by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
Here are my book notes from "The Courage to Be Disliked" by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, which is all about Adlerian Individual Psychology. Get the book here (affiliate link).
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None of us live in an objective world, but instead in a subjective world that we ourselves have given meaning to. The world you see is different from the one I see, and it’s impossible to share your world with anyone else.
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In other words, rather than being a strict area of scholarship, Adlerian psychology is accepted as a realisation; a culmination of truths and of human understanding. Yet Adler’s ideas are said to have been a hundred years ahead of their time, and even today we have not managed to fully comprehend them. That is how truly ground breaking they were.
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PHILOSOPHER: If we focus only on past causes and try to explain things solely through cause and effect, we end up with ‘determinism’. Because what this says is that our present and our future have already been decided by past occurrences, and are unalterable. Am I wrong? YOUTH: So, you’re saying that the past doesn’t matter? PHILOSOPHER: Yes, that is the standpoint of Adlerian psychology. YOUTH: I see. The points of conflict seem a bit clearer. But look, if we go by your version, wouldn’t that ultimately mean that there’s no reason my friend can’t go out anymore? Because you’re saying that
past incidents don’t matter. I’m sorry, but that’s completely out of the question. There has to be some reason behind his seclusion. There has to be, or there’d be no explanation! PHILOSOPHER: Indeed, there would be no explanation. So, in Adlerian psychology, we do not think about past ‘causes’, but rather about present ‘goals’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Think about it this way. Your friend had the goal of not going out beforehand, and he’s been manufacturing a state of anxiety and fear as a means to achieve that goal. In Adlerian psychology, this is called ‘teleology’.
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PHILOSOPHER: No. This is the difference between ‘aetiology’ (the study of causation) and teleology (the study of the purpose of a given phenomenon, rather than its cause). Everything you have been telling me is based in aetiology. As long as we stay in aetiology, we will not take a single step forward.
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But Adler, in denial of the trauma argument, states the following: ‘No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences— the so-called trauma—but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self- determining.’
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Focus on the point Adler is making here when he refers to the self being determined not by our experiences themselves, but by the meaning we give them. He is not saying that the experience of a horrible calamity or abuse during childhood or other such incidents have no influence on forming a personality; their influences are strong. But the important thing is that 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 something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.
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PHILOSOPHER: Don’t you see? In a word, anger is a tool that can be taken out as needed. It can be put away the moment the phone rings, and pulled out again after one hangs up. The mother isn’t yelling in anger she cannot control. She is simply using the anger to overpower her daughter with a loud voice, and thereby assert her opinions. YOUTH: So, anger is a means to achieve a goal? PHILOSOPHER: That is what teleology says.
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PHILOSOPHER: I am not denying that emotion exists. Everyone has emotions. That goes without saying. But if you are going to tell me that people are beings who can’t resist emotion, I’d argue against that. Adlerian psychology is a form of thought, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to nihilism. We are not controlled by emotion. In this sense,
while it shows that ‘people are not controlled by emotion’, additionally it shows that ‘we are not controlled by the past’.
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YOUTH: So, you are saying that one should always take the ‘people can change’ premise? PHILOSOPHER: Of course. And, please understand, it is Freudian aetiology that denies our free will, and treats humans like machines.
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‘People are not driven by past causes, but move toward goals that they themselves set’—that
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YOUTH: Then, do you think I could become someone like Y? From the bottom of my heart, I really wish I could be like him. PHILOSOPHER: At this point, I’d have to say that’s totally out of the question. YOUTH: Aha! Now you’re showing your true colours! So, are you going to retract your theory? PHILOSOPHER: No, I am not. Unfortunately, you have almost no understanding of Adlerian psychology yet. The first step to change is knowing.
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PHILOSOPHER: To quote Adler again: ‘The important thing is not what one is born with, but what use one makes of that equipment.’ You want to be Y or someone else because you are utterly focused on what you were born with. Instead, you’ve got to focus on what you can make of your equipment.
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Does fixating on what you are born with change the reality? We are not replaceable machines. It is not replacement we need, but renewal.
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In Adlerian psychology, we describe personality and disposition with the word ‘lifestyle’.
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Lifestyle is the tendencies of thought and action in life. Yellow highlight | Location: 468
PHILOSOPHER: How one sees the world. And how one sees oneself. Think of lifestyle as a concept bringing together these ways of finding meaning. In a narrow sense, lifestyle could be defined as someone’s personality; taken more broadly, it is a word that encompasses the worldview of that person and their outlook on life.
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it is ‘the way one’s life should be’. You probably think of disposition or personality as something with which you are endowed, without any connection to your will. In Adlerian psychology, however, lifestyle is thought of as something that you choose for yourself.
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PHILOSOPHER: Of course, you did not consciously choose ‘this kind of self’. Your first choice was probably
unconscious, combined with external factors you have referred to; that is, race, nationality, culture, and home environment. These certainly had a significant influence on that choice. Nevertheless, it is you who chose ‘this kind of self’. YOUTH: I don’t get what you’re saying. How on earth could I have chosen it? PHILOSOPHER: Adlerian psychology’s view is that it happens around the age of ten.
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PHILOSOPHER: When we try to change our lifestyles, we put our great courage to the test. There is the anxiety generated by changing, and the disappointment attendant to not changing. I am sure you have selected the latter.
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Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.
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Adler’s teleology tells us, ‘No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.’ That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.
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PHILOSOPHER: When a client shows up requesting a cure from fear of blushing, the counsellor must not cure the
symptoms. If they do, recovery is likely to be even more difficult. That is the Adlerian psychology way of thinking about this kind of thing.
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PHILOSOPHER: She didn’t have confidence in herself. She was very afraid that things being what they were, he’d reject her even if she did confess to him. And, if that happened, she’d lose even more confidence and get hurt. That’s why she created the symptom of the fear of blushing. What I can do is to get the person first to accept ‘myself now’, and then regardless of the outcome, have the courage to step forward. In Adlerian psychology, this kind of approach is called ‘encouragement’.
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As Adler goes so far as to assert, ‘All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.’
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PHILOSOPHER: You were so afraid of interpersonal relationships that you came to dislike yourself. You’ve avoided interpersonal relationships by disliking yourself.
