The Courage to Be Disliked (2018) takes a look at the psychology of Alfred Adler, the famous twentieth-century Austrian psychologist. Adler argued that we should care less about what other people think and the authors show how Adler’s philosophy can continue to benefit us today.
If you heard that a recluse lived in the building across the street and spent the whole time shut off from the world in his apartment, you’d no doubt come to some pretty hasty conclusions.
You might well assume not just that the individual had been traumatized, but that the experience had shaped the person’s life; they might well remain in that state forever.
Such assumptions are born from the fact that we tend to believe as a matter of course that past experience heavily impacts upon future behavior.
We make such suppositions based upon the popular conception of human psychology. We imagine that it’s all rooted in trauma.
The classic example would be the bullied child who transfers trauma from home or the schoolyard to social situations she might face as an adult. It works the other way too: we tend to imagine that a spoilt child will be ill-equipped to deal with the realities of the grown-up world.
That’s all to say that, to the vast majority of us, psychological problems appear to have some root cause in the past.
In reality, of course, this type of deterministic thinking is for the birds. We’re actually free to do whatever we want. This was the view of twentieth-century Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler: we don’t have to be defined by trauma.
After all, children who have suffered abuse have not all become social outcasts as adults. This suggests that there must be another explanation.
The recluse who’s locked himself away may have chosen to do so because he doesn't want to leave. He might have just developed the anxiety as an excuse to stay indoors.
In other words, the condition is not fixed. Reasons for action can be changed and the freedom to transform is always available.