My mental health journey, which has involved several spells in psychiatric hospital and a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, has left me very interested in the field of psychology. I have tried many different approaches to counselling, including group and individual cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic counselling, body psychotherapy, Christian counselling, and others.
I spotted a book in my BookBub daily email which looked interesting, entitled The Courage to be Disliked. I hadn’t heard of the book before, but seeing as it was available to me for free due to my Amazon Prime subscription, I saw no danger in downloading the book to my Kindle and seeing if I liked it. Little did I know that I would be reading one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.
The book is about a psychologist named Alfred Adler (pictured above), who was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but has received relatively little attention compared with those two giant names in the world of psychology. The substance of the book is a dialogue that takes place between a youth and a philosopher who has spent many years studying Ancient Greek philosophy and Adlerian psychology.
The approach of Adlerian psychology is very different to Freudian / Jungian methods, in that it emphasises teleology as opposed to aetiology. The difference is that teleology looks at life in terms of purpose, with a focus on the present moment, whereas aetiology looks at life as a series of causes and effects, and is more akin to determinism, where our present experiences are understood in terms of causes and effects.
I found myself in profound agreement with many of the aspects of Adlerian psychology that are discussed in the book. It really does shine a light on a lot of behavioural problems that are rife in 21st century society. It also has some amazing insights into parent / child relationships, and why they are so often unhealthy. One idea that I particularly like from the book is that healthy relationships are always horizontal rather than vertical, meaning that every person in our lives should be treated as an equal, rather than above or below us.
It’s quite interesting that God is only mentioned on one or two occasions in the book, and when theism is mentioned, it is glossed over without any real attention. It is as if, to both the philosopher and the youth, God is not really relevant to life at all. This is obviously strange to someone like me, whose entire approach to philosophy and understanding the world is centred around God. There are many ideas raised in the book that could have been discussed with reference to theism, but weren’t.
The focus of Adler’s psychology is very much on the individual and transforming their perspective in a way that will make them happier. While this is commendable, the methods that Adler proposes only make sense when society is functioning in a very stable and democratic way. The current Covid-19 scenario is an example of why we really need God as well as psychology, because it is by understanding things about God that we can really come to understand subjects like suffering, good and evil, and why anything exists at all.
So to summarise: On the human level, psychology is very important, and Adler’s philosophy is fantastic, and could prove highly transformative for many people, in my opinion. But on the spiritual level, the book lacks a vision of God, who we need in order to arrive at a perspective that really makes sense of the world — why things are the way they are, how things can change, and how we should understand the search for happiness — the latter of which is the key focus of the book.
All things considered, The Courage to be Disliked is an incredibly insightful book, and I highly and unreservedly recommend it.
The Courage to be Disliked is by Ichiro Kashimi and Fumitake Koga, and is currently available to purchase from Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and audiobook formats. To see a full list of the books I have reviewed on Perfect Chaos, click here. Thank you for reading!