, it’s only natural that one will get lost at times. One comes up against the wall of “how one should live.”

“PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. It is true that there is no person who wishes to be disliked. But look at it this way: What should one do to not be disliked by anyone? There is only one answer: It is to constantly gauge other people’s feelings while swearing loyalty to all of them. If there are ten people, one must swear loyalty to all ten. When one does that, for the time being one will have succeeded in not being disliked by anyone. But at this point, there is a great contradiction looming. One swears loyalty to all ten people out of the single-minded desire to not be disliked. This is like a politician who has fallen into populism and begun to make impossible promises and accept responsibilities that are beyond him. Naturally, his lies will come to light before long. He will lose people’s trust and turn his own life into one of greater suffering. And, of course, the stress of continual lying has all kinds of consequences. Please grasp this point. If one is living in a such a way as to satisfy other people’s expectations, and one is entrusting one’s own life to others, that is a way of living in which one is lying to oneself and continuing that lying to include the people around one.”

PHILOSOPHER: An adult, who has chosen an unfree way to live, on seeing a young person living freely here and now in this moment, criticizes the youth as being hedonistic. Of course, this is a life-lie that comes out so that the adult can accept his own unfree life. An adult who has chosen real freedom himself will not make such comments and will instead cheer on the will to be free.

Chapter 31: What Real Freedom Is

PHILOSOPHER: In short, that “freedom is being disliked by other people

YOUTH: Huh? What was that?

PHILOSOPHER: It’s that 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.

YOUTH: But, but . . .

PHILOSOPHER: It is certainly distressful to be disliked. If possible, one would like to live without being disliked by anyone. One wants to satisfy one’s desire for recognition. But conducting oneself in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living, and is also impossible. There is a cost incurred when one wants to exercise one’s freedom. And the cost of freedom in interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people.

PHILOSOPHER: The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. When you have gained that courage, your interpersonal relationships will all at once change into things of lightness.

Chapter 32: You Hold the Cards to Interpersonal Relationships

PHILOSOPHER: One can think from the viewpoint that it is an interpersonal relationship card. As long as I use etiology to think, It is because he hit me that I have a bad relationship with my father, it would be a matter that was impossible for me to do anything about. But if I can think, I brought out the memory of being hit because I don’t want my relationship with my father to get better, then I will be holding the card to repair relations. Because if I can just change the goal, that fixes everything.

Chapter 33: Individual Psychology and Holism

One would never think of emotions that somehow exist independently—unrelated to one’s intentions, as it were—as having produced that shouting voice. When one separates the “I” from “emotion” and thinks, It was the emotion that made me do it, or The emotion got the best of me, and I couldn’t help it, such thinking quickly becomes a life-lie.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. This view of the human being as “I as a whole,” as an indivisible being that cannot be broken down into parts, is referred to as “holism.”

Chapter 34: The Goal of Interpersonal Relationships Is a Feeling of Community

PHILOSOPHER: Furthermore, community feeling is the most important index for considering a state of interpersonal relations that is happy.

… Now, take that a step deeper. If other people are our comrades, and we live surrounded by them, we should be able to find in that life our own place of “refuge.” Moreover, in doing so, we should begin to have the desire to share with our comrades, to contribute to the community. This sense of others as comrades, this awareness of “having one’s own refuge,” is called “community feeling.”

PHILOSOPHER: No, it is “you and I.” When there are two people, society emerges in their presence, and community emerges there too. To gain an understanding of the community feeling that Adler speaks of, it is advisable to use “you and I” as the starting point.

PHILOSOPHER: You make the switch from attachment to self (self-interest) to concern for others (social interest).

Chapter 35: Why Am I Only Interested In Myself?

PHILOSOPHER: Consider the reality of the desire for recognition. How much do others pay attention to you, and what is their judgment of you? That is to say, how much do they satisfy your desire? People who are obsessed with such a desire for recognition will seem to be looking at other people, while they are actually looking only at themselves. They lack concern for others and are concerned solely with the “I.” Simply put, they are self-centered.

Chapter 36: You Are Not the Center of the World

PHILOSOPHER: Then, when those expectations are not satisfied, they become deeply disillusioned and feel as if they have been horribly insulted. And they become resentful, and think, That person didn’t do anything for me. That person let me down. That person isn’t my comrade anymore. He’s my enemy. People who hold the belief that they are the center of the world always end up losing their comrades before long.