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PHILOSOPHER: In Adler’s native German, the word is Minderwertigkeitsgefühl, which means a feeling (Gefühl) of having less (minder) worth (Wert). So, ‘feeling of inferiority’ is a term that has to do with one’s value judgement of oneself.
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PHILOSOPHER: In other words, value is something that’s based on a social context. The value given to a one-dollar bill is not an objectively attributed value, though that might be a commonsense approach. If one considers its actual cost as printed material, the value is nowhere near a dollar. If I were the only person in this world and no one else existed, I’d probably be putting those one-dollar bills in my fireplace in wintertime. Maybe I’d be using them to blow my nose. Following exactly the same logic, there should have been no reason at all for me to worry about my height.
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PHILOSOPHER: Adler recognises that feelings of inferiority are something everyone has. There’s nothing bad about feelings of inferiority themselves.
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PHILOSOPHER: It’s probably necessary to understand this in a certain order. First of all, people enter this world as helpless beings. And people have the universal desire to escape from that helpless state. Adler called this the ‘pursuit of superiority’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Adler is saying that the pursuit of superiority and the feeling of inferiority are not diseases, but stimulants to normal, healthy striving and growth. If it is not used in the wrong way, the feeling of inferiority, too, can
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PHILOSOPHER: There is nothing particularly wrong with the feeling of inferiority itself. You understand this point now, right? As Adler says, the feeling of inferiority can be a trigger for striving and growth. For instance, if one had a feeling of inferiority with regard to one’s education, and resolved to oneself, I’m not well educated, so I’ll just have to try harder than anyone else, that would be a desirable direction. The inferiority complex, on the other hand, refers to a condition of having begun to use one’s feeling of inferiority as a kind of excuse. So, one thinks to oneself, I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed, or I’m not good-looking, so I can’t get married. When someone is insisting on the logic of ‘A is the situation, so B cannot be done’ in such a way in everyday life, that is not something that fits in the feeling of inferiority category. It is an inferiority complex.
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PHILOSOPHER: What you are calling a causal relationship is something that Adler explains as ‘apparent cause and effect’. That is to say, you convince yourself that there is some serious causal relationship where there is none whatsoever. The other day, someone told me, ‘The reason I can’t get married easily is that my parents got divorced when I was a child.’ From the viewpoint of Freudian aetiology (the attributing of causes), the parents’ divorce was a great trauma, which connects in a clear causal relationship with one’s views on marriage. Adler, however, with his stance of teleology (the
attributing of purpose), rejects such arguments as ‘apparent cause and effect’.
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How to compensate for the part that is lacking. The healthiest way is to try to compensate through striving and growth. For instance, it could be by applying oneself to one’s studies, engaging in constant training or being diligent in one’s work. However, people who aren’t equipped with that courage end up stepping into an inferiority complex. Again, it’s thinking, I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed. And it’s implying your capability by saying, ‘If only I were well educated, I could be really successful.’ That ‘the real me’, which just happens to be obscured right now by the matter of education, is superior.
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PHILOSOPHER: I doubt you have heard much about it. It’s the ‘superiority complex’. YOUTH: Superiority complex? PHILOSOPHER: One is suffering from strong feelings of inferiority, and, on top of that, one doesn’t have the courage to compensate through healthy modes of striving and growth. That being said, one can’t tolerate the inferiority complex of thinking, A is the situation, so B cannot be done. One can’t accept ‘one’s incapable self’. At that point, the person thinks of trying to compensate in some other fashion, and looks for an easier way out.
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PHILOSOPHER: One makes a show of being on good terms
with a powerful person (broadly speaking—it could be anyone from the leader of your school class to a famous celebrity). And by doing that, one lets it be known that one is special. Behaviours like misrepresenting one’s work experience or excessive allegiance to particular brands of clothing are forms of giving authority, and probably also have aspects of the superiority complex. In each case, it isn’t that the ‘I’ is actually superior or special. It is only that one is making the ‘I’ look superior by linking it to authority. In short, it’s a fabricated feeling of superiority.
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PHILOSOPHER: But those who make themselves look bigger on borrowed power are essentially living according to other people’s value systems—they are living other people’s lives. This is a point that must be emphasised.
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‘The one who boasts does so only out of a feeling of inferiority.’
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PHILOSOPHER: The person who assumes a boasting manner when talking about his upbringing and the like; the various misfortunes that have rained down upon him. If someone should try to comfort this person, or suggest some change be made, he’ll refuse the helping hand by saying, ‘You don’t understand how I feel.’
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PHILOSOPHER: Such people try to make themselves ‘special’ by way of their experience of misfortune, and with the single fact of their misfortune try to place themselves above others.
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PHILOSOPHER: Yes. They use their misfortune to their advantage, and try to control the other party with it. By declaring how unfortunate they are and how much they have suffered, they are trying to worry the people around them (their family and friends, for example), and to restrict their speech and behaviour, and control them. The people I was talking about at the very beginning, who shut themselves up in their rooms, frequently indulge in feelings of superiority that use misfortune to their advantage. So much so that Adler himself pointed out, ‘In our culture weakness can be quite strong and powerful.’
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PHILOSOPHER: Adler says, ‘In fact, if we were to ask ourselves who is the strongest person in our culture, the logical answer would be the baby. The baby rules and cannot be dominated.’
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The pursuit of superiority is the mindset of taking a single step forward on one’s own feet, not the mindset of competition of the sort that necessitates aiming to be greater than other people.
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PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. It’s enough to just keep moving in a forward direction, without competing with anyone. And, of course, there is no need to compare oneself with others.
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PHILOSOPHER: A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to others, but from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.
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PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Everyone is different. Don’t mix up that difference with good and bad, and superior and inferior. Whatever differences we may have, we are all equal.
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It is in trying to progress past who one is now that there is value.
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PHILOSOPHER: It is connected with the subject of competition. Please remember that. If there is competition at the core of a person’s interpersonal relationships, he will not be able to escape interpersonal relationship problems or escape misfortune. YOUTH: Why not? PHILOSOPHER: Because at the end of a competition, there are winners and losers.
