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There is no Freedom in seeking Kudos

Staff Blogger, Brendan Flanagan

I am currently fascinated by this book called The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. It is not a spiritual book but is based on the psychology of Alfred Adler. Adlerian Psychology is a goal-based theory that focuses on developing student social intelligence, allowing them to grow by developing their individual skill set through identifying how people act/react, given different relationship contexts.

Systems of competition and comparison create unhappiness. When we look to others for any kind of approval of validation, we can destroy ourselves. Let us work being content with who we are through being the very best version of themselves.

Authors take you on a philosophical journey whereby a student interacts with a philosopher, developing an understanding of what living a life with freedom looks like through the lens of having the courage to be disliked.
‘What others think of me is their business – not mine’. The challenge is to accept and embrace who you are without the strong hold of allowing someone to ‘live rent free in your head’.

The aim of this blog is not a book review, and certainly not to propose that I am an expert in psychology – far from it. Rather, it is to share some insights I have gained from this book regarding developing relationships and the nature of conflict that exists through interpersonal connections.

Individual Psychology

The moment we as individuals look for recognition or seek praise for our work, we are then on a continual search for something that others may never be willing to give – or do not have the capacity to show. This is the ‘hamster on the wheel’ effect. We can never be truly satisfied with our own sense of self if we consistently seek the approval of others.

In the school yard, classrooms and the community, our interpersonal relationships are established through every interaction we have with one another. Whether these relationships become negative or positive, is greatly determined by the emotional regulation and security of each individual. When bullies target other people, we will often find that their ability to self-regulate is very low and there will be something about the victim that challenges the bully’s insecurity – therefore amplifying an inferiority of self. This will cause conflict for the bully and due to the inability to self-regulate, will act out in a physical or verbal manner. He is the hamster on the wheel in search for approval from friends and community (and largely a dissatisfaction with self) – a cycle that is difficult to break.

This is also similar with our friendships or positive relationships. Adlerian Psychology encourages the balancing of keeping distance with both friendships and conflicts. Friendships will be tested when two people become too close or too distant and then conflicts may occur. Where boys search for their ‘best friend’, the two individuals must have similar mindsets or one may be in search for something that may never happen (therefore disappointment) and the other may become disengaged or frustrated from being suffocated. Being comfortable ‘in our own skin’ and recognising that seeking closer relationships that are not necessarily compatible, causes conflict and often resentment. The outcome here is the emotions produced hijack the brain and divert our thinking away from reason or reality.

Separation of Tasks – Emotions verses Reason

Often boys will meet with teachers following an awkward, difficult, or even aggressive incident and will need time to calm down before getting to the bottom of the concern. This is generally because this is their way to regulate their emotions to enable them to communicate effectively in a measured way. It is at this point that I would have them realise that their emotions are heightened at present, that they need to sit in this discomfort, but know that it will pass. We all have days that do not go as planned – this does not have to prevent us from compartmentalising our emotion from the incident and the person/s involved, and refocusing to our own personal values and behaviours that are important to one’s self. This is an example of a ‘separation of tasks’. If we can manage to refrain from intruding on other peoples’ task, then we can manage and avoid conflict.

An example of this is teaching and learning within the classroom environment. The role of the teacher is to teach, and learning is that of the student. The separation of tasks in this situation – if both teacher and student was responsible for the ‘I’ or ‘me’ (i.e. they separated and completed their individual tasks), the room for conflict diminishes. Given, that not all teaching styles appeal to every student (and not all students conduct themselves appropriately to learn effectively) – the task of the teacher, however, is still to deliver the content in a relatable pedagogical manner. In this light, the task of the student is to recognise that they are to learn the content to their potential. If both individuals do not encroach on the tasks of the other, conflict can often be removed. This may not always be the case as teachers are genetically hardwired to want the best for their students and tend to go above and beyond, thereby offering support, but in turn, encroaching on the student’s task. Schools and parents would ultimately like for their students to be intrinsically motivated.

To promote more positive outcomes for our boys:

1. It is important to identify the emotion that is driving our behaviour and words. It is a skill to sit in the discomfort of this emotion, with the realisation that it will pass – when we can manage to separate the emotion from reason and reality;
2. It is important to guide our boys to know that interpersonal relationships create the greatest conflict and happiness and our own thoughts and behaviours are within their control;
3. It is important to for boys to understand that people act out toward others due to their feelings of inferiority. By worrying about how others perceive them will be to the detriment of their mental health and wellbeing;
4. It is important for boys to live their own life – no one can live it for them. By disregarding the need to be liked it will release the strong hold of pleasing others and therefore offer more freedom to their lives.

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