I actively did not like this book.
I was expecting the book to be a Japanese flavor of Stoicism, told in an interesting way.
Instead, it is an Adlerian philosophy lesson wrapped up in a conversation. The conversation part isn't the part that annoys me, so much as the Adler philosophy.
1. You act or feel a certain way because you chose to and you use your past or other circumstances to justify the behavior.
2. All problems are interpersonal relationship problems
3. All relationships should be horizontal, treat everyone as equals.
The second rule manifests itself in the Stoic philosophy of control, mostly that just about everything except how you react is outside of your control. Adler says don't take on other people's "life tasks." You can’t control what other people think of you, so why worry about it? This is pretty much the only part I agreed with.
The first rule is the one that completely annoyed me. it puts the blame on the individual for systemic prejudices against her, and says it's her fault for feeling angry or frustrated or annoyed or mad. Hey, are you upset that you're told no you can't go to a conference, but your male coworker can go, that's your problem you feel angry at that unfairness. Hey, are you mad that you and two other women were all "laid-off" because of "budget concerns" because you thought Cowboy was irresponsible and called him on it, well that's your problem you've been fired, not the boys club we had here at work, you didn't bow down fast enough.
I am pretty sure that anyone who says Adler's philosophy is great is at the top of his (yes, male gendered noun on purpose) power landscape.
Did not like this book. Do not like Adler's philosophy, mock anyone who you see reading this book.
PHILOSOPHER: There is no change in what I say. The world is simple and life is simple, too.
YOUTH: How? Anyone can see that it’s a chaotic mass of contradictions.
PHILOSOPHER: That is not because the world is complicated. It’s because you are making the world complicated.
PHILOSOPHER: 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.
There is no escape from your own subjectivity. At present, the world seems complicated and mysterious to you, but if you change, the world will appear more simple. The issue is not about how the world is, but about how you are.
It’s as if you see the world through dark glasses, so naturally everything seems dark. But if that is the case, instead of lamenting about the world’s darkness, you could just remove the glasses. Perhaps the world will appear terribly bright to you then and you will involuntarily shut your eyes. Maybe you’ll want the glasses back on, but can you even take them off in the first place?
But why does everyone feel they want to change? There’s only one answer: because they cannot change. If it were easy for people to change, they wouldn’t spend so much time wishing they could.
He is not pretending to be sick. The anxiety and fear your friend is feeling are real. On occasion, he might also suffer from migraines and violent stomach cramps. However, these too are symptoms that he has created in order to achieve the goal of not going out.
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.”
So, Stoicism. Gotcha
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.
Every criminal has an internal justification for getting involved in crime. A dispute over money leads someone to engage in murder, for instance. To the perpetrator, it is something for which there is a justification and which can be restated as an accomplishment of “good.” Of course, this is not good in a moral sense, but good in the sense of being “of benefit to oneself.”
The Greek word for “good” (agathon) does not have a moral meaning. It just means “beneficial.” Conversely, the word for “evil” (kakon) means “not beneficial.” Our world is rife with injustices and misdeeds of all kinds, yet there is not one person who desires evil in the purest sense of the word, that is to say something “not beneficial.”
PHILOSOPHER: People are constantly selecting their lifestyles. Right now, while we are having this tête-à-tête, we are selecting ours. You describe yourself as an unhappy person. You say that you want to change right this minute. You even claim that you want to be reborn as a different person. After all that, then why are you still unable to change? It is because you are making the persistent decision not to change your lifestyle.
What you should do now is make a decision to stop your current lifestyle. For instance, earlier you said, “If only I could be someone like Y, I’d be happy.” As long as you live that way, in the realm of the possibility of “If only such and such were the case,” you will never be able to change. Because saying “If only I could be like Y” is an excuse to yourself for not changing.
He wants to live inside that realm of possibilities, where he can say that he could do it if he only had the time, or that he could write if he just had the proper environment, and that he really does have the talent for it.
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.
PHILOSOPHER: Her story certainly isn’t unusual. Students preparing for their exams think, If I pass, life will be rosy. Company workers think, If I get transferred, everything will go well. But even when those wishes are fulfilled, in many cases nothing about their situations changes at all. YOUTH: Indeed.
Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships.
But don’t forget, it’s basically impossible to not get hurt in your relations with other people. When you enter into interpersonal relationships, it is inevitable that to a greater or lesser extent you will get hurt, and you will hurt someone, too.
YOUTH: In other words, the feelings of inferiority we’re suffering from are subjective interpretations rather than objective facts?
PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. We cannot alter objective facts. But subjective interpretations can be altered as much as one likes. And we are inhabitants of a subjective world.
PHILOSOPHER: This is the other aspect of the inferiority complex. Those who manifest their inferiority complexes in words or attitudes, who say that “A is the situation, so B cannot be done,” are implying that if only it were not for A, they’d be capable and have value.
As Adler points out, no one is capable of putting up with having feelings of inferiority for a long period of time. Feelings of inferiority are something that everyone has, but staying in that condition is too heavy to endure forever.
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
PHILOSOPHER: A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to others; it comes from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.
YOUTH: Does that mean you dropped out of competition? That you somehow accepted defeat? PHILOSOPHER: No. I withdrew from places that are preoccupied with winning and losing. When one is trying to be oneself, competition will inevitably get in the way.
PHILOSOPHER: This is what is so terrifying about competition. Even if you’re not a loser, even if you’re someone who keeps on winning, if you are someone who has placed himself in competition, you will never have a moment’s peace. You don’t want to be a loser. And you always have to keep on winning if you don’t want to be a loser. You can’t trust other people. The reason so many people don’t really feel happy while they’re building up their success in the eyes of society is that they are living in competition. Because to them, the world is a perilous place that is overflowing with enemies.
PHILOSOPHER: Certainly, there are times when I feel indignation with regard to social problems. But I would say that rather than a sudden burst of emotion, it is indignation based on logic. There is a difference between personal anger (personal grudge) and indignation with regard to society’s contradictions and injustices (righteous indignation). Personal anger soon cools. Righteous indignation, on the other hand, lasts for a long time. Anger as an expression of a personal grudge is nothing but a tool for making others submit to you.
PHILOSOPHER: If someone were to abuse me to my face, I would think about the person’s hidden goal. Even if you are not directly abusive, when you feel genuinely angry due to another person’s words or behavior, please consider that the person is challenging you to a power struggle.
PHILOSOPHER: The first thing that I want you to understand here is the fact that anger is a form of communication, and that communication is nevertheless possible without using anger. We can convey our thoughts and intentions and be accepted without any need for anger.
PHILOSOPHER: The moment one is convinced that “I am right” in an interpersonal relationship, one has already stepped into a power struggle.
PHILOSOPHER: In the first place, the rightness of one’s assertions has nothing to do with winning or losing. If you think you are right, regardless of what other people’s opinions might be, the matter should be closed then and there. However, many people will rush into a power struggle and try to make others submit to them. And that is why they think of “admitting a mistake” as “admitting defeat.”
PHILOSOPHER: Because of one’s mind-set of not wanting to lose, one is unable to admit one’s mistake, the result being that one ends up choosing the wrong path. Admitting mistakes, conveying words of apology, and stepping down from power struggles—none of these things is defeat. The pursuit of superiority is not something that is carried out through competition with other people.
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.
The kind of relationship that feels somehow oppressive and strained when the two people are together cannot be called love, even if there is passion.
As Adler says, “Children who have not been taught to confront challenges will try to avoid all challenges.”
PHILOSOPHER: Maybe it is easier to live in such a way as to satisfy other people’s expectations. Because one is entrusting one’s own life to them. For example, one runs along the tracks that one’s parents have laid out. Even if there are a lot of things one might object to, one will not lose one’s way as long as one stays on those rails. But if one is deciding one’s path oneself, it’s only natural that one will get lost at times. One comes up against the wall of “how one should live.”
And, in that case, one has no choice but to discipline oneself on the basis that other people are watching. To aspire to be recognized by others and live an honest life. Other people’s eyes are my guide. PHILOSOPHER: Does one choose recognition from others, or does one choose a path of freedom without recognition? It’s an important question—let’s think about it together. To live one’s life trying to gauge other people’s feelings and being worried about how they look at you. To live in such a way that others’ wishes are granted. There may indeed be signposts to guide you this way, but it is a very unfree way to live.
Unless one is unconcerned by other people’s judgments, has no fear of being disliked by other people, and pays the cost that one might never be recognized, 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
The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked.
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.
Do not cling to the small community right in front of you. There will always be more “you and I,” and more “everyone,” and larger communities that exist.
One wishes to be praised by someone. Or conversely, one decides to give praise to someone. This is proof that one is seeing all interpersonal relationships as “vertical relationships.”
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 judgment that is passed by a person of ability onto a person without ability.
When receiving praise becomes one’s goal, one is choosing a way of living that is in line with another person’s system of values.
It is about having concern for others, building horizontal relationships, and taking the approach of encouragement.
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.
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. YOUTH: A series of moments? 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.
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.”