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PHILOSOPHER: You start to think that people are always looking down on you and treating you with scorn; that they’re all enemies who must never be underestimated, who lie in wait for any opening and attack at the drop of a hat. In short, that the world is a terrifying place.
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PHILOSOPHER: Earlier, didn’t you say, ‘I can’t celebrate other people’s happiness with all my heart’? You think of interpersonal relationships as competition; you perceive other people’s happiness as ‘my defeat’, and that is why you can’t celebrate it. However, once one is released from the schema of competition, the need to triumph over someone disappears. One is also released from the fear that says, Maybe I will lose. And one becomes able to celebrate other people’s happiness with all one’s heart. One may become able to contribute actively to other people’s happiness. The person who always has the will to help another in times of need—that is someone who may properly be called your comrade.
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PHILOSOPHER: The moment one is convinced that ‘I am right’ in an interpersonal relationship, one has already stepped into a power struggle.
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PHILOSOPHER: So, why do you see other people as enemies, and why can’t you think of them as your comrades? It is because you have lost your courage and you are running away from your ‘life tasks’.
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PHILOSOPHER: First, there are two objectives for behaviour: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. Then, the objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours are the consciousness that I have the ability and the consciousness that people are my comrades.
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He referred to them as ‘tasks of work’, ‘tasks of friendship’ and ‘tasks of love’, and all together as ‘life tasks’.
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That is, the distance and depth in one’s interpersonal relationships. Adler sometimes used the expression ‘three social ties’ to emphasise the point.
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And the ones who get tripped up in the interpersonal relationships at this stage are the people referred to as ‘NEETs’ [a young person not in education, employment or training] or ‘shut-ins’ [a person confined indoors].
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If you change, those around you will change too. They will have no choice but to change. Adlerian psychology is a psychology for changing oneself, not a psychology for changing others. Instead of waiting for others to change or waiting for the situation to change, you take the first step forward yourself.
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PHILOSOPHER: But Adler does not accept restricting one’s partner. If the person seems to be happy, one can frankly celebrate that condition. That is love. Relationships in which people restrict each other eventually fall apart.
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PHILOSOPHER: The person feels this way because at some stage she has resolved to herself, I want to end this relationship, and she has been looking around for the material with which to end it. The other person hasn’t changed at all. It is her own goal that has changed. Look, people are extremely selfish creatures who are capable of finding any number of flaws and shortcomings in others whenever the mood strikes them. A man of perfect character could come along, and one would have no difficulty in digging up some reason to dislike him. That’s exactly why the world can become a perilous place at any time, and it’s always possible to see everyone as one’s enemies.
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YOUTH: So, I am making up flaws in other people just so that I can avoid my life tasks, and more, so I can avoid interpersonal relationships? And I am running away by thinking of other people as my enemies? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Adler indicated the state of coming up with all manner of pretexts in order to avoid the life tasks, and called it the ‘life-lie’.
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One shifts one’s responsibility for the situation one is currently in to someone else. One is running away from one’s life tasks by saying that everything is the fault of other people, or the fault of one’s environment. It’s exactly the same as with the story I mentioned earlier about the female student with the fear of blushing. One lies to oneself, and one lies to the people around one, too. When you really think about it, it’s a pretty severe term.
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PHILOSOPHER: If your lifestyle were determined by other people or your environment, it would certainly be possible to shift responsibility. But we choose our lifestyles ourselves. It’s clear where the responsibility lies.
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PHILOSOPHER: You must not use the power of anger to look away. This is a very important point. Adler never discusses the life tasks or life-lies in terms of good and evil. It is not morals or good and evil that we should be discussing, but the issue of courage.
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YOUTH: So, it’s that statement: ‘It’s not what one is born with, but what use one makes of that equipment.’ PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Thank you for remembering it. Freudian aetiology is a psychology of possession, and eventually arrives at determinism. Adlerian psychology, on the other hand, is a psychology of use, and it is you who decides it.
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PHILOSOPHER: We humans are not so fragile as to simply be at the mercy of aetiological (cause and effect) traumas. From the standpoint of teleology, we choose our lives and our lifestyles ourselves. We have the power to do that.
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Adlerian psychology denies the need to seek recognition from others.
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PHILOSOPHER: There is no need to be recognised by others. Actually, one must not seek recognition. This point cannot be overstated.
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PHILOSOPHER: If one takes appropriate action, one receives praise. If one takes inappropriate action, one receives punishment. Adler was very critical of education by reward and punishment. It leads to mistaken lifestyles in which people think, If no one is going to praise me, I won’t take appropriate action and If no one is going to punish me, I’ll engage in inappropriate actions, too.
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PHILOSOPHER: You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations, and neither am I. It is not necessary to satisfy other people’s expectations.
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PHILOSOPHER: In the teachings of Judaism, one finds a view that goes something like this: if you are not living your life for yourself, then who is going to live it for you? You are living only your own life. When it comes to who you are living it for, of course it’s you. And then, if you are not living your life for yourself, who could there be to live it instead of you? Ultimately, we live thinking about ‘I’. There is no reason that we must not think that way.
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And please remember this: if you are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations, it follows that other people are not living to satisfy your expectations. Someone might not act the way you want him to, but it doesn’t do to get angry. That’s only natural.
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One has to get recognition, or one will suffer. If one doesn’t get recognition from others and from one’s parents, one won’t have confidence. Can such a life be healthy? So, one could think, God is watching, so accumulate good deeds. But that and the nihilist view that says ‘there is no God, so all evil deeds are permitted’ are two sides of the same coin. Even supposing that God did not exist, and that we could not gain recognition from God, we would still have to live this life. Indeed, it is in order to overcome the nihilism of a godless world that it is necessary to deny recognition from other people.
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When one is confronted with the task of studying, for instance, in Adlerian psychology we consider it from the perspective of ‘whose task is this?’
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PHILOSOPHER: In general, all interpersonal relationship troubles are caused by intruding on other people’s tasks, or having one’s own tasks intruded on. Carrying out the separation of tasks is enough to change one’s interpersonal relationships dramatically.
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Who ultimately is going to receive the end result brought about by the choice that is made?
