By | September 11, 2009 103 Comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Disease to Please

By Ox Drover

When I picked up and started reading The Disease to Please—Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome, by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D., not everything resonated with me, though I have always tried to “please people,” especially those close to me. There was a great deal of the book, though, that did resonate and validate the similarities between “women who love psychopaths,” as described in the book by that name by Dr. Liane Leedom and Sandra Brown, and “people-pleasers.”

Dr. Braiker is a practicing clinical psychologist with 25 years experience and is author of several books. This one defines “people-pleasers” as:

not just nice people who go overboard trying to make everyone happy. Those who suffer from the Disease to Please are people who say “Yes” when they really want to say “NO.” For them, the uncontrollable need for the elusive approval of others is an addiction. Their debilitating fears of anger and confrontation force them to use “niceness” and “people-pleasing” as self defense camouflage.

This book is divided into three main parts, as Dr. Braiker sees people pleasers as people who have “People pleasing MINDSETS,” people who have “People-pleasing HABITS,” and people who have “People pleasing FEELINGS.” The fourth part is a 21-day action plan for curing this “disease.”

Though in several instances Dr. Braiker describes a relationship with a sociopath, she labels this person a “controlling” person.

It is imperative that you recognize how dangerous and self-sabotaging your people-pleasing tendencies with men can become so that you can change the unhealthy dynamic of your relationships. Otherwise, the Disease to Please will serve as a veritable mating call to men who have a perverse need and desire to control nearly every aspect of your behavior. Worse yet, you will allow them to do so.

Nothing is out of bounds to a controlling man with a people-pleaser whom he can mold at will—from your appearance to your opinions, your performance in bed to your performance at work, your relationships with friends to your bonds with family. And, in no time, your ego and self-esteem will deteriorate from modeling clay into silly putty.

When he is done playing with you or you are done being played with (whichever comes first), you will have some serious reparative work to do on a self that you may hardly still recognize as your own.

Unless you repair the damage by during the Disease to Please that produced it, you will limp away from the relationship with the brand “damaged goods” on your ego. Then, issuing the familiar mating call, you will continue to present yourself as the people-pleasing victim to the next controlling man that recognizes your vulnerability to his power.

The controlling man will always keep you off-center and feeling anxious. Since he needs to change you to demonstrate his control, you can never feel comfortable or secure with the thought that he cares about the person that you truly are—or used to be before he started chipping away at your identity.

While this book is not about psychopathic relationships per se, the focus on how many people end up sacrificing their own legitimate selves, to try to “please” the one who will never be pleased, does describe the “traditional” relationship with a psychopath.

I think the self-affirming statements at the end of each chapter are excellent guides in changing our thinking, habits and our feelings about ourselves.

An few examples of these are:

If you have to compromise your own values, needs, or identity as a special and unique individual, then the price of nice is just too high.

It’s okay not to be nice.

Saying “yes” when you want to say “no” in order to protect your emotional, physical health or well-being should make you feel guilty—not the other way around.

Your value as a human being does not depend on the things you do for others.

Though I think Dr. Braiker seems to be applying the term “Disease to Please” in place of the older term “enabler,” her descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and habits practiced by the two are pretty much the same. Her description of those who will take advantage of someone else she calls “controlling,” which seems to be the primary motivation of many psychopaths. I personally would have preferred that she “call a spade a spade,” but at the same time, I think her target audience might be more apt to read the book with the labels that she did choose to use.

There were helpful reinforcements for positive changes, and over all, I liked the book very much. It isn’t difficult to understand and her advice is reasonable and realistic.

The Disease to Please—Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome is available on

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Ox Drover

Dear Stiles,

Glad to see you around, I know shingles can be very painful and the pain can last after the rash is gone. I have recurrent shingles which seems to come with stress, first episode was in 1978…and off and on since then. It is rare for it to be recurrent, but does happen. I keep antiviral medication on hand it always seems to break out when it is a weekend! Medication helps too! I was given the option of taking all the time to prevent it (low dose) but I don’t like to take medication all the time if I don’t HAVE to and as the stress has decreased it is less frequent.

That is why it is so iimportant to me to keep stress low, and I know that I mostly mentally stress myself…so I am working on the root cause, and that is my THINKING—wondering, worrying.

My rash is gone now and so is the pain, so will continue to work on being good to myself.

Had a great day today, the sun finally came out late this afternoon, was beautiful sunset with contrails of red and clouds swirling off into the horizon. I spent some time outside just appreciating the beauty of it all before the light faded.

I hope you are being good to yourself, too, Stiles, you deserve it. Glad you went to the doctor even if it did mean PB&J for a month! That’s being good to yourself! Putting priorities of YOU first!

I hope that everything comes out well with you and the legal stuff! You are in my thoughts and prayers! Keep a stiff upper lip and try not to let it get to you as much as you can prevent it! Realize that you are still better off, you are NOT one of “them”—unfeeling, uncaring! and keep in mind you are NOT alone! (((hugs))) and God bless.


