A while back I received the following (edited) note from a reader of In Sheep’s Clothing:
I saw several counselors to trying to help myself sort through the problems I was having dealing with a difficult person in my life. I could readily see that I was quite neurotic, suffering as I do from anxiety disorders and always struggling with my self-esteem. I also had the tendency to think that everybody must be pretty much just like me, at least at a deeper level. The counselors spent most of their time trying to get me to be less upset about the things my manipulator was doing to me, and they speculated about all sorts of fears and insecurities this person must have, which of course made me feel bad about thinking ill of them. None of them ever had any ideas about what I could do to cope with this person’s behavior. Within minutes after digging into your book, everything became clear. I wasn’t crazy after all! I began to my manipulator for what she really was. And once I started confronting her tactics, my whole relationship with her changed for the better. I’ve since spread the word among several of my friends about what I learned. Thank you so much for such a readable and practical book.
One of the principle motivations I had to write my first book was the difficulty I had with “traditional” perspectives and approaches with which most counselors and therapists (including myself) were most familiar and comfortable. The old psychology is a psychology of fear, insecurity, self-protection, and conflict-avoidance. The paradigms that followed from our traditional theories all had to do basically with how we run and hide. But human beings have always done far more fighting than running and hiding in daily life, and in the modern era, many have become unscrupulous about the degree and manner in which they fight. But there was no psychology paradigm that adequately explained how to understand and deal with those who go about getting what they want in less than responsible ways. That’s why I was prompted to do some research, to more carefully scrutinize my cases, and eventually to write about what I’d learned. The biggest lesson I learned was that the way that most of us, and most especially, mental health professionals, had traditionally been taught to view human nature and behavior was actually the biggest obstacle to understanding and dealing effectively with the unscrupulous and devious folks among us. We needed to give more credence to our gut inclinations and less to the dominant view that everyone was really a frightened, insecure child underneath, striving for love and protecting themselves from harm in the only ways they knew how. My whole outlook changed, and the people I was trying to help became more empowered. And the most satisfying thing of all: folks in troubled relationships who adopted a new outlook also found themselves in a position to better understand and deal with the problem person in their life.
Next year will mark the 17th year that In Sheep’s Clothing will be in print in one incarnation or another. If history is any teacher, it will probably remain in print (though hopefully revised and updated from time to time) for several years to come. It’s edifying to know it’s still a sought-after item. I like to think that’s because it was the first (and some say only) book to expose manipulative behavior for what it really is. But the most edifying thing of all for me is getting the literally hundreds of notes and comments every year just like the one I’m sharing in this post. Giving people a perspective that helps them get a better handle on their lives – who could ask for anything more?