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PHILOSOPHER: One has to pay attention. Adlerian psychology does not recommend the non-interference approach. Non-interference is the attitude of not knowing, and not even being interested in knowing what the child is doing. Instead, it is by knowing what the child is doing that one protects him. If it’s studying that is the issue, one tells the child that that is his task, and one lets him know that one is ready to assist him whenever he has the urge to study. But one must not intrude on the child’s task. When no requests are being made, it does not do to meddle in things.
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You believe in your partner; that is your task. But how that person acts with regard to your expectations and trust is other
people’s tasks. When you push your wishes without having drawn that line, before you know it you’re engaging in stalker-like intervention. Supposing your partner did not act as you had wished. Would you still be able to believe in that person? Would you still be able to love that person? The task of love that Adler speaks of is comprised of such questions.
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But think about it this way: intervening in other people’s tasks and taking on other people’s tasks turns one’s life into something heavy and full of hardship. If you are leading a life of worry and suffering—which stems from interpersonal relationships—first, learn the boundary of ‘from here on, that is not my task’. And discard other people’s tasks. That is the first step toward lightening the load and making life simpler.
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PHILOSOPHER: All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in. On the other hand, what kind of judgement do other people pass on that choice? That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about. YOUTH: What another person thinks of you —if they like you or dislike you—that is that person’s task, not mine. Is that what you are saying? PHILOSOPHER: That is what separating is. You are worried about other people looking at you. You are worried about being judged by other people. That is why you are constantly craving recognition from others. Now, why are you worried about other people looking at you, anyway? Adlerian psychology has an easy answer. You haven’t done the separation of tasks yet. You
assume that even things that should be other people’s tasks are your own. Remember the words of the grandmother: ‘You’re the only one who’s worried how you look.’ Her remark drives right to the heart of the separation of tasks. What other people think when they see your face—that is the task of other people, and is not something you have any control over.
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PHILOSOPHER: This is a discussion that is concerned with the fundamentals of Adlerian psychology. If you are angry, nothing will sink in. You think, I’ve got that boss, so I can’t work. This is complete aetiology. But it’s really, I don’t want to work, so I’ll create an awful boss, or I don’t want to acknowledge my incapable self, so I’ll create an awful boss. That would be the teleological way of looking at it.
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PHILOSOPHER: We are all suffering in interpersonal relationships. It might be the relationship with one’s parents or one’s elder brother, and it might be the interpersonal relationships at one’s workplace. Now, last time, you were saying that you wanted some specific steps. This is what I propose. First, one should ask ‘whose task is this?’ Then do the separation of tasks. Calmly delineate up to what point one’s own tasks go, and from what point they become another person’s tasks. And do not intervene in other people’s tasks, or allow even a single person to intervene in one’s own tasks. This is a specific and revolutionary viewpoint that is unique to Adlerian psychology and contains the potential to utterly change one’s interpersonal relationship problems.
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When reward is at the base of an interpersonal relationship, there’s a feeling that wells up in one that says, ‘I gave this much, so you should give me that much back.’ This is a notion that is quite different from separation of tasks, of course. We must not seek reward, and we must not be tied to it.
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As Adler says, ‘Children who have not been taught to confront challenges will try to avoid all challenges.’
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In Adlerian psychology, there are aspects that are antithetical to normal social thinking. It denies aetiology, denies trauma and adopts teleology. It treats people’s problems as interpersonal relationship problems. And the not-seeking of recognition and the separation of tasks, too, are probably antithetical to normal social thinking.
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PHILOSOPHER: An adult, who has chosen an unfree way to live, on seeing a young person living freely here and now in this moment, criticises the youth as being hedonistic; of course, this is a life-lie that comes out so that the adult can accept his own unfree life. An adult who has chosen real freedom himself will not make such comments, and will instead cheer on the will to be free.
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In short, that ‘freedom is being disliked by other people’. Yellow highlight | Location: 1,678
It’s that you are disliked by someone. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.
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Unless one is unconcerned by other people’s judgements, has no fear of being disliked by other people, and pays the cost that one might never be recognised, one will never be able to follow through in one’s own way of living. That is to say, one will not be able to be free.
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I am not telling you to go so far as to live in such a way that you will be disliked, and I am not saying engage in wrongdoing. Please do not misunderstand that.
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‘Not wanting to be disliked’ is probably my task, but whether or not so-and-so dislikes me is the other person’s task.
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PHILOSOPHER: 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.
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In other words, it is the smallest possible unit, and therefore cannot be broken down any further. Now, what is it exactly that cannot be divided? Adler was opposed to any kind of dualistic value system that treated the mind as separate from the body; reason as separate from emotion, or the conscious mind as separate from the unconscious mind.
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The mind and body are viewed as one, as a whole that cannot be divided into parts. Tension in the mind can make one’s arms and legs shake, or cause one’s cheeks to turn red, and fear can make one’s face turn white.
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The same holds true for reason and emotion, and the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, as well. A normally cool-headed person doesn’t expect to have a fit of violent emotion and start shouting at someone. We are not struck by emotions that somehow exist independently from us. Each of us is a unified whole.
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When one separates the ‘I’ from ‘emotion’ and thinks, It was the emotion that made me do it, or The emotion got the best of me, and I couldn’t help it, such thinking quickly becomes a life-lie.
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Well, what is the goal of interpersonal relations? PHILOSOPHER: To get straight to the heart of the matter, it
is ‘community feeling’.
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PHILOSOPHER: When Adler refers to community, he goes beyond the household, school, workplace and local society, and treats it as all-inclusive, covering not only nations and all of humanity, but the entire axis of time from the past to the future—and he includes plants and animals, and even inanimate objects.
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Adler himself acknowledged that the community he was espousing was ‘an unattainable ideal’.
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Interpersonal relations are the source of unhappiness. And the opposite can be said, too—interpersonal relations are the source of happiness.
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PHILOSOPHER: Community feeling is also referred to as ‘social interest’, that is to say, ‘interest in society’. So, now I have a question for you: do you know what society’s smallest unit is, from the point of view of sociology? YOUTH: Society’s smallest unit, huh? I’d say the family. PHILOSOPHER: No, it is ‘you and I’. When there are two people, society emerges in their presence, and community emerges there too. To gain an understanding of the community feeling that Adler speaks of, it is advisable to use ‘you and I’ as the starting point.