PHILOSOPHER: Think of what I said earlier—that you are not the center of the world—as being the same thing. You are a part of a community, not its center.

In Adlerian psychology, however, 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 here…

One needs to think not, What will this person give me? but rather, What can I give to this person? That is commitment to the community.

.. PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. A sense of belonging is something that one acquires through one’s own efforts—it is not something one is endowed with at birth. Community feeling is the much-debated key concept of Adlerian psychology.

Chapter 37: Listen to the Voice of a Larger Community

PHILOSOPHER: It’s true, there’s no way one can just imagine the entire universe all of a sudden. Even so, I would like you to gain the awareness that you belong to a separate, larger community that is beyond the one you see in your immediate vicinity—for example, the country or local society in which you live—and that you are contributing in some way within that community.

PHILOSOPHER: When that happens, if you are thinking of school as being everything to you, you will end up without a sense of belonging to anything. And then, you will escape within a smaller community, such as your home. You will shut yourself in, and maybe even turn to violence against members of your own family. And by doing such things, you will be attempting to gain a sense of belonging somehow. What I would like you to focus on here, though, is that there is “a more separate community” and, moreover, that there is “a larger community.”

Once you know how big the world is, you will see that all the hardship you went through in school was a storm in a teacup. The moment you leave the teacup, that raging storm will be gone, and a gentle breeze will greet you in its place.

Chapter 38: Do Not Rebuke or Praise

PHILOSOPHER: Animal training is an interesting example. Now let’s look at this from the standpoint of Adlerian psychology. In Adlerian psychology, we take the stance that in child-rearing, and in all other forms of communication with other people, one must not praise.

PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. 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.” A mother praises her child who has helped her prepare dinner, saying, “You’re such a good helper!” But when her husband does the same things, you can be sure she won’t be telling him, “You’re such a good helper!

“PHILOSOPHER: In other words, the mother who praises the child by saying things like “You’re such a good helper!” or “Good job!” or “Well, aren’t you something!” is unconsciously creating a hierarchical relationship and seeing the child as beneath her. The example of animal training that you just gave is also emblematic of the hierarchical relationship—the vertical relationship—that is behind the praising. When one person praises another, the goal is “to manipulate someone who has less ability than you.” It is not done out of gratitude or respect.

Chapter 39: The Encouragement Approach

PHILOSOPHER: As you may recall from our discussion on the separation of tasks, I brought up the subject of intervention. This is the act of intruding on other people’s tasks. So why does a person intervene? Here, too, in the background, vertical relationships are at play. It is precisely because one perceives interpersonal relations as vertical, and sees the other party as beneath one, that one intervenes. Through intervention, one tries to lead the other party in the desired direction. One has convinced oneself that one is right and that the other party is wrong. Of course, the intervention here is manipulation, pure and simple. Parents commanding a child to study is a typical example of this. They might be acting out of the best of intentions from their points of view, but when it comes down to it, the parents are intruding and attempting to manipulate the child to go in their desired direction.

PHILOSOPHER: The reason is clear. Being praised is what leads people to form the belief that they have no ability.

Chapter 40: How to Feel You Have Value.

PHILOSOPHER: Being praised essentially means that one is receiving judgment from another person as “good.” And the measure of what is good or bad about that act is that person’s yardstick. If receiving praise is what one is after, one will have no choice but to adapt to that person’s yardstick and put the brakes on one’s own freedom. “Thank you,” on the other hand, rather than being judgment, is a clear expression of gratitude. When one hears words of gratitude, one knows that one has made a contribution to another person.

Chapter 41: Exist in the Present

PHILOSOPHER: With regard to this issue of community feeling, there was a person who asked Adler a similar question. Adler’s reply was the following: “Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: you should start. With no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.” My advice is exactly the same.

Chapter 43: Excessive Self-Consciousness Stifles the Self

PHILOSOPHER: Suppose that as a result of following your boss’s instructions, your work ends in failure. Whose responsibility is it then?

YOUTH: Well, that’d be my boss’s responsibility. Because I was just following orders, and he was the one who decided on them.

