The Courage to be Disliked

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Alfred Adler

When we talk about therapy and psychology, two names stand out: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. They are often referred to as the Fathers of Psychotherapy. However, there is a third psychologist that most people don’t tend to recognize. His name is Alfred Adler. He is known as one of the three “unknown” giants of psychology.

The Courage to be Disliked is basically a book that revolves around the ideas and concepts of Adler. In the book, we have a dialogue going on between a philosopher and a youth, where the youth asks all the questions and the philosopher helps him understand about his self. In the process, we get to understand what Adler’s theories are, and towards the end, the youth’s ideas have changed about himself and are able to find that courage to be his true authentic self, at the cost of being disliked by others.


One of the major ideas that Adler purports is that steps away from Freud’s theory is that our past determines our present. Freud was a big believer in deciphering and understanding our past in order to work on our future, otherwise known as “determinism.” Adler, on the other hand, believed that our past doesn’t determine our present, but what matters is how we understand our past, and it all depends on our attitude towards our past.


“People can change at any time, regardless of the environments they are in. You are only unable to change because you are making a decision not to.” (page 33). In other words, our actions, attitude and understanding of our past can help us change in the future. This gives you the freedom to break away from the past and from falling into the trap that you can’t change your present because of how the past has damaged you. In short, you must deny the trauma.

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The Book

The book is split into five parts, or as the chapters are titled, five “nights.”

Night one: Deny Trauma

NIght Two: All problems are interpersonal relationship problems

Night three: Discard other people’s ideas

Night four: Where the center of the world is

Night five: To live in earnest in the here and now

The great thing about the book is that all the ideas are presented in such a way that an expert on Adler and a layman can understand the concepts really well. I mean, I used this book for my academic research paper on Adler. There is enough material in this book to help the readers understand the concepts of Adler, and at the same time, just like the youth in the book, attempt to apply some of these concepts into our own lives. As Adler says, “whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual.” (page 260).

There is a huge sense of freedom achieved if we look at our lives through the lens of Adlerian psychology. It’s a difficult concept to apply to our lives because in a way, it’s asking us to search deep within, breaking away from the past, and living in the here and now. In other words, find and sustain that courage to be the real, authentic you, and in the process be prepared to be disliked by others as you evolve and grow to be the real you!

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