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PHILOSOPHER: You make the switch from attachment to self (self-interest) to concern for others (social interest).
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People who are incapable of carrying out the separation of tasks, and who are obsessed with the desire for recognition are also extremely self-centred.
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PHILOSOPHER: Consider the reality of the desire for recognition. How much do others pay attention to you, and what is their judgement of you? That is to say, how much do they satisfy your desire? People who are obsessed with such a desire for recognition will seem to be looking at other people, while they are actually only looking at themselves. They lack concern for others, and are concerned solely with the ‘I’. Simply put, they are self-centred.
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a way of living in which one is constantly troubled by how one is seen by others is a self-centred lifestyle in which one’s sole concern is with the ‘I’.
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But the ‘I’ does not rule the centre of the world. While the ‘I’ is life’s protagonist, it is never more than a member of the community and a part of the whole.
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PHILOSOPHER: People who have concern only for themselves think that they are at the centre of the world. To such people, others are merely ‘people who will do something for me’. They half-genuinely believe that everyone else exists to serve them, and should give precedence to their feelings.
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For this reason, whenever they come into contact with another person, all they can think is, What will this person give me? However—and this is something that does not hold true for princes and princesses—this expectation is not going to be satisfied on every occasion. Because other people are not living to satisfy your expectations.
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PHILOSOPHER: Then, when those expectations are not satisfied, they become deeply disillusioned and feel as if they have been horribly insulted. And they become resentful, and think, That person didn’t do anything for me; That person let me down; That person isn’t my comrade anymore. He’s my enemy. People who hold the belief that they are the centre of the world always end up losing their comrades before long.
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PHILOSOPHER: Now we will go back to where we started. All of us are searching for the sense of belonging that ‘it’s okay to be here’. In Adlerian psychology, however, a sense of belonging is something that one can attain only by making an active commitment to the community of one’s own accord, and not simply by being here.
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PHILOSOPHER: One faces one’s life tasks. In other words, one takes steps forward on one’s own, without avoiding the tasks of the interpersonal relations of work, friendship and love. If you are ‘the centre of the world’, you will have no thoughts whatsoever regarding commitment to the community; because everyone else is ‘someone who will do something for me’, and there is no need for you to do things yourself. But you are not the centre of the world, and neither am I. One has to stand on one’s own two feet, and take one’s own steps forward with the tasks of interpersonal relations. One needs to think not What will this person give me? but, rather, What can I give to this person? That is commitment to the community.
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PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. A sense of belonging is something that one acquires through one’s own efforts—it is not something one is endowed with at birth. Community feeling is the much-debated key concept of Adlerian psychology.
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So, it’s all connected. People are never truly alone or separate from community, and cannot be.
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Though this might be termed a ‘you and I’ relationship, if it is one that can break down just because you raise an objection, then it is not the sort of relationship you need to get into in the
first place. It is fine to just let go of it. Living in fear of one’s relationships falling apart is an unfree way to live, in which one is living for other people.
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Adlerian psychology, we take the stance that in childrearing, and in all other forms of communication with other people, one must not praise.
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One must not praise, and one must not rebuke. Yellow highlight | Location: 2,047
In the act of praise, there is the aspect of it being ‘the passing of judgement by a person of ability on a person of no ability’. A mother praises her child who has helped her prepare dinner, saying, ‘You’re such a good helper!’ But when her husband does the same things, you can be sure she won’t be telling him, ‘You’re such a good helper!’
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unconsciously creating a hierarchical relationship and seeing the child as beneath her.
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When one person praises another, the goal is ‘to manipulate someone who has less ability than you’. It is not done out of gratitude or respect.
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Whether we praise or rebuke others, the only difference is one of the carrot or the stick, and the background goal is manipulation. The reason that Adlerian psychology is highly critical of reward-and-punishment education is that its intention is to manipulate children.
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it is because you are living in vertical relationships that you want to be praised. Adlerian psychology refutes all manner of vertical relationships, and proposes that all interpersonal relationships be horizontal relationships.
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YOUTH: Is this something that is conveyed by the words ‘equal but not the same’? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Equal, that is to say, horizontal.
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For example, there are men who verbally abuse their wives, who do all the housework, with such remarks as, ‘You’re not bringing in any money, so I don’t want to hear it’ or ‘It’s thanks to me that there’s food on the table.’ And I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: ‘You have everything you need, so what are you complaining about?’ It’s perfectly shameful. Such statements of economic superiority or the like have no connection whatsoever to human worth. A company employee and a full-time housewife simply have different workplaces and roles, and are truly ‘equal but not the same’. YOUTH: I agree entirely. PHILOSOPHER: They are probably afraid that women will grow wise to their situation and start earning
more than men do, and that women will start asserting themselves. They see all interpersonal relations as vertical relationships, and they are afraid of being seen by women as beneath them. That is to say, they have intense, hidden feelings of inferiority.
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So, why does a person intervene? Here, too, in the background, vertical relationships are at play. It is precisely because one perceives interpersonal relations as vertical, and sees the other party as beneath one, that one intervenes. Through intervention, one tries to lead the other party in the desired direction. One has convinced oneself that one is right, and that the other party is wrong. Of course, the intervention here is manipulation, pure and simple.
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That’s right, one neither praises nor rebukes. This kind of assistance, which is based on horizontal relationships, is referred to in Adlerian psychology as ‘encouragement’.
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PHILOSOPHER: When one is not following through with one’s tasks, it is not because one is without ability. Adlerian psychology tells us that the issue here is not one of ability, but simply that ‘one has lost the courage to face one’s tasks’. And, if that is the case, the thing to do before anything else is to recover that lost courage.
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The more one is praised by another person, the more one forms the belief that one has no ability. Please do your best to remember this.
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Even if you do derive joy from being praised, it is the same as being dependent on vertical relationships, and acknowledging that you have no ability. Because giving praise is a judgement that is passed by a person of ability onto a person without ability.
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You convey words of gratitude, saying thank you to this partner who has helped you with your work. You might express straightforward delight: ‘I’m glad.’ Or you could convey your thanks by saying, ‘That was a big help.’ This is an approach to encouragement that is based on horizontal relationships.