PHILOSOPHER: None of the responsibility is yours?

YOUTH: No, it isn’t. It’s the responsibility of the boss who gave the orders. This is what’s known as organizational accountability.

PHILOSOPHER: You are wrong. That is a life-lie. There is space for you to refuse, and there should also be space to propose a better way of doing things. You are just thinking there is no space to refuse so that you can avoid the conflict of the associated interpersonal relations and avoid responsibility—and you are being dependent on vertical relationships.

Chapter 44: Not Self-Affirmation— Self-Acceptance

YOUTH: Hmm. That reminds me of a line that the writer Kurt Vonnegut quoted in one of his books: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” It’s in the novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Chapter 45: The Difference Between Trust and Confidence

PHILOSOPHER: By contrast, from the standpoint of Adlerian psychology, the basis of interpersonal relations is founded not on trust but on confidence.

YOUTH: And “confidence” in this case is . . . ?

PHILOSOPHER: It is doing without any set conditions whatsoever when believing in others. Even if one does not have sufficient objective grounds for trusting someone, one believes. One believes unconditionally without concerning oneself with such things as security. That is confidence.

PHILOSOPHER: And there are also times when someone deceives you, and you get used that way. But look at it from the standpoint of someone who has been taken advantage of. There are people who will continue to believe in you unconditionally even if you are the one who has taken advantage of them. People who will have confidence in you no matter how they are treated. Would you be able to betray such a person again and again?

PHILOSOPHER: It is doubt. Suppose you have placed “doubt” at the foundation of your interpersonal relations. That you live your life doubting other people—doubting your friends and even your family and those you love. What sort of relationship could possibly arise from that? The other person will detect the doubt in your eyes in an instant. He or she will have an instinctive understanding that “this person does not have confidence in me.” Do you think one would be able to build some kind of positive relationship from that point? It is precisely because we lay a foundation of unconditional confidence that it is possible for us to build a deep relationship.

Chapter 46: The Essence of Work Is a Contribution to the Common Good

YOUTH: In other words, you’re saying that to feel “it’s okay to be here,” one has to see others as comrades. And that to see others as comrades, one needs both self-acceptance and confidence in others.

PHILOSOPHER: Contribution to others does not connote self-sacrifice. Adler goes so far as to warn that those who sacrifice their own lives for others are people who have conformed to society too much. And please do not forget: We are truly aware of our own worth only when we feel that our existence and behavior are beneficial to the community, that is to say, when one feels “I am of use to someone.” Do you remember this? In other words, contribution to others, rather than being about getting rid of the “I” and being of service to someone, is actually something one does in order to be truly aware of the worth of the “I.”

PHILOSOPHER: The most easily understood contribution to others is probably work. To be in society and join the workforce. Or to do the work of taking care of one’s household. Labor is not a means of earning money. It is through labor that one makes contributions to others and commits to one’s community, and that one truly feels “I am of use to someone” and even comes to accept one’s existential worth.

YOUTH: You are saying that the essence of work is contribution to others?

PHILOSOPHER: Making money is a major factor too, of course. It is something akin to that Dostoevsky quote you happened upon: “Money is coined freedom.”“ But there are people who have so much money that they could never use it all. And many of these people are continually busy with their work. Why do they work? Are they driven by boundless greed? No. They work so they are able to contribute to others, and also to confirm their sense of belonging, their feeling that “it’s okay to be here.”

Chapter 47: Young People Walk Ahead of Adults

PHILOSOPHER: Now, how come I have a feeling of contribution in that setting? I have it because I am able to think of the members of my family as comrades. If I cannot do that, inevitably there will be thoughts running through my head like, Why am I the only one doing this? and Why won’t anyone give me a hand? Contribution that is carried out while one is seeing other people as enemies may indeed lead to hypocrisy. But if other people are one’s comrades, that should never happen, regardless of the contributions one makes. You have been fixating on the word “hypocrisy” because you do not understand community feeling yet.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, it probably will. As Adler himself said, “Understanding a human being is no easy matter. Of all the forms of psychology, individual psychology is probably the most difficult to learn and put into practice.

Chapter 48: Workaholism is a Life-Life

PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, we think of this as a way of living that is lacking in “harmony of life.” It is a way of living in which one sees only a part of things but judges the whole.

