This book shows you how to change your life and achieve real happiness.
Let’s go into details!
How to change your life?
You can change any time. You just choose not to.
If you think that your past determines your present, you end up with determinism; your future has already been decided by your past. In "Adlerian psychology", we don’t think about past causes, but rather about present goals. Your past doesn’t determine your present, but rather it is the meaning that you attribute to your past.
You are unable to change only because you are making the decision not to. You probably think it’s easier to leave things as they are. If you stay like this, you can respond to events as they occur, and you can guess the results. It’s like driving your old but familiar car. It might rattle a bit, but you can take that into account and maneuver easily. But if you choose a new lifestyle, no one can predict what might happen to your new self or have any idea how to deal with events as they arise. It will be hard to see ahead to the future, and your life might be painful and filled with anxiety. So you choose not to change.
You are choosing not to fulfill your dreams. You don’t commit to anything because you want to leave the possibility open of "I can do it if I can try." You don’t want to expose your work to criticism and you don’t want to produce inferior work and face rejection.
Courage is the solution.
You fabricate emotions.
The waiter spilled coffee on your jacket, so you yelled at him. If you really can’t control your emotions and anger, would stabbing him by a knife be ok? What really happened is that you fabricated anger and shouted to make him submit to you.
You might be familiar with this: A mother is angrily yelling at her daughter. The phone rings, so she picks it up and changes her tone and becomes very polite, then when she hangs up, she goes back to yelling again! We fabricate emotions to reach our goals.
A student complains that she has a fear of blushing. She turns red whenever she’s in public. She has feelings for someone, but can’t confess because she has this fear. In reality: she fears rejection, so she fabricated that fear of blushing as an excuse to not confess her feelings. She can live in the possibility that "If only I didn’t have that fear of blushing, I could’ve."
The solution: Accept yourself now, and regardless of the outcome, have the courage to step forward.
You use trauma is an excuse.
We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to past experiences. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences. We instead make out of them whatever suits our purposes.
Usual way: John was traumatized as a child, so he shut himself in and doesn’t go outside.
Adlerian way: John has the goal of not going out, so he’s manufacturing a state of anxiety and fear to achieve that goal. He thinks to himself: “If I stay in my room all the time, my parents will be worried about me. I’ll get all of their attention.”
You use feelings of inferiority as an excuse.
Feelings of inferiority are subjective interpretations rather than objective facts. You can see being shorter than average as inferior, or as superior for not being intimidating and getting other people to relax.
There is one good thing about subjectivity: It allows you to make your own choice. View anything as an advantage or disadvantage. We cannot alter objective facts, but we can alter interpretations as much as you like.
People enter the world as helpless beings, and they have a universal desire to escape from that helpless state. This is called the pursuit of superiority. Feelings of inferiority, if not used in a wrong way, can be a good stimulant for growth.
However, there are people who lose the courage to take steps forward, and cannot accept the fact that the situation can be changed by making realistic efforts, and before doing anything, they simply give up and say "I’m not good enough anyway" or "even if I tried, I wouldn’t stand a chance." This is called an inferiority complex. Using feelings of inferiority as an excuse for not doing. Thinking: "I’m not well educated, so I can’t succeed" or "I’m not good looking, so I can’t get in a relationship."
There are also people who have a superiority complex. They act as if they’re superior and indulge in a fabricated feeling of superiority. Boast about past achievements and recount memories. Sometimes, inferiority & superiority complexes are combined, which leads to bragging about one’s misfortunes. They make themselves “special” by the way of their experience of misfortune. As long as one uses misfortune to be “special,” they’ll always need that misfortune.
How to achieve real happiness?
Adlerian psychology is a psychology of changing oneself, not a psychology for changing others. Instead of waiting for others to change, you take the first step forward yourself.
Life is not a competition.
The pursuit of superiority is the mindset of taking a single step forward on you own feet. Not the mindset of competition to aim to be greater than other people. A healthy feeling of inferiority doesn’t come from comparing oneself to others; but from one’s comparison with their ideal self.
The reason many people aren’t happy while they’re building up their success in the eyes of society is that they’re living in competition. If you think of interpersonal relationships as competition, you percieve other people’s hapiness as “my defeat,” and you can’t celebrate it. When you’re able to feel “people are my comrades,” your way of looking at the world will change.
Deny the desire for recognition.
Wishing so hard to be recognized will lead to a life of following expectations held by other people who want you to be “this kind of person.” You throw away who you really are and live other people’s lives. Therefore, you should deny your desire for recognition. You’re not living to satisfy other people’s expectations, and other people aren’t living to satisfy your expectations.
The cost of freedom in relationships is that one can be disliked by other people. It is proof that you are free, and a sign that you’re living in accordance with your own principles.
Unless you’re unconcerned by other people’s judgments and have no fear of being disliked by other people, and pay the cost that you might never be recognized, you will never follow through in you own way of living. You won’t ever be free.
