12 May 2021

A Book Review of “The Courage to Be Disliked” An Introduction to Adlerian Psychology Through a Japanese Philosophical Lens

As one of the inspirations for this project, The Courage to be Disliked, is a book that had an impression on me last year. You must excuse the title, it in no way attempts to make you be a dislikable person, but it does instil with you something great; courage. Truthfully this isn’t really a self help book, rather it’s a cunning ploy to introduce people to Adlerian Psychology under the lens of Japanese philosophy. Yes, it does offer plenty of advice on how to see yourself and the world and will certainly give you insights into making your life better. This book is a great read, fun and interesting, I would recommend everyone give it a shot. 

The book follows two Japanese men, an elderly philosopher and a disgruntled young man. 

The young man is tired of the world, angry with life and has fallen into despair. Through their discussions the philosopher opens the young man's mind to the world of Alfred Alder, one of the founding fathers of Psychology. The story takes place over five different nights and covers a lot of content, but they can be broken down into five themes, Myth of Trauma, Interpersonal Relationships, Separation of Tasks, Importance of Community and Living in the Here and Now. 

To consider trauma a myth is a radical statement, it goes against a mainstream view of psychology. Of course trauma does indeed exist, our past experiences have great effect on us, and Alder doesn’t pretend otherwise, rather he posits that the issue doesn’t lay in the past, rather the present and the solution is here as well. If we were bullied as children and this made us scared to come out of our shells and truly be who we are, to talk to others and approach the world with open arms we could go through life never approaching others. But it’s far too easy to sit back, blame the past and accept there is no changing. Alder points out that the issues we face are happening today not yesterday. We seek answers to our troubles in the past when the answers are sticking right out at us here in the present and that is a hard concept for many of us to accept.

Returning to the title, a recurring theme within this book is that of tasks and whose responsibility it is to do those tasks. Part of gaining courage is to properly separate tasks and coming to terms that sometimes some tasks aren’t yours to be burdened with, such as what other people think about you. Despite it being intertwined within many of us; other people’s opinions of ourselves are none of our business. You need to reflect heavily on your life tasks, what are yours, what are other peoples, which of your own are you neglecting and which of other people’s tasks are you burdening yourself with too much? It’s about getting your priorities straight. It’s tough because as much as you might try and organise your tasks, other people will always come along and make a problem out of that, but you must have the courage to say no when the time comes whilst also stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for your tasks.

The importance of the present is brought forth in this tale. Many of us live in the past alongside either trauma or happier times, or we gaze into the future and fixate on potential problems or fantasise about better times. The issue with the past is they’re no longer real and the future's not ours to see. The present is what matters and too many of us forget that. Ground yourself in today and stop holding so deeply onto yesterday or tomorrow. The past might teach us lessons and the future might hold our goals, but it’s the present that is reality, where life actually plays out.

Alfred Alder, pictured on the left, was born in 1870 and was Austrian. He was an influential psychologist whose work challenged the likes of Freud. He named his research “Individual Psychology” as he focused on the person a whole. The core concept of individual psychology was self-realisation, the desire to have a fulfilling life. The inability to achieve this results in mental anguish or constructs such as the inferiority complex (Hoofman, 2020).

The authors of the book, who the two characters represent, are Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Mr. Kishimi has translated much of Alfred Alder’s books into Japanese and does lectures teaching his works. Mr. Koga is an award winning author with other non-fiction works in psychology and business.

The teachings of this book will provide you introduction to Adlerian Psychology whilst offering a grounding to make real change in your life. I have yet to read the sequel, The Courage to be Happy. The premise continues with our two characters, the young man has become successful but is unhappy and his anger at the world has returned, so he returns to the philosopher for another argument, but will he get more answers and finally find happiness?

I hope you consider reading The Courage to be Disliked. It is a fantastic read and kept me going at the start of the pandemic in 2020. I will be sure to be writing more about the concepts found within this book including the works of Alder in the near future. The book can be purchased on Amazon here with this referral link.


Hoffman, R (2020, May 17). Alfred Adler's theories of individual psychology and Adlerian therapy. Simply Psychology.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Individualpsychologie e.V. (2018). Alfred Adler und Leonhard Seif (1925). Wikimedia Commons. 
Kishimi, I., & Fumitake, K. (2019). Courage to be disliked: how to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness. Allen & Unwin.


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