I bought this book by seeing its title which I found quite fascinating. This book is written by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga and it represents Alfred Adler’s (Austrian psychologist) teachings with a little hue of Greek philosophy.

First thing first this book is not a dry philosophical book but in dialogues form. A young frustrated boy asks questions and an old philosopher gives answers with his deep philosophical knowledge.   Few concepts of the book are quite unheard of.  The author has explained how Adler’s philosophy is relevant in today’s world, in finding real freedom and changing your life.

Though this book is full of wisdom, here I am describing only a few insights, which I found most important and worth sharing.

This book revolves around three main points –

A) People can change

B)World is simple

C) Everyone can be happy

Point A – People can change

a)Trauma does not exist- I consider this as a very revolutionary point. So far Freudian view of trauma says that a person’s psychic wounds (trauma) cause his/ her unhappiness. Adler denies this completely. As per him  -we do not suffer from the experience of our trauma but by the meaning, we give to them. It does not mean that experience of a horrible incident or abuse during childhood has no influence on someone’s personality but the important thing is nothing is actually determined by those influences. We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences. Your life is not something that someone gives you but what you choose and decide how you live. I think this point makes sense because if we think the past determines everything and could not be changed we cannot take effective steps forward in our lives. So one should always think about the possibilities.

b) Courage to be changed- Regardless of their environment people can change at any time but they are unable to change because they don’t want to. Change brings anxiety and to avoid that anxiety and discomfort, people choose not to change. It takes courage hence they prefer to blame the past for their unhappiness.

 Point B- The World is simple

a) All problems in this world are interpersonal relationship problems- This concept makes the foundation of Adler’s psychology. We are social beings and cannot live without interpersonal relationships. The three important elements of life i.e. job, friends, and love all are based on human relationships. The most important thing here is to separate your problems from other people’s problems and start focusing on your life. For example, if someone says I am choosing this career because my parents want me to do this it means that he is unable to separate his issues from his parent’s issues and he wants to be praised by his parents.  

Adler strictly prohibits this desire of seeking approval and praising by others which our education system, based on the reward and punishment theory is doing for years. Because by doing this you are allowing other people to decide what you should do in your life and if you do not have the courage to be disliked by other people you will always do what others want you to do. This limits your freedom.

Similarly, the author is not in the favour of praising others. In his view, if you praise someone it creates a vertical relationship, which means you are considering yourself superior and praising instead of showing respect and gratitude, this leads to a horizontal relationship.

b)Don’t compete with others- Self-acceptance is the vital first step towards happiness. If you fully accept yourself, your way of looking at things will change dramatically. Someone should only compete only with the ideal version of himself/herself.

Point C – Everyone can be happy

a) Contribution to society –The source of real happiness is the feeling of contribution towards society. One important point, this feeling that you are beneficial for the society should be detached from the recognition. Because if someone does this only for recognition then in the long run, he has to live life according to other people’s wishes. Hence one should choose freedom while aspiring to happiness. Many successful and rich people keep on working their entire life because they want to contribute to this world.

b) Life is a series of moments – Think of life as a series of moments called ‘now’. We can live only in here and now and our lives exist only in moments. For example, if you go to visit a place and if you go straight and come back quickly back home then it cannot be called a journey, the journey is when you enjoy each moment on the way to your destination. Life is similar to a journey that is made up of moments and every single moment is complete in itself. Don’t think of life as a straight line otherwise, it will be very hard to live, think of it as dots (moments) that are connecting and making it live.

Conclusion – A famous quote says “ when you come to a point where you have no need to impress others, your freedom will begin ”. This book truly represents this concept. I found a few ideas in the book like trauma does not exist and all problems are the result of interpersonal relationships as great insights, would definitely recommend reading this to everyone.

In today’s world, when most people are victims of FOMO and see their worth only thru the validation and approvals given by others, courage to be disliked is not a common thing.