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Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice Paperback – April 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Rapson, M.S., LMFT, is a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, the U.S. Association of Body Psychoterapists, and the Center for Object Relations in Seattle. Mr. Rapson is a veteran therapist who combines hard-won personal insight with clinical experience and scholarship. The journey of healing and growth in his own life has been greatly amplified by the courageous men and women with whom he has the privilege to work. Mr. Rapson's focus on human connection, coupled with his penchant for innovation, has led him to develop programs such as Group of Dads, Couples in Motion, and The Shared Vision Project. James' collaboration with Craig has led to the development of numerous seminars, workshops, and classes.

An avid learner, James draws from a diverse background that includes early career forays in the worlds of music, software engineering, theater, and religion, as well as even earlier exploits on the football field and wrestling mat. These days his wrestling is mostly limited to matters of the mind and heart, though he continues ot play piano, write poetry, and take the occasional raft trip down a northwest river. He has a private practice in Bellevue, Washington.

Craig English, M.F.A., is an award-winning writer with extensive experience in both nonfiction and fiction. He is founder of the much-published "Commoners" writing group in Seattle, Washington. A dynamic lecturer, teacher, and workshop leader, he draws from the wisdom traditions of both East and West to deliver a message that is warm, tough, funny, and poignant.

Mr. English performed as a professional actor for twenty-five years, with numerous credits on stage, television, and radio. He has cofounded such diverse projects as a groundbreaking Montessori middle school and a highly-regarded Shakespearean theater comapny. Among his interests, Craig counts hiking, kayaking, skiing, drinking tea, cooking, reading, and laughing.

Craig and James first met in 1965 on a grade school playground in Santa Barbara, California, and discovered that they shared a similar offbeat sense of humor. They have marked the stages of life together with comic books and ping-pong marathons, dreams of kissing the perfect girl and becoming rock stars, college hijinks and geographical relocations, through buying homes, raising children, and earning some gray hairs along the way. They are, forty years later, still best friends.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Chapter 1
How to Make a Nice Person: The Enduring Effects of Anxious Attachment

Take a puppy away from his mother, place him alone in a wicker pen, and you will witness the universal mammalian reaction to the rupture of an attachment bond-a reflection of the limbic architecture mammals share. Short separations provoke an acute response known as protest, while prolonged separations yield the physiologic state of despair.

... and down they forgot as up they grew.

The comedian Steven Wright joked that, while he didn't think that being born by C-section had really affected him, "...every time I leave my house I have to go out through the window." Our culture has come to accept the notion that the way we feel and behave is related to the way in which we grew up. It will probably not, then, tie you into knots when we suggest that the psychological roots of the Nice Person originated in his or her childhood.

Nice People come in a wide variety of packages and from quite diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. But they all share a common foundational loss, going back to the earliest days of childhood. From this loss springs the anxiety and fear that drive the Nice Person's behavior.

The loss that we are talking about is the lack of reliable, consistent, and attuned love from the mother (or primary care giver). This loss prevents the formation of secure attachment, which is the healthy bond between mother and child.

Like an invisible umbilicus, the bond of secure attachment provides a conduit for the unobstructed flow of emotional nourishment to the child, while similarly allowing for the needs of the child to flow to the mother. When the attachment is secure, the child feels comfortable needing mother and depending on her, and as the baby grows older this comfort can be extended to other caregivers. Eventually, the secure attachment that began with mother will blossom into the self-assuredness that will allow the child to form healthy and openhearted intimate relationships in adulthood.

Secure attachment is the emotional foundation for a calm and confident psyche in the growing child and adult. In order for secure attachment to develop, a baby must believe that his or her mother will:

- Be there when she is wanted or needed
- Be able and willing to provide what the child needs
- Offer love enthusiastically and consistently, without rejection or withdrawal
- Love effectively by staying "in tune" with the child, not being intrusive or demanding

No mother, of course, can do these things perfectly at all times. Even a woman who is ideally suited for motherhood will have her strengths and weaknesses, as well as her good days and bad days. But research has shown that babies are resilient and will internally compensate for mistakes, lapses, and disappointments.

Even so, the "good-enough mother" has to be reliable enough, responsive enough, attuned enough, and warm enough for the baby to feel securely attached. She must also be able to handle and contain the baby's normal aggression and rejection without withdrawing or retaliating herself. If she cannot reliably do these things, the child becomes anxious and insecure, fearing that this all-important connection with mother is threatened by things that are innate in the child: neediness, anger, aggression, and desires to be separate. If things don't improve, this anxiety becomes firmly fixed in the child's body and psyche.

At the other end of the spectrum are two attachment styles that represent general failure in the mother-child relationship: avoidant attachment and disorganized attachment. Avoidant attachment is the result of a chronic emotional neglect, and leads a child to routinely reject opportunities for connection and nurture from a parent. Even though these children need reassurance and encouragement, they act as though they don't, and seem unable to be nourished by it even when such comfort is available. As adults they likely will minimize the importance of close relationships.