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PHILOSOPHER: Being praised essentially means that one is receiving judgement from another person as ‘good’. And the measure of what is good or bad about that act is that person’s yardstick. If receiving praise is what one is after, one will have no choice but to adapt to that person’s yardstick and put the brakes on one’s own freedom. ‘Thank you’, on the other hand, rather than being judgement, is a clear expression of gratitude. When one hears words of gratitude, one knows that one has made a contribution to another person.
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in Adlerian psychology, a great deal of emphasis is given to ‘contribution’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Well, what does a person have to do to get courage? In Adler’s view, ‘It is only when a person is able to feel that he has worth that he can possess courage.’
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It is when one is able to feel I am beneficial to the community that one can have a true sense of one’s worth.
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It is about having concern for others, building horizontal relationships and taking the approach of encouragement. All these things connect to the deep life awareness of ‘I am of use to someone’, and in turn, to your courage to live.
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PHILOSOPHER: At this point, you are looking at another person on the level of his acts. In other words, that that person ‘did something’. So, from that point of view, it might seem that bedridden old people are only a nuisance, and are of no use to anyone. So, let’s look at other people not on the ‘level of acts’, but on the ‘level of being’. Without judging whether or not other people did something, one rejoices in their being there, in their very existence, and one calls out to them with words of gratitude.
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Imagine, for example, a child who never talks back to his parents, excels in both schoolwork and sports, attends a good university, and joins a large company. There are parents who will compare their child to such an image of an ideal child— which is an impossible fiction—and then be filled with complaints and dissatisfaction. They treat the idealised image as one hundred points, and they gradually subtract from that. This is truly a ‘judgement’ way of thinking. Instead, the parents could refrain from comparing their child to anyone else, see him for who he actually is, and be glad and grateful for his being there. Instead of taking away points from some idealised image, they could start from zero.
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PHILOSOPHER: With regard to this issue of community feeling, there was a person who asked Adler a similar question. Adler’s reply was the following: ‘Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: you should start. With no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.’ My advice is exactly the same.
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Concretely speaking, it’s making the switch from attachment to self (self-interest) to concern for others (social interest), and gaining a sense of community feeling. Three things are needed at this point: ‘self-acceptance’, ‘confidence in others’ and ‘contribution to others’.
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There is a clear difference. Self-affirmation is making suggestions to oneself, such as ‘I can do it’ or ‘I am strong’, even when something is simply beyond one’s ability. It is a notion that can bring about a superiority complex, and may even be termed a way of living in which one lies to oneself. With self-acceptance, on the other hand, if one cannot do something, one is simply accepting ‘one’s incapable self’ as is, and moving forward so that one can do whatever one can. It is not a way of lying to oneself. To put it more simply, say you’ve got a score of sixty per cent, but you tell yourself I just happened to get unlucky this time around, and the real me is one hundred per cent. That is self-affirmation. By contrast, if one accepts oneself as one is, as sixty per cent, and thinks to oneself, How should I go about getting closer to one hundred per cent?—that is self-acceptance.
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Accept what is irreplaceable. Accept ‘this me’ just as it is. And have the courage to change what one can change. That is self-acceptance.
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We do not lack ability. We just lack courage. It all comes down to courage.
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Resignation has the connotation of seeing clearly with fortitude and acceptance. Having a firm grasp on the truth of things—that is resignation. There is nothing pessimistic about
it. YOUTH: A firm grasp on the truth … PHILOSOPHER: Of course, just because one has arrived at affirmative resignation as one’s self-acceptance, it does not automatically follow that one finds community feeling. That is the reality. When one is switching from attachment to self to concern for others, the second key concept—confidence in others—becomes absolutely essential.
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PHILOSOPHER: Here, I will consider the words ‘believing in others’ in the context of distinguishing trust from confidence. First, when we speak of trust, we are referring to something that comes with set conditions. In English, it is referred to as credit. For example, when one wants to borrow money from a bank, one has to have some kind of security. The bank calculates the amount of the loan based on the value of that security, and says, ‘We will lend you this much.’ The attitude of ‘we will lend it to you on the condition that you will pay it back,’ or ‘we will lend you as much as you are able to pay back,’ is not one of having confidence in someone. It is trust. YOUTH: Well, that’s how bank financing works, I guess. PHILOSOPHER: By contrast, from the standpoint of Adlerian psychology, the basis of interpersonal relations is not founded on trust but on confidence. YOUTH: And ‘confidence’ in this case is … ? PHILOSOPHER: It is doing without any set conditions whatsoever when believing in others. Even if one does not have sufficient objective grounds for trusting someone, one believes. One believes unconditionally without concerning oneself with such things as security. That is confidence. YOUTH: Believing unconditionally? So, it’s back
to your pet notion of neighbourly love? PHILOSOPHER: Of course, if one believes in others without setting any conditions whatsoever, there will be times when one gets taken advantage of. Just like the guarantor of a debt, there are times when one may suffer damages. The attitude of continuing to believe in someone even in such instances is what we call confidence.
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PHILOSOPHER: The way to understand Adlerian psychology is simple. Right now, you are thinking, If I were to have confidence in someone unconditionally, I would just get taken advantage of. However, you are not the one who decides whether or not to take advantage. That is the other person’s task. All you need to do is think, What should I do? If you are telling yourself, I’ll give it to him if he isn’t going take advantage of me, it is just a relationship of trust that is based on security or conditions.
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PHILOSOPHER: When one is sad, one should be sad to one’s heart’s content. It is precisely when one tries to escape the pain and sadness that one gets stuck and ceases to be able to build deep relationships with anyone. Think about it this way. We can believe. And we can doubt. But we are aspiring to see others as our comrades. To believe or to doubt—the choice should be clear.
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PHILOSOPHER: First, one accepts one’s irreplaceable ‘this
me’ just as it is. That is self-acceptance. Then, one places unconditional confidence in other people. That is confidence in others. You can accept yourself,
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In effect, placing confidence in others is connected to seeing others as comrades.
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And then, having other people as one’s comrades connects to finding refuge in the community one belongs to. So, one can gain the sense of belonging that ‘it’s okay to be here’.
