The Courage to be Disliked

by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga

As virtually all of this book is in the form of dialogue between two persons, it was easy to read. This also made it easier to understand the points being made by the authors, as the characters clarify certain doubts on our behalf. Apparently, it was written this way to mirror the way that the greek philosopher Socrates engaged youth in learning dialogues in his time. What is not lost on me is how this easy reading contains some pretty heavy stuff. I’ll share some of this in my (largely) non-spoiler manner.

My curiosity for the book came from the fact that it was apparently quite well-known in Japan, and afterwards, the region. Once I started reading it, it grabbed my interest enough to keep me speed-reading through it, (1) because it was easy to read and (2) I was keen to see what new ideas it would bring and how they fit – or didn’t fit – into my practice as an ontological-Gestalt coach (a bias I am well aware of).

Some of the propositions that resonate with me, or were elegantly explained, include:

1. All problems are interpersonal problems
2. The distinctions between a feeling of inferiority and an inferiority complex (one of them is healthy)
3. Distinguishing whose task (work) it is, e.g. Not wanting to be disliked is probably my task, but whether so-and-so dislikes me is the other person’s task
4. Its holistic aspect; the entire human being is considered, instead of only logic and intellect only. Emotion, logic, cultural inclinations, etc.
5. The fact that it works with the here and now, instead of ‘pinning’ one’s possibilities (or lack thereof) on specific events in one’s past.
6. As fellow human beings, we walk on the same ground, and some of us are ahead of others; no matter how far ahead they may be, we are all still on the same ground. instead of the stereotypical image of a bunch of people clamouring up a ladder or a narrow staircase, each fighting to be ‘above’ others.

Some propositions which are difficult for me, or which I need to experience for myself:

1. The denying of trauma and the past as a reason for diminished possibilities. I think it can be explained by being summed up as, “It’s not what happened, but how it was resolved”. But it may still be difficult to accept, depending on one’s experiences (and training) with trauma. If I ever suggest this to a client, it must be with a heap of compassion and us sitting on a mountain of trust.
2. In dealing with others, one must not rebuke, one must not praise either.
3. How one derives a sense of belonging to community via a feeling of contribution.

It is really a collection of interesting propositions that manage to form a congruent way of seeing and being. This ‘way’ is actually a school of psychology pioneered by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler, who was a peer of Freud, but whose ideas ran counter to his. How they differ is sufficiently covered in the book.

For me, some of the ideas were not new, or at least, are already known to me under different names and in different frameworks. I won’t be surprised if much of what I studied originated from Adlerian psychology. After all, like King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun”. But I do not mean to diminish the impact of the content; sometimes, it takes another author (or teacher) to describe the same things slightly differently for us to truly latch on. This happened lots of times for me throughout the book.

Did reading this book add to my life? Definitely. How much ‘courage to be disliked’ did I get from reading it? How will it change the way that I live and help others? That remains to be seen.