Dear Witsend, I do know how you feel. When my 16 year old daughter left school against my exs and My wishes, ran away from home and disappeared for 6 months, the police basically told me there was nothing they could do unless she wasa} a prostitute, b} a drug addict, or c] insane enough to be sectioned.They would not even look for her. I late found out that all that time my younger daughter knew all the time where D 1 was living, but was sworn to secrecy. After 6 months of me worrying myself half crazy, I got a phone call from this woman who said,” I think I may have your daughter here.” D. had turned up one evening in the pouring rain, hair flat to her head with rain, 2 garbage bags of clothes, and told this woman she was destitute and homeless. My daughter had her own nice flat under the house,!with her own tiny kitchen and shower, my ex even promised her a small allowance if she agred to go back to school. This woman gave us her address, and my ex went and picked D up after his work.
She was home for a year, but it was a nightmare, she would jump out her bedroom window and race off into the night.
One day I found a script for birth control pills in her purse,{i know I shouldnt have been looking.} I called her Dr., and he told me it was none of my business! I said, “It is certainly my business, Im her Mother! ” “And for the record, I told him, her name is not D. Neeson,{ name of a pop star she liked. }
She used to do AWFUL things, like putting used tampons in her dressing table drawer.I couldnt believe it, my lovely sweet ,quiet girl had. becomea monster! I thought this must be normal teenage behaviour, but now I know she was becoming a Narcopath.Nothing I could have done.Not to say I didnt beat myself up with guilt and worry on a daily basis, for years and years.I read her diary once and she said in it,”My Mother is a T—d faced C–t”. Charming!!Geminigirl.


I do give. I am a giver.. and that must be what they sense in me. A friend told me that I am a nice good person and so ‘bad’ people are drawn to this.. but this last man that I was with gave the impression of a giver.. in fact, on certain levels he was a giver.. but it was only when he thought that he could con me.. It was part of his con.. and I always felt uncomfortable with him on some level. And in the beginning I didn’t feel an attraction.. I was attracted to all the attention that he lavished on me.. but that was to suck me in and to keep me sucked in…there was no middle ground… like normal couples.. just being together.. in the beginning he was always touching me, holding my hand, telling me he loved me, telling me how beautiful I am .. I literally got sick of hearing how beautiful that Iam… but now, at times, I miss it..
It is wierd.. but I am seeing what kept me in something that I didn’t want… and it was up to me to pull back and away.. which I did the whole time but not enough.. he kept sucking until he got a partial satisfaction.. then when he realized that I was onto him.. I was tired of living in my life, in my house, while he sent his money to his kids..all the while ‘talking and talking about what he would do for me ‘when’ his ship came in… LOLOLOLOL then it blew up. His ship was coming in the wholr time that I was with him and it never arrived.

sharing the journey

The ex S was a brownnose. I used to notice this whenever we were around someone with money. But I chose to ignore it.

There were also loads of red flags, but I chose to ignore these also. They were few and far between and I forgot upsets easily.

I sometimes used to look at him when he was not looking and I thought that he had a very selfish look about his face.

But he worked hard and was very good to me–so I thought it I must have been mistaken.

Also–people told me about things about him. For instance–he was overheard in a pub saying that he liked to play mindgames with the wife.

I chose to believe him. I was loyal.

I am not a people pleaser. But I liked to please him. I liked to see a smile on his face.

I hate being controlled–therefore that’s why I think that when the S appeared suddenly–he did his damdest to break me here. Everytime I fought back he stepped up the abuse and devalued me.

I think I will live life on my own now. I can’t imagine putting all that emotional energy into someone else.

He smashed my dreams and at 48 my family is getting up and this was a big part of them. We could relax and have a good time together now that we were alone.

I need a history with someone and I am devasted to learn that there was none.

22 years of MY life.

Peace and Love


Skylar, Reading the description of the “P” you posted in the beginning of these comments makes me think we have had the same one…I called him “Satan in the Flesh” … I know we experienced the same thing..we saw and felt the same thing…You expressed it so well that I am having triggers of the anguish I went through..I am having to take a breather…I am so so grateful for your post..i am so glad there are so many that I can identify with. … the ability to expose their mode of operation and the trickery and deception..i could not do this and i am so unbelievably grateful for those who can!!! The way they would project their issues on us and then twist it to be as if they were helping us and still loved us although WE were the ones so defective and then we believed it too, sometimes more than other times….He made me feel like I was throwing my whole life away, that I was living a pitiful life without him…he was working so hard for the destruction of my marriage(although he did not destroy) this was his goal all along. He did take me to death’s door…..people who have not experienced this place as a result from the “P” do not have the any idea of the degree of desperation and darkness it brings..I think because it is covered in demonic evil…

Ox Drover

Dear Alive, you are so right!

Hi Alive,
wow, those are old posts. thanks for bringing them up. It’s interesting to see how much I’ve changed. I cried so much in those days. Not that the pain is gone, but it’s different, very different.

And yeah, we DID have the same P. They’re all the same!

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