Disorganized attachment forms when the child is regularly overwhelmed and terrified by the parent. These children face an intense internal paradox: their instinct is to seek soothing from the very parent who is terrifying them. Desperate to maintain a bond with that parent, they fragment internally, repressing their overwhelming rage and fear. When they become adults, these raw emotions will randomly reappear, causing great disruptions in their relationships.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402206526
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402206528
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anxious to Please is a great book for anyone who has problems being too nice (if you find yourself always trying to please other people, or apologizing a lot, or worrying what other people think). Just read the nice list in the first chapter and you'll know if it's you. This book explains the psychological source of the problem (anxious attachment), where it came from and how it works. More importantly, the main portion of the book is devoted to 7 practices which are solid advice about how to change things - become more self-loving, strong and confident, without losing the ability to be kind. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Paperback
I have the same problem with this book that I do with other self-help/spirituality books that are based on Western Buddhism: They all have the same basic framework, and they all simply cause me to be _more_ neurotic, and to beat myself up even more.

The biggest thing I have a problem with is this book's self-professed foundation: "Awareness." All of these Western Buddhism-inspired books tell you to pay attention to every thought and feeling. You're not supposed to do anything with it; you're just supposed to neurotically obsess about every process that goes on in your mind. This is a problem first and foremost because a lot of what happens in your mind is meant to be automatic, without you thinking about it. It's true that any self-help books tries to help you change these automatic, hurtful negative behaviors, but that's the second big problem with this constant vigilance: You aren't given in-depth instructions in this book on what to do with these observations.

And, really, to tell a Nice Person or a codependent person to increase their vigilance is just cruel: We're all hypervigilant to begin with, so if one of our habits is to judge what we do - and it is - then this is only going to make things worse, especially in the short term. This book even issues you a warning that this practice will increase your anxiety in the short term.

Comparing this book to No More Mr. Nice Guy!, the latter is clearly superior. When I read No More Mr. Nice Guy!, I feel empowered, good -- better. I feel like my life is getting better the more I read that book. That's not the case with this book. And No More Mr.
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Format: Paperback
After reading Anxious to Please I had insight into some of my mother's behavior. My memories include her obsessive baking of desserts and giving them away to coworkers, neighbors, doctors, anyone she had contact with. She often couldn't pay her bills but always had money to buy the ingredients for her gifts. It is obvious now that she was one of the original "chronically nice" people. She wanted to be liked by everyone (except perhaps family members who were locked into a relationship by blood). None of these people became real friends.

My husband also identified his father as one of the chronically nice, though he treated his wife very poorly. He gave big parties for extended family and acquaintances paying for literally truck loads of liquor. His dad also bought people (would be friends) gas for their cars. Generous to a fault? The family was not well to do, and his mother worked in a factory.

This book will, no doubt, give others insight into themselves and into friends and family. I suspect many people will recognize relatives, who might not have always been nice to them, but who gave away time and things to strangers in a quest to be liked.

Dana Paulinski MSW
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Format: Paperback
Reading Anxious to Please was like having a light turned on in my life. "Wow, that's my stuff. I do those things. THAT'S ME!" The good news is, Anxious to Please helps you clean it all up with simple, practical steps anyone can follow. The book itself is easy to read and navigate through and return to again and again. What I especially liked (and found useful as illustrations) were the real-life case studies/examples that were always dead-on hitting the mark. The practices take you out of the darkness where you can see, identify, and then correct habitual behavior. And in the process, forge better and stronger relationships, both old and new. Thanks Rapson and English.
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Being "nice" in every situation--especially in love relationships--often will not get you the positive strokes you crave. The authors of this book, both Recovering Nice Guys, tell how some of us fall into the pattern of being Chronically Nice--and how these behaviors work against our happiness and success. This book presents an intelligent, engaging, inspirational and genuinely useful plan for recognizing and overcoming these destructive behaviors. In these pages, you'll likely recognize yourself or someone you love. In fact, a male friend saw the book on my shelf and he went over to it immediately and he took it off the shelf and flipped through it and he said, "Can I read this?" He took it with him when he left. Now I'll have to get myself another copy!
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By Jan on August 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
I just happened to glance at this book while browsing in BAM the other day. Just the title made me look at it. I started reading it, and started quietly crying right there in Books-A-Million! (luckily it wasn't crowded) I read the examples and symptoms of a chronically nice person...and it's like they wrote the book about my life. It shocked me so much...I would call myself a 'textbook' case. Actually, it scared me a lot...thinking of process it will be, but intrigued me also. I think now I'm to the point where I can start really reading it and incorporating techniques, and trying to work out some big issues in my life.

Fortunately and unfortunately for me, my husband is a very assertive person...and just a couple of days after I first saw this book, he told me he can barely handle how I am like this, because he sees a stronger person in me.

When I read that it destroys relationships I thought 'Well, at least that part's not like me'...and was proven wrong 3 days later. I guess all I have to say is if you feel any way like I did, just do it: Get the book and look forward to the process. As cliche as it sounds, just admitting that I needed to work on some stuff in my life was a big step. But it doesn't require BIG steps. All you need is one little baby step at a time. I may not be MUCH better in 2 weeks, but check me out in 6 months...there will be progress :)

Good luck and God bless everyone out there
There's life to live so let's live it for once
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