There may be a person who doesn’t think well of you, but that’s not your task.
All you can do with regard to your own life is to choose the best path that you believe in. How do people judge that? That’s the task of other people, and it’s not a matter you can do anything about.
Discard other people’s tasks.
We need to think with the perspective of “whose task is this?” and separate our own tasks from other people’s tasks. This is called separation of tasks. You should not worry about or intrude on other people’s tasks. For example, studying at school is the child’s task, not the parent. The task owner is the one will ultimately recieve the result brought about by the choice. Parents use the phrase “it’s for your own good,” when in reality they’re doing so in order to fulfill their own goals, like their appearance in the eyes of society and their desire for control. Parents should be interested in knowing what the child is doing, and letting the child know that they’re ready to assist in studying. But they shouldn’t intrude on the child’s task.
Discarding other people’s tasks is the first step toward lighteneing the load and making life simpler.
You hold the cards of your interpersonal relationships.
Many people think that relationship cards are held by the other person. That’s why they wonder "How does that person feel about me?" And end up living in a way that satisfies the wishes of other people. If you’re tied to the desire for recognition, all the cards will stay in the hands of other people. If you can grasp the separation of tasks, you will notice that you hold all the cards.
Build horizontal relationships: Don’t condemn or praise.
When you praise, you’re unconsciously creating a hierarchical relationship and seeing the other person as beneath you. As if you’re passing a judgment from one person of ability to another person of no ability. You can convey words of gratitude instead. Saying thank you to this partner who has helped you with your work. “This was a big help”. If recieving praise is what you’re after, you’ll have no choice but to adapt to that person’s yardstick and put your breaks on your own freedom. “Thank you,” on the other hand, is a clear expression of gratitude.
How to get a feeling of community?
The goal of interpersonal relationships is a feeling of community. This sense of others as comrades. To get that feeling, you should make the switch from self-interest to concern for others. People who are obsessed with desire for recognition will seem to be looking at other people, while they’re actually looking only at themselves. They want to be thought well of by others, and that’s why they worry about the way they look at them. That’s nothing but self-centered. They always think in terms of "What will this person give me?" This expectation isn’t going to be satisfied on every occassion, so they consequently feel resentful and think "That person let me down. That person isn’t my comrade anymore." Self-centered people always end up losing their comrades.
You can get a feeling of community by making an active commitment to the community. Take steps forward and don’t avoid the tasks of work, friendship and love relationships. Don’t think in terms of "What will this person give me?" But rather, "What can I give to this person?"
When one can feel “I am beneficial to the community,” then you can have a true sense of one’s worth. The feeling that I am of use to someone.
“Happiness is the feeling of contribution.”
Also don’t limit yourself to one community. If you think of schools as everything to you, you’ll end up without a sense of belonging to anything. There is a larger world that extends far beyond any community. And everyone of us is a member of that world. Living in fear of one’s relationships falling apart is an unfree way to live. Do not cling to the small community right in front of you. There will be always more and larger communities that exist.
Three things are needed: self-acceptance, confidence in others, contribution to others.
- Self acceptance: The goal is accept yourself 60 percent, and think "How should I go about getting closer to 100 percent?" You cannot change what you’re born with, but what you do with this equipment is your own power. Focus on what you can change.
- Confidence in others: When you switch from attachment to self to concern for others, Confidence in others becomes absolutely essential. If you don’t have objective grounds for trusting someone, you should believe without concerning yourself with things such as security. Unconditional confidence is the foundation of any deep relationship.
- Contribution to others: The most easily understood contribution to others is work. It is through labor that one makes contribution to others and commit to one’s community. One can feel “I am of use to someone,” and come to accept one’s existential worth. This helps in self-acceptance again, and you can see that it is a circular loop.
The courage to be normal.
Whether they are trying to be especially good or especially bad, the goal is the same: to attract the attention of other people. Get out the “normal” condition and become a “special being.” Why is it necessary to be special? Probably because one cannot accept one’s normal self. If life is climbing a mountain in order to reach the top, then all your life would end up being “en route.” Suppose you didn’t make it to the mountaintop, what would that mean for your life? People who think this way are treating their existence as a line. Instead you should think of life a series of dots. A series of moments called “now.” We live only in the here and now. Live life as if you are dancing. Among those who danced this dance of violin, there are people who became professional musicians. Among people who danced the dance of writing, some became authors. And some people ended up in entirely different places. But none of these lives came to an end “en route” It is enough if you find fulfillment in the here and now one is dancing. Dancing itself is the goal, you shouldn’t be concerned with arriving somewhere by doing it. You can arrive somewhere as a result of dancing, but there is no particular destination. The goal of mountain-climbing is the climbing itself, not getting at the top.
Life is a series of moments, and neither the past nor the future exists. Live in the here and now. Don’t concern yourself with the past or the future.