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Book review: The Science of Living by Alfred Adler

Plus a few more thoughts on The Midnight Library.
Book review: The Science of Living by Alfred Adler

I've read Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi's The Courage to Be Disliked and The Courage to Be Happy, both of which deal with the philosophies of Alfred Adler, so many times that I should go ahead and buy the books in hardback.

(Especially because I am becoming less and less interested in reading books on Kindles – but more on that later.)

I had never read Alfred Adler myself, though – and although The Science of Living, originally published in 1930, contains much of what I was expecting from having read Koga and Kishimi, it also revealed a new element that fit, perfectly, into my philosophical table.

Private logic.

"Private logic," also called "private intelligence," is Adler's name for the ideas we hold that do not apply to the world around us. These private ideas belong to us alone – that we are better than somebody else, for example, or that we are owed something from somebody else – and would not be shared by the general public, were they given the opportunity to contribute their thoughts.

Unfortunately, the people closest to us often feel compelled to help us maintain our private beliefs, particularly if they worry that contributing a more public belief might lead to our disliking them. (See The Courage to Be Disliked, above.)

One of the best things that came out of my partnership with Larry was the slow-but-steady breakdown of many of our respective private ideas, from food aversions to family dynamics. We began epistemologically, which is to say we observed what was currently around us and compared it to what had previously been in our minds. At this point we can simply acknowledge that one or the other of us might be looking at something from an incorrect perspective, and talk about what the cost of changing that perspective might be – because change takes work, and work takes energy, and energy takes resources.

(This means, by the way, that sometimes we allow a private idea to retain, understanding that it is false, because there is not time in the present moment to do the work of changing it.)

We didn't know Adler's term, yet, for these inaccurate beliefs and incorrect systems.

Sometimes I called mine "Nicole logic."

Larry likes to call them "subsidized behaviors," often followed with "and what you subsidize, you get more of."

There's a connection between The Science of Living and The Midnight Library, and I don't think it's just because I read these two books back-to-back.

Nora Seed, in The Midnight Library, carries a number of private ideas. The librarian presents some of these ideas to her, in a volume titled The Book of Regrets – and every time Nora visits a parallel universe in which she made a different choice and something even worse happened, one of her private regrets disappears.

But the librarian does not present Nora with The Book of Anxieties or The Book of Superiorities or The Book of Grievances or The Book of What You Believe You Are Owed.

Book review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
It’s a wonderful lie.

That's why I still believe The Midnight Library is a bit incorrect.

A clock that is only right once a day, as it were.

Because if the librarian were truly interested in getting Nora to dismantle her private ideas, The Book of Regrets would not shrink into nothingness.

Some regrets would disappear, like Nora's guilt-based regret of dumping the man she neither trusted nor loved, but others – real regrets, based on real failures – would take their place.

And then a new book would appear:

The Book of Change.

And then – perhaps only then – would Nora be ready to leave the library and go back to the work of being alive.