The Courage To Be Disliked & The Courage To Be Happy
Over the last couple of weeks I read the books The Courage To Be Disliked and The Courage To Be Happy, by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Broadly speaking, they were very good – I don’t agree with everything in them, but they form a pretty good overview of Adlerian psychology, which is basically all about learning to be self-reliant and build horizontal relationships with people based on mutual respect, rather than vertical relationships based on power. This week I thought I’d share one of its central ideas which I think will stay with me for a good long time.
At one point, Kishimi and Koga boil down the basic mission of the human being to working hard to believe in two statements. Essentially, they suggest that if you can master those two ideas, you’ll be able to deal with the majority of the misery or difficulty or stress that life might throw at you. The two statements are:
I’ve been turning this over and over in my head since then to try and work out if it really is as simple as it looks, and I actually think it might be, which, as an anxious, introspective, over-thinking sort, is quite a radical idea. I think it’s just possible that every single thing I’ve ever found difficult, or frustrating, or anxiety-inducing in my life might have been connected to one of these two things. It’s either because I’ve struggled to believe that I am capable of whatever it is that’s causing me difficulty, which has led to spiralling thoughts of self-doubt or self-pity or anxiety that I won’t be able to do something; or I’ve given in to the temptation to view other people as competitors rather than allies, which leads to spiralling thoughts of resentment, or frustration, or envy, or just petty annoyance. (This latter one is another way of thinking about the “pie-eaters vs gardeners” theory, which I’ve written about here before). I struggle to think of a difficult situation in my life that couldn’t have been solved by my reorienting myself whole-heartedly around one of these two statements and reminding myself that either I am a capable person who can achieve the things I set my mind to, or that other people are not out to defeat or frustrate me in any way, and that everyone is basically doing their best and on the same side.
Of course, internalising those two ideas is easier said than done, and I’m sure we’re all primed to slip up with them again and again throughout our lives, but I’d never read that idea so simply expressed before, so it’s something I’ll bear in mind in future. Next time I’m finding something difficult, be it a relationship with another person or a challenge I myself am trying to overcome, I’ll remind myself which of these two statements I need to orient myself around, and see if the problem suddenly becomes clearer.
Another idea this reminds me of is something my therapist once said to me:
“Life is an upward spiral, like a staircase. The model is a spiral, because you will always loop around and repeat yourself. You will make the same mistakes and encounter the same problems again and again. They will be the mistakes that you are primed to make, because of who you are and what your past is. But the reason it’s a staircase and not just a circle is because you ascend on each go round, so you don’t just repeat – each time you encounter the problem again, you’ll have the memory of encountering it before. And you’ll be able to do things differently, because of what you learned last time. The things you find difficult will always be the same things, but your ability to deal with them will increase every time.”
I think about this a lot, and it brings me a lot of comfort. I might now compound it with Kishimi and Koga’s idea, so that on the next go round, when I encounter the latest iteration of the problems I regularly run into, I can ask myself – “What is the problem associated with this time? Is it to do with me not believing I’m capable, or not viewing other people as allies?” And if I can answer that, and remind myself of those two principles, then maybe my ability to keep getting better on each go round will increase too.
The Edinburgh Fringe – Are You Going?
This week’s newsletter is a two-part one, specifically because this second point isn’t one I want to give too much time or oxygen to. I found the Fringe so exhausting last year that I’ve deliberately chosen to have at least one year without it to find out what I can achieve when that festival isn’t absorbing the lion’s share of my time and energy. So I’m reluctant to get sucked into protracted conversations about the future of the Fringe in this, my Year Of Doing Other Things (YODOT). But I can’t deny the major role it’s played in my life, and the significance it has for me, so I can’t help but have some curiosity about what’s going on with it this year. In the last couple of weeks there have been a lot of alarm bells sounding regarding the increase (yet again!) in accommodation prices for the festival. Idly curious, I did a quick search on Booking.com to see what people were talking about, and was horrified. I found a few 4-bed flats quoting £22,000 to £28,000 for the month, with most of what I found sitting between £12,000 and £18,000. I did find one or two quoting £8,000-10,000, but later realised these were two-bed flats claiming you could sleep 4 in them by sharing beds, meaning one individual would be paying £2000+ for half a bedroom for a month.
