It Takes Courage to be Disliked
What makes you happy? What things hold you back from achieving that happiness?
“All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.”
If we assumed that a theory proposed by psychologist Alfred Adler was correct, that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems, what would that mean?
In Ichiro Kishimi’s and Fumitake Koga’s book The Courage to be Disliked, the authors examine just that. In the book, they state, “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.”
Let’s break that down. The assumption that ‘all problems are interpersonal relationship problems’ means that if you untangle common issues that people encounter, it will lead you to an issue that stems from a relationship and your subjective perceptions of yourself compared to the other(s) within it. A tangible example of this might be feeling that you need to live up to expectations that you perceive others have on you (whether that’s true or just your perception) and then feeling shitty because you can’t or doing so is out of alignment with what actually makes you happy.
This is a problem.
A simple solution, but one that’s arguably not easy to practice, is separating what is yours from what is someone else’s. If your neighbour routinely stops you outside to engage in lengthy conversation with them but you find that you don’t have the capacity (or interest) to do so, telling them that you can’t stay to chat may bring about feelings of guilt. However, you’d be moving in a direction that’s more in-line with your own happiness because you’d be listening to your needs/desires. It may seem unfriendly, but your neighbour’s potential feeling of being upset is theirs, not yours.
This, of course, can seem exponentially more challenging when the other person in question is a family member, someone you view as having authority over you, or a partner whom you don’t want to disappoint. What’s even more important to note is the role that someone’s privilege may play in feeling safe/able to focus on their own life tasks and not be influenced by those of others (perceived or otherwise). It’s important to acknowledge that there’s privilege in focusing on your life tasks, and not everyone may be able to do so to the same degree as others.
There are things that you as an individual are in control of and others that you are not in control of.
Alfred Adler called this ‘the separation of tasks’, and stated that your life tasks are the things that you can control, and other people’s life tasks are for them to control.
As social beings in various forms of relationships, it’s very normal to want to live harmoniously with others. A mistake we might make, however, is bending too much out of our own lane in an attempt to satisfy the wants and desires of others; living too much for the satisfaction or contentment of someone else, we may no longer feel happy in our own life predicament.
This is where ‘the courage to be disliked’ comes into play. By being courageous in choosing happiness, by taking ownership of your own life tasks and no longer those of others, we may run into the possibility of being disliked for our actions. We could, however, find that all along it was only our own perceptions of what we thought others wanted of us, and not actually what they wanted of us. Or we could find that people are more flexible and willing to accept that some things, your things, are out of their control.
Going back to the neighbour example, you could discover that your neighbour also doesn’t like talking for so long and the two of you simply feel obligated to continue doing so as a matter of saving face with one another. By following through with your tasks, listening to what you need/desire and setting appropriate boundaries, you may feel lighter in your relationship with them. It simply takes the courage to be disliked.