When you treat a person's life as a vast narrative, there is an easily understandable causality and sense of dramatic development that creates strong impressions and is extremely attractive. 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."
Now we come to the important part. When you are able to truly feel that “people are my comrades," your way of looking at the world will change utterly. No longer will you think of the world as a perilous place, or be plagued by needless doubts; the world will appear before you as a safe and pleasant place. And your interpersonal relationship problems will decrease dramatically.
PHILOSOPHER: In the teachings of Judaism, one finds the following anecdote: "If there are ten people, one will be someone who criticizes 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 judgment of the world from that.
That reminds me of a line that the writer Kurt Vonnegut quoted in one of his books: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” It's in the novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
PHILOSOPHER: Being praised essentially means that one is receiving judgment 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 judgment, is a clear expression of gratitude. When one hears words of gratitude, one knows that one has made a contribution to another person.
PHILOSOPHER: In short, that "freedom is being disliked by other people.”
YOUTH: Huh? What was that?
PHILOSOPHER: 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.
If you are leading a life of worry and suffering—which stems from interpersonal relationships, 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.
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.” In other words, you throw away who you really are and live other people's lives. 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.
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.
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: When one is conscious of competition and victory and defeat, it is inevitable that feelings of inferiority will arise. Because one is constantly comparing oneself to others and thinking, I beat that person or I lost to that person. The inferiority complex and the superiority complex are extensions of that. Now, what kind of being do you think the other person is to you, at that point?
YOUTH: I don't know-a rival, I guess?
PHILOSOPHER: No, not a mere rival. Before you know it, you start to see each and every person, everyone in the whole world, as your enemy.
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.
Rather, as 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.
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.
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.