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 Amazon.com.