YOUTH: Harmony of life?

PHILOSOPHER: In the teachings of Judaism, one finds the following anecdote: “If there are ten people, one will be someone who criticizes you no matter what you do. This person will come to dislike you, and you will not learn to like him either. Then, there will be two others who accept everything about you and whom you accept too, and you will become close friends with them. The remaining seven people will be neither of these types.” Now, do you focus on the one person who dislikes you? Do you pay more attention to the two who love you? Or would you focus on the crowd, the other seven? A person who is lacking in harmony of life will see only the one person he dislikes and will make a judgment of the world from that.

PHILOSOPHER: Such a father has probably been able to recognize his own worth only on the level of acts. He works all those hours, brings in enough money to support a family, and is recognized by society—and, on that basis, he views himself as having greater worth than the other members of his family. For each and every one of us, however, there comes a time when one can no longer serve as the provider. When one gets older and reaches retirement age, for example, one may have no choice but to live off one’s pension or support from one’s children. Even when one is young, injury or poor health can lead to being unable work any longer. On such occasions, those who can accept themselves only on the level of acts are severely damaged.

Chapter 49: You Can Be Happy Now

PHILOSOPHER: You are not the one who decides if your contributions are of use. That is the task of other people, and is not an issue in which you can intervene. In principle, there is not even any way you can know whether you have really made a contribution. That is to say, when we are engaging in this contribution to others, the contribution does not have to be a visible one—all we need is the subjective sense that “I am of use to someone,” or in other words, a feeling of contribution.

YOUTH: Wait a minute! If that’s the case, then what you are calling happiness is . . .

PHILOSOPHER: Do you see it now? In a word, happiness is the feeling of contribution. That is the definition of happiness.”

“PHILOSOPHER: But I am sure that the reason people seek recognition is clear to you now. People want to like themselves. They want to feel that they have worth. In order to feel that, they want a feeling of contribution that tells them “I am of use to someone.” And they seek recognition from others as an easy means for gaining that feeling of contribution.”

“PHILOSOPHER: You are forgetting an important issue. If one’s means for gaining a feeling of contribution turns out to be “being recognized by others,” in the long run, one will have no choice but to walk through life in accordance with other people’s wishes. There is no freedom in a feeling of contribution that is gained through the desire for recognition. We are beings who choose freedom while aspiring to happiness.

Chapter 50: Two Paths Traveled by Those Wanting to be “Special-Beings”

“ But the children who try to be especially bad—that is to say, the ones who engage in problem behavior—are endeavoring to attract the attention of other people even as they continue to avoid any such healthy effort. In Adlerian psychology, this is referred to as the “pursuit of easy superiority.” ”

…PHILOSOPHER: Yes. “Revenge” and “pursuit of easy superiority” are easily linked. One makes trouble for another person while trying at the same time to be “special.”

Chapter 51: The Courage to be Normal

PHILOSOPHER: Why is it necessary to be special? Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. And it is precisely for this reason that when being especially good becomes a lost cause, one makes the huge leap to being especially bad—the opposite extreme. But is being normal, being ordinary, really such a bad thing? Is it something inferior? Or, in truth, isn’t everybody normal? It is necessary to think this through to its logical conclusion. ”

Chapter 52: Life is a Series of Moments

“PHILOSOPHER: But if life were climbing a mountain in order to reach the top, then the greater part of life would end up being “en route.” That is to say, one’s “real life” would begin with one’s trek on the mountainside, and the distance one has traveled up until that point would be a “tentative life” led by a “tentative me.”

“PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It is a series of moments called “now.” We can live only in the here and now. Our lives exist only in moments. Adults who do not know this attempt to impose “linear” lives onto young people. Their thinking is that staying on the conventional tracks—good university, big company, stable household—is a happy life. But life is not made up of lines or anything like that.

Chapter 53: Live Like You’re Dancing

PHILOSOPHER: Think of it this way: Life is a series of moments, which one lives as if one were dancing, right now, around and around each passing instant. And when one happens to survey one’s surroundings, one realizes, I guess I’ve made it this far. Among those who have danced the dance of the violin, there are people who stay the course and become professional musicians. Among those who have danced the dance of the bar examination, there are people who become lawyers. There are people who have danced the dance of writing and become authors. Of course, it also happens that people end up in entirely different places. But none of these lives came to an end “en route.” It is enough if one finds fulfillment in the here and now one is dancing.

