The Courage To Be Disliked

Everybody wants a crystal ball. Because if it’s all cause and effect, everything can be pre-determined. And knowing what will happen next is a very likable quality.

The logical-sounding argument for “first this, then that” predictably proceeds like clockwork. It explains how the trains will run on time and the children will grow up well-adjusted and happy. It’s very comforting.

But, while cause and effect holds up well in domains like physics, it gets much trickier when we move into psychology (and look at events in the real world, where us humans muck everything up). 

Psychiatrist Alfred Adler (on the psychiatric Mt. Rushmore next to Freud and Jung), taught a version of the following,

People are not driven by past causes, but moved towards goals that they themselves set.

Here’s where the courage to be disliked comes into play.

If we don’t have external causes and effects driving what we did and what we’re about to do, we are left with our internal blueprints for whatever effects we’re choosing to live with next. These are our conscious and subconscious goals.

Adler teaches our goals are reinforced by our best and worst choices. They mark the differences between what we’re happy with and what we’ll suffer through. Our goals are measured by our actions.

Adler rejected the crystal ball and would have pointed out the world isn’t on puppet strings. External events are (mostly) completely out of our control. However, our brains are on puppet strings, and how we see and experience the external world internally is completely within our control, if only we’re willing to take it.

Next time someone wants a crystal ball, focus on why they want the answer and what they think it would be leading them towards. 

They (and we) will only make the changes and take the steps we’re ready to take. Otherwise, the status quo, or worse, can win out despite our best intentions.

We can’t know what will happen next, but we can decide how we’re going to emotionally respond to whatever does. It can be a very unpopular opinion.

Having the courage to be disliked means having the courage to make the hardest choices. Both in stating the truth, and moving forwards into it.

h/t to “The Courage to be Disliked” by Ichirou Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. I loved this book and would not have picked it up based on the title alone. It’s a Socratic review of Adlerian philosophy and psychiatry.

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