Book Review: The Disease to Please by Harriet B. Braiker

Book Review: The Disease to Please by Harriet B. Braiker

What Drew Me (Why I read it)
I’ve alluded to this book in a few posts as I have been reading it. I initially found this book as I was searching to understand my own compulsion to put the needs of everyone else before myself – not in a healthy, love-thy-neighbor way but in a my-identity-depends-on-this way.

The compulsion to please literally made me sick to my stomach on many occasions so the title casting this tendency as a disease rang all too true. 

What I Liked About It
The book was very practical from the first few pages. Acknowledging that people-pleasing takes on a variety of forms, the author breaks the possibilities down, helps to assess where you are and then you can focus your reading on those areas. You don’t have to read this book cover to cover to benefit from it. Also, if your a sucker for the the online quiz (i.e. You know what Disney princess you are and what country you are truly made to live in), you will love the personal assessments scattered throughout the book.

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Cause to Pause (what makes me hesitant)
The only two things that stood out as a caution to me were some fairly obvious biases of the author. First, this was not written from a spiritual perspective. That stood out most to me when she lumped “prayer” into the category of “magical thinking” (see also wishing on a star and finding a four-leaf clover). I don’t expect everything I read to be sympathetic to my spirituality, but knowing the perceived bias is helpful in synthesizing her thoughts and observations into my own life. 

Second, there is a strong slant towards women as her target audience. Especially in dealing with the issue of anger (more precisely the victims of anger), the examples she uses are almost exclusively women. Granted she is speaking from her years of experience in clinical therapy and she built a strong reputation as a psychologist and writer championing women’s issues, specifically as they relate to stress, but my limited observations suggest to me that men are just as likely to suffer from people-pleasing and be susceptible to manipulation and control as a result. Bottom line: if you are a man reading this, don’t be put off by the over abundance of female examples. 

Who Should Read It
If you have struggled in any type of relationship (marriage, parents, coworkers, siblings, etc.) and are scratching your head wondering why, I would strongly recommend the first few chapters. You’ll know fairly quickly if the rest of the book is right for you.

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