Chapter 54: Shine a Light on the Here and Now

PHILOSOPHER: Imagine that you are standing on a theater stage. If the house lights are on, you’ll probably be able to see all the way to the back of the hall. But if you’re under a bright spotlight, you won’t be able to make out even the front row. That’s exactly how it is with our lives. It’s because we cast a dim light on our entire lives that we are able to see the past and the future. Or at least we imagine we can. But if one is shining a bright spotlight on here and now, one cannot see the past or the future anymore.

YOUTH: A bright spotlight?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. We should live more earnestly only here and now. The fact that you think you can see the past, or predict the future, is proof that rather than living earnestly here and now, you are living in a dim twilight. Life is a series of moments, and neither the past nor the future exists. You are trying to give yourself a way out by focusing on the past and the future. What happened in the past has nothing whatsoever to do with your here and now“, and what the future may hold is not a matter to think about here and now. If you are living earnestly here and now, you will not be concerned with such things.

“PHILOSOPHER: And the same may be said with regard to your own life. You set objectives for the distant future, and think of now as your preparatory period. You think, I really want to do this, and I’ll do it when the time comes. This is a way of living that postpones life. As long as we postpone life, we can never go anywhere and will pass our days only one after the next in dull monotony, because we think of here and now as just a preparatory period, as a time for patience. But a “here and now” in which one is studying for an entrance examination in the distant future, for example, is the real thing.”

“YOUTH: But that’s just living for the moment. Or worse, a vicious hedonism!

PHILOSOPHER: No. To shine a spotlight on here and now is to go about doing what one can do now, earnestly and conscientiously.”

Chapter 55: The Greatest Life-Life

PHILOSOPHER: The greatest life-lie of all is to not live here and now. It is to look at the past and the future, cast a dim light on one’s entire life, and believe that one has been able to see something.

“PHILOSOPHER: It is that the power of one person is great, or, rather, “my power is immeasurably great.”

YOUTH: What do you mean?

PHILOSOPHER: Well, in other words, if “I” change, the world will change. This means that the world can be changed only by me and no one else will change it for me. The world that has appeared to me since learning of Adlerian psychology is not the world I once knew.

Chapter 56: Give Meaning to Seemingly Meaningless Life

PHILOSOPHER: Just like the traveler who relies on the North Star, in our lives we need a guiding star. That is the Adlerian psychology way of thinking. It is an expansive ideal that says, as long as we do not lose sight of this compass and keep on moving in this direction, there is happiness.

YOUTH: Where is that star?

PHILOSOPHER: It is contribution to others.

YOUTH: Huh? Contribution to others!

PHILOSOPHER: No matter what moments you are living, or if there are people who dislike you, as long as you do not lose sight of the guiding star of “I contribute to others,” you will not lose your way, and you can do whatever you like. Whether you’re disliked or not, you pay it no mind and live free.

Afterword

Grounded in the thought of Socrates and Plato and other ancient Greek philosophers, the Adlerian psychology that Kishimi conveys to us reveals Adler as a thinker, a philosopher, whose work went far beyond the confines of clinical psychology. For instance, the statement “It is only in social contexts that a person becomes an individual” is positively Hegelian; in his laying emphasis on subjective interpretation over objective truth, he echoes Nietzsche’s worldview; and ideas recalling the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger are in abundance.

It is strange that philosophy should be something that is discussed using words understood only by specialists. Because in its original meaning, philosophy refers not to “wisdom” itself but to “love of wisdom,” and it is the very process of learning what one does not know and arriving at wisdom that is important.

Whether or not one attains wisdom in the end is not an issue.

A person reading Plato’s dialogues today may be surprised to find that the dialogue concerning courage, for instance, ends without arriving at any conclusion.”

If Adler’s way of thinking is hard to accept, it is because it is a compilation of antitheses to normal social thinking, and because to understand it one must put it into practice in everyday life. Though his words are not difficult, there may be a sense of difficulty like that of imagining the blazing heat of summer in the dead of winter, but I hope that readers will be able to grasp keys here to solving their interpersonal relationship problems.”