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Feel-good book that relies on hokum and mythical thinking
on December 2, 2012
It's important to recognize that this author, despite having worked as a therapist, possesses no actual scientific or medical credentials. (Of course, anybody can work as a therapist, even somebody with an M.A.) The author's lack of formal training in medicine, psychology, or science might be a reason why she makes up new and unconventional definitions for words like "chronic" or "pathological". The author also buys into a lot of magical hokum, citing "womanly intuition", "built-in danger alert system", and other things that don't actually exist. She offers no statistics or experimental research, only anecdotal case studies.
The author's central premise, which unfortunately has no basis in science, is that human beings (especially women) automatically possess an intuitive knowledge of what is or isn't dangerous, and that this intuition is extremely reliable, so if someone is the victim of abuse, the victim must by definition have been complicit because she ignored her "intuition". (Unfortunately, authors with actual scientific backgrounds and experience in criminal investigations have shown "intuition" to be almost completely unreliable.)
The author also appears to be unaware what dangerous people look like. She asserts that dangerous people exhibit "red flags" that anybody should be able to pick up on. Unfortunately, this claim does not have a strong basis in fact. A few people do telegraph their intentions pretty obviously, but the most dangerous people of all do not.
(For a comparison, check out the observations of FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole. In O'Toole's book, "Dangerous Instincts", the author presents research and case studies showing that the most dangerous people in fact appear quite normal and points to actual experimental results that show how intuition and gut instincts are frequently dead wrong. O'Toole exposes the notion of intuitive or instinctive risk awareness as myths, and offers a ton of scientific evidence to support her claim. If you want a practical guide to avoiding danger, pick the O'Toole book and not this one.)
Anyhow, according to the author, all women have some kind of magical ability to tell whether the person they're talking to is out to get them. Supposedly, women who are victimized are voluntarily choosing to ignore physical sensations, emotional symptoms, or "spiritual" sensing that the author doesn't quantify or measure. Yet according to people who do actual crime research, the reason victims don't respond to "red flags" early on is because the warning signs simply are not there.
The most dangerous people aren't the ones who create "red flags" but the ones who look and act very normal. Unfortunately, the author ignors this basic fact and focuses on perpetrators (men, in this case) whose abusive behavior is obvious. That's not necessarily the kiss of death for the book, if the author had bothered to consider why women might not be picking up on what others might see as obvious risk. Recognition of social cues is a learned behavior, and intuition is something that develops based on experience. In a family where abuse or manipulation is common, the intuition simply never has a chance to develop because the child is never taught what is or is not "unacceptable" behavior. The author could have created a really good book if she'd focused on why and how that process of intuition development doesn't always occur, or if she'd offered a strategy for developing that kind of intuition and judgement. But that would have required actual research, effort, experimentation, and scientific rigor.
Ultimately, this book is a feel-good litany of several different kinds of "dangerous" or "pathological" types of men, a description of why women voluntarily consent to be abused by them, and instructions as to how to use one's mythical "intuition" to avoid them. It's a useful field guide to help weed out the most obviously defective or toxic people, but it unfortunately leaves the reader wth a false sense of security. Everything relies on the author's central (but erroneous) assumption that it's possible or even easy to recognize abusive or manipulative people before getting close enough to be drawn into their games.