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To take it a step farther, one may say that people who think of others as enemies have not attained self-acceptance, and do not have enough confidence in others.
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community feeling is not something that is attainable with just self-acceptance and confidence in others. It is at this point that the third key concept—contribution to others—becomes necessary.
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PHILOSOPHER: Is to act, in some way, on one’s comrades. To attempt to contribute. That is ‘contribution to others’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Contribution to others does not connote
self-sacrifice. Adler goes so far as to warn that those who sacrifice their own lives for others are people who have conformed to society too much. And please do not forget: we are truly aware of our own worth only when we feel that our existence and behaviour are beneficial to the community, that is to say, when one feels, ‘I am of use to someone.’ Do you remember this? In other words, contribution to others, rather than being about getting rid of the ‘I’ and being of service to someone, is actually something one does in order to be truly aware of the worth of the ‘I’.
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Self-acceptance: accepting one’s irreplaceable ‘this me’ just as it is. Confidence in others: to place unconditional confidence at the base of one’s interpersonal relations, rather than seeding doubt.
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YOUTH: Oh, you mean that note on the objectives put forward by Adlerian psychology? I’ve kept it on me ever since that day, of course. Here it is: ‘The two objectives for behaviour: to be self-reliant and to live in harmony with society. The two objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours: the consciousness that I have the ability and the consciousness that people are my comrades.’
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PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, we think of this as a way of living that is lacking in ‘harmony of life’. It is a way of living in which one sees only a part of things, but judges
the whole. YOUTH: Harmony of life? PHILOSOPHER: In the teachings of Judaism, one finds the following anecdote: ‘If there are ten people, one will be someone who criticises you no matter what you do. This person will come to dislike you, and you will not learn to like him either. Then, there will be two others who accept everything about you and whom you accept too, and you will become close friends with them. The remaining seven people will be neither of these types.’ Now, do you focus on the one person who dislikes you? Do you pay more attention to the two who love you? Or would you focus on the crowd, the other seven? A person who is lacking in harmony of life will see only the one person he dislikes, and will make a judgement of the world from that.
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They probably try to justify that by saying, ‘It’s busy at work, so I don’t have enough time to think about my family.’ But this is a life-lie. They are simply trying to avoid their other responsibilities by using work as an excuse. One ought to concern oneself with everything, from household chores and childrearing, to one’s friendships and hobbies and so on; Adler does not recognise ways of living in which certain aspects are unusually dominant.
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PHILOSOPHER: Does one accept oneself on the level of acts, or on the level of being? This is truly a question that relates to the courage to be happy.
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PHILOSOPHER: For a human being, the greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself. Adler came up with an extremely simple answer to address this reality. Namely, that the feeling of ‘I am beneficial to the community’ or ‘I am of use to someone’ is the only thing that can give one a true awareness that one has worth. YOUTH: Do you mean the ‘contribution to others’ you mentioned earlier? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. And this is an important point: when we speak of contribution to others, it doesn’t matter if the contribution is not a visible one. YOUTH: It doesn’t matter if the contribution is not a visible one? PHILOSOPHER: You are not the one who decides if your contributions are of use. That is the task of other people, and is not an issue in which you can intervene. In principle, there is not even any way you can know whether you have really made a contribution. That is to say, when we are engaging in this contribution to others, the contribution does not have to be a visible one—all we need is the subjective sense that ‘I am of use to someone’, or in other words, a feeling of contribution.
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PHILOSOPHER: Do you see it now? In a word, happiness is the feeling of contribution. That is the definition of happiness.
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PHILOSOPHER: But I am sure that the reason people seek recognition is clear to you now. People want to like themselves. They want to feel that they have worth. In order to feel that, they want a feeling of contribution that tells them ‘I am of use to someone’. And they seek recognition from
others as an easy means for gaining that feeling of contribution.
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If one’s means for gaining a feeling of contribution turns out to be ‘being recognised by others’, in the long run, one will have no choice but to walk through life in accordance with other people’s wishes. There is no freedom in a feeling of contribution that is gained through the desire for recognition. We are beings who choose freedom while aspiring to happiness.
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YOUTH: So, one can have happiness only if one has freedom? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Freedom as an institution may differ depending on the country, the times or the culture. But freedom in our interpersonal relations is universal.
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The philosopher’s points could be summed up as follows: people can only be truly aware of their worth when they are able to feel ‘I am of use to someone’. However, it doesn’t matter if the contribution one makes at such a time is without any visible form. It is enough to have the subjective sense of being of use to someone, that is to say, a feeling of contribution. And then, the philosopher arrives at the following conclusion: happiness is the feeling of contribution.
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PHILOSOPHER: Whether they are trying to be especially
good, or trying to be especially bad, the goal is the same: to attract the attention of other people, get out of the ‘normal’ condition and become a ‘special being’. That is their only goal.
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But the children who try to be especially bad—that is to say, the ones who engage in problem behaviour—are endeavouring to attract the attention of other people even as they continue to avoid any such healthy effort. In Adlerian psychology, this is referred to as the ‘pursuit of easy superiority’.
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‘Revenge’ and ‘pursuit of easy superiority’ are easily linked. One makes trouble for another person, while trying at the same time to be ‘special’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Why is it necessary to be special? Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. And it is precisely for this reason that when being especially good becomes a lost cause, one makes the huge leap to being specially bad—the opposite extreme. But is being normal, being ordinary, really such a bad thing? Is it something inferior? Or, in truth, isn’t everybody normal? It is necessary to think this through to its logical conclusion.
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PHILOSOPHER: Adlerian psychology has a different
standpoint. People who think of life as being like climbing a mountain are treating their own existences as lines. As if there is a line that started the instant one came into this world, and that continues in all manner of curves of varying sizes until it arrives at the summit, and then at long last reaches its terminus, which is death. This conception, which treats life as a kind of story, is an idea that links with Freudian aetiology (the attributing of causes), and is a way of thinking that makes the greater part of life into something that is ‘en route’. YOUTH: Well, what is your image of life? PHILOSOPHER: Do not treat it as a line. Think of life as a series of dots. If you look through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is actually a series of dots; in other words, life is a series of moments.