It really makes me sad how resigned I feel to the inevitable death (or at least downsizing) of that festival. It mattered so much to me for such a long time that I feel like I should be more alarmed or upset, or more desperate to come up with solutions (props to Fringe veterans like Mark Watson who are actively involving themselves in the fight to save it). Instead I read those figures and shook my head and just sort of thought “Well this has to end.” The only way I can see those numbers coming down again is if the Fringe itself bursts, and shrinks again. If demand goes down, the numbers go down. The only way demand goes down is if people wean themselves off it, and become less creatively reliant on the Fringe model. A lot of artists I know aren’t going this year because they can’t afford it. Those that are have confessed that they know someone in Edinburgh they can stay with for free or for mates’ rates, and that that’s how they’ll circumvent the accommodation crisis, but the problem feels bigger and more existential than that to me – with prices like this, will there be an audience? Will people be willing to spend hundreds for two nights in the city? If the visiting audiences drop off significantly, then of course playing to local audiences is lovely, but the local audience isn’t big enough to sustain thousands of shows for a full month. The visiting audience numbers in the millions.
I look at these numbers and think about everything I know about the concept of growth and can only see a future where everyone at the Fringe ends up losing money. First artists will lose money, and will stop going. Then venues will lose money. Eventually landlords will lose money, and sadly it’s not until then that anything can improve. If they see their profits disappearing they’ll drop their prices, and maybe then artists and audiences can start to sneak back to the Fringe and rebuild it as a creative hub, not as a commercial venture that’s grown too big to sustain itself. Those landlords will be the last people to be affected by it, and the only people who can actually fix it. I can’t think of any other way it can go. It feels like a “Genie’s out of the bottle” situation.
So I’m curious – are any readers going to the Fringe this year? Is there anyone who usually goes but has decided not to because of prices? Are there readers who feel differently, and think there are other ways of making the Fringe work despite the financial pressures around it? (I’d like to believe there are, I just can’t think of them!) I’d love to get a bit of a gauge on how people are feeling about it this year. Last year felt like the year where we needed to go back there to prove that we can all still do it, and that that festival still has creative value to the world. This year feels like it’ll be much more make-or-break, and as if the fate of the whole thing is in the balance. Tired old man that I am, I’m sitting this one out because I don’t have the gas in the tank to be up there trying to make stuff in such a fraught year, where I’m sure the commercial pressures will be more keenly felt than ever. But will any readers be up there fighting the fight? Please let me know if so! I’ll be rooting for you.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Leicester Comedy Festival is kicking off, and loads of legends are doing shows there! As usual, the final weekend will feature shows from the assorted oddballs of Weirdos, including Adam Larter, Ali Brice, Ben Target, Eleanor Morton, Charlie Vero-Martin, Michael Brunstrom and more! (I’m not doing it this year because at the time of registration I had no plans to make a new show this year. I’ve ended up making one anyway, but oh well). Have a look at the programme here.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – I think it might be Patti Harrison’s Stevie Nicks song about a baby with sunburn in her show at Soho last week.
Book Of The Week – Currently reading Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder, which claims to be the last book on screenwriting you will ever need. It’s alright. I’ll probably end up reading other books about screenwriting, though, so he’s a liar.
Album Of The Week – One year on since starting, I’m continuing my journey through Laura Marling’s discography. This week it’s the turn of 2017’s Semper Femina, which has a fun easter egg for fans where she sings “water” and “daughter” in a weird way, just like she does in that other song!
Film Of The Week – The Fabelmans. This is very good. I think I was hoping it was going to be the best film I’ve ever seen in my life, or something, because of all the “Spielberg’s great masterpiece!” hype around it. But it’s just a really lovely, good film about balancing a creative passion with love for your family. The final scene is brilliant, though.
That’s all for this week! As ever, if you’d like to send this newsletter to a friend, or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves and catch you next time,
PS Here’s a painting I liked of a cat in a bowl: