Afterthoughts: The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi

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The Courage to Be Disliked is an introduction to Adlerian psychology written in as a Socratic dialogue between the Philosopher and the Youth. The books itself is split into five parts, five main ideas, with split further into each individual point The format makes the ideas accessible for which I am grateful: it makes it really easy to summarise the key points, and to find the things that warranted a re-read.

The notion of denying past trauma is so extreme and so ostensibly ludicrous. It was a shock to the system and really helped me to identify with the perspective of the youth. On the face of it, it just seems so contradictory to conventional wisdom, or rather Freudian and Jungian psychology. The deeper you get into the book, however, the more surprised you find that there is a lot of common sense there. That said, I would still find it difficult in extreme cases like people in states of depression or self-harming to deny past trauma’s contribution to that present condition, especially people I know.

The other novel idea that stuck with me is that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. It seemed (again) nonsensical when first introduced, but they were able to string a pretty coherent and robust argument as to why it is that really cuts to the chase. The concept of a separation of tasks paired with the sense of community, and our contribution to it engenders happiness encapsulates the entire argument for me.

Key Ideas

  • Trauma doesn’t exist; we only concern ourselves with present goals
    • We use emotions to achieve the goal e.g. anger, sadness, anxiety, unhappiness
  • All problems are interpersonal relationship problems
    • These problems are caused when one party intrudes on someone else’ tasks i.e. a separation of tasks required to eliminate problems
    • It is preferable to cultivate horizontal relationships (a comrade) where judgement is substituted for gratitude and appreciation – the converse describes vertical relationships
      • Do not rebuke or praise – both are forms of judgement, instead just practice gratitude
      • A desire for recognition gets you nowhere because it it means you would live your life dependent on other’s tasks (not good)
  • Happiness is a feeling of contribution to community – regardless of whether it is visible or not
    • Live like you are dancing, not like you are going from A→B


Recommended. Insofar as it is an introduction to Adlerian psychology written in a Socratic dialogue, I found it useful. It is easy enough to read and Adler’s main ideas are delivered clearly and compellingly Much of it is antithetical to conventional wisdom, making it a rather daring read and one worth the effort.

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