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PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It is a series of moments called ‘now’. We can live only in the here and now. Our lives exist only in moments. Adults who do not know this attempt to impose ‘linear’ lives onto young people. Their thinking is that staying on the conventional tracks—good university, big company, stable household—is a happy life. But life is not made up of lines or anything like that.
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PHILOSOPHER: Think of it this way: Life is a series of moments, which one lives as if one were dancing, right now, around and around each passing instant. And when one
happens to survey one’s surroundings, one realises, I guess I’ve made it this far. Among those who have danced the dance of the violin, there are people who stay the course and become professional musicians. Among those who have danced the dance of the bar examination, there are people who become lawyers. There are people who have danced the dance of writing, and become authors. Of course, it also happens that people end up in entirely different places. But none of these lives came to an end ‘en route’. It is enough if one finds fulfilment in the here and now one is dancing.
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PHILOSOPHER: The kind of life that you speak of, which tries to reach a destination, may be termed a ‘kinetic (dynamic) life’. By contrast, the kind of dancing life I am talking about could be called an ‘energeial (actual-active- state) life’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Imagine that you are standing on a theatre stage. If the house lights are on, you’ll probably be able to see all the way to the back of the hall. But if you’re under a bright spotlight, you won’t be able to make out even the front row. That’s exactly how it is with our lives. It’s because we cast a dim light on our entire lives that we are able to see the past and the future. Or, at least we imagine we can. But if one is shining a bright spotlight on here and now, one cannot see the past or the future anymore. YOUTH: A bright spotlight? PHILOSOPHER: Yes. We should live more earnestly only here and now. The fact that you think you can see the past, or
predict the future, is proof that rather than living earnestly here and now, you are living in a dim twilight. Life is a series of moments, and neither the past nor the future exist. You are trying to give yourself a way out by focusing on the past and the future. What happened in the past has nothing whatsoever to do with your here and now, and what the future may hold is not a matter to think about here and now. If you are living earnestly here and now, you will not be concerned with such things.
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PHILOSOPHER: Not having objectives or the like is fine. Living earnestly here and now is itself a dance. One must not get too serious. Please do not confuse being earnest with being too serious. YOUTH: Be earnest, but not too serious. PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Life is always simple, not something that one needs to get too serious about. If one is living each moment earnestly, there is no need to get too serious. And there is another thing I would like you to keep in mind. When one has adopted an energeial viewpoint, life is always complete.
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PHILOSOPHER: The greatest life-lie of all is to not live here and now. It is to look at the past and the future, cast a dim light on one’s entire life, and believe that one has been able to see something. Until now, you have turned away from the here and now, and only shone a light on invented pasts and futures. You have told a great lie to your life, to these irreplaceable moments.
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PHILOSOPHER: What is the meaning of life? What are people living for? When someone posed these questions to Adler, this was his answer: ‘Life in general has no meaning.’
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PHILOSOPHER: And Adler, having stated that ‘life in general has no meaning’, then continues, ‘Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.’
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PHILOSOPHER: You are lost in your life. Why are you lost? You are lost because you are trying to choose freedom; that is to say, a path on which you are not afraid of being disliked by others and you are not living others’ lives—a path that is yours alone.
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PHILOSOPHER: When one attempts to choose freedom, it is only natural that one may lose one’s way. At this juncture, Adlerian psychology holds up a ‘guiding star’ as a grand compass pointing to a life of freedom.
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PHILOSOPHER: Just like the traveller who relies on the North Star, in our lives we need a guiding star. That is the Adlerian psychology way of thinking. It is an expansive ideal that says, as long as we do not lose sight of this compass and keep on moving in this direction, there is happiness.
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YOUTH: Where is that star? PHILOSOPHER: It is contribution to others.
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PHILOSOPHER: It is that the power of one person is great, or, rather, ‘my power is immeasurably great’.
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PHILOSOPHER: Well, in other words, if ‘I’ change, the world will change. This means that the world can be changed only by me and no one else will change it for me. The world that has appeared to me since learning of Adlerian psychology is not the world I once knew.
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YOUTH: Then, tell me: What is the difference between the philosophy of Adler and religion?
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Unlike science, which limits itself to objective fact-finding, philosophy and religion also deal with human ideas of ‘truth’, ‘good’ and ‘beauty’. This is an extremely important point.
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PHILOSOPHER: No. The most important point of difference is the presence or absence of ‘story’. Religion explains the world by means of stories. You could say that gods are the protagonists of the grand stories that religions use to explain the world. By contrast, philosophy rejects stories. It tries to
explain the world by means of abstract concepts that have no protagonists.
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YOUTH: Philosophy rejects stories? PHILOSOPHER: Or, think of it this way: in our search for truth, we are walking on a long pole that extends into the darkness. Doubting our common sense and engaging in continual self-questioning, we just continue to walk on that pole without any idea of how far it may go. And then, from out of the darkness one hears a voice inside saying, ‘Nothing further lies ahead. Here is truth.’ YOUTH: Huh . . . PHILOSOPHER: So, some people stop listening to their internal voice and stop walking. They jump down from the pole. Do they find truth there? I don’t know. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But stopping in one’s steps and jumping off the pole midway is what I call religion. With philosophy, one keeps walking without end. It doesn’t matter if gods are there or not.
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PHILOSOPHER: In the original Greek, philosophia has the meaning ‘love of wisdom’. In other words, philosophy is the ‘study of the love of wisdom’, and philosophers are ‘lovers of wisdom’. Conversely, one could say that if a person were to become a complete ‘wise man’ who knows all there is to know, that person would no longer be a lover of wisdom (philosopher). In the words of Kant, the giant of modern philosophy, ‘We cannot learn philosophy. We can only learn to philosophise.’
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PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Philosophy is more of a living attitude than a field of study. Religion may convey all under the name of god. It may convey an all-knowing, almighty god and the teachings handed down by that god. This is a way of thinking that conflicts fundamentally with philosophy. And with someone who purports to know everything, or someone who has stopped in their path of knowing and thinking, regardless of their belief in the existence or nonexistence of god, or even the presence or absence of their faith, they are venturing into religion. That is my view on the matter.
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The instant we feel that we know about a subject, we want to seek beyond it. I will always think about myself, other people and the world. Therefore, I will ‘not know’ without end.