DRMacIver's Notebook

Suspension of annoyance

Suspension of annoyance

I've been banging on a bit about "The Courage to be Disliked" since Michael Ashcroft recommended it. My friend Tobi read it as a result, and the following is his review from bookchat discord:

I finished The Courage to be Disliked. It's a thoroughly annoying book, obnoxiously written, and I strongly disagree with a whole lot of what it says. At the same time it has been extremely useful to me, in an immediate and actionable way, and I'm very glad I've read it.

Useful, yet punchable.

I only found this thread on Twitter afterwards, and it contains pretty much all of the book without the obnoxiousness: https://twitter.com/visakanv/status/1037715339314847747

I cannot disagree with this review. The book is objectively very annoying. However I was not particularly annoyed while reading it.

Part of this I've had practice. The particular foibles of this book were new to me, but I've read a lot of self-help and niche (especially trauma centric) therapy books recently, which has allowed me to get used to a particular style: That of a slightly self-obsessed author telling you their life story and the transformation they've been through, wrapped around what would probably be a fairly decent essay about a useful technique threaded through the entire thing in a way that makes it slightly hard to skip reading about the journey.

(I said I wasn't annoyed while reading the books, not that I wasn't annoyed about the books)

When reading those books, I could look for things to argue with. It wouldn't be hard. The books are full of poorly supported pseudoscience, weak arguments, and irrelevant digressions. But I knew they would be going in, so why worry about it? I'm there to see if I can extract anything interesting from the book. I don't really care about whether the author is right or wrong, and I expect they're mostly wrong, but I can still try to derive some useful insights from their work.

To go a bit Adlerian about this, what purpose is the annoyance with the book serving you?

I think it's mostly protective: Someone is saying wrong things, and you want to treat it as someone arguing with you, because if you were to take on the wrong things you would go on to believe wrong things, and that's bad.

But you could just do neither of those things. Don't read the book on the assumption that you'll believe anything the author has to say, but also don't be annoyed when you don't.

Instead, take on the information that this is what the author believes. Acknowledge the possibility that some of it might be worth trying, but don't read it with any greater expectation of truth than that. Once you've done that, the protective mechanism of annoyance is not especially useful, and you might as well just choose not to do that.