"Indeed, there is one psychological factor that frequently makes itself evident in our sessions--one that impacts the functioning of each client, regardless of their respective problems--the need to be liked by other people," says the author in the beginning of the book. If you read the book, you will see that he's probably right. Actually, the book also deals with another related subject which is the need to be likable. These are, as the author explains in a somewhat scanty way, indeed related but not the same. The need to be likable or to possess likability traits to be attractive to others in general is, as I think, something that is more important than the need to be liked in a particular situation by a particular person. The author also mentions how some people are preoccupied with the need that some or all of their desirable traits--beauty, social savvy, smartness, etc.--are validated by other people.
Anyway, this book is not an easy reading. Although written in a clear manner, it is actually more complicated than might be perceived from the first reading. The issues covered aren't easy to digest and certainly not that easy to build into a clear and comprehensible picture. It will probably take you to read it several times and then apply it to your own life before you really get it. But once you do, you will approach yourself and your difficulties in social interactions with much more clarity and understanding.
The book will teach you that the need to be liked/likable is something that is in your DNA and that you can do nothing about it. This need is just the same as the need to avoid physical threats, and you will respond to the situations where you are threaten by rejection or where your general likability is in danger in pretty much the same ways as you would do in the situations where you might be hurt physically. Those who say they will teach you to go around not caring at all what others think of you, as the author says, don't tell you the whole truth. You cannot overcome your genes. On the other hand, once you learn about the way the Social Protection System, as the author calls it, works, you will be able to intervene in those place you do have the ability to do something.
There are 5 components to the Social Protection System:
1.Threat appraisal (detection + interpretation)--you can do nothing with the detection phase, but you can learn how to interpret threats in a more objective and productive way.
2.Response to threat--there's nothing you can do about it. Once your system has recognized a threat, the reaction of your body will follow, and you can do very little about it.
3.Pain detection--nothing you can do. You just feel the pain of rejection.
4.Immediate response to the threat of rejection--you can learn and change your responses and work to remove things that don't serve you.
5.Long term response to the threat of rejection and preparation for future threats--you can learn to change yourself in that area, though it would probably be rather hard. It will require you to start slowly removing your defenses and see that all or most of your fears weren't justified. You will learn to interpret things more accurately and avoid applying ineffective and unneeded solutions.
The book also deals a lot with core beliefs and automatic thoughts (how beliefs are formed, how different experience in our early life influence us, how automatic thoughts are created, etc.), with the ways many of us are biased to recognize threats where there aren't any, with the way to remove our defenses and to slowly change for the better. It explains many psychological issues in a clear and understandable way. It stresses the ambiguity of social interactions and the tendency of our brains to make safe but many times false interpretations that are usually automatic and unconscious but actually harm us in the long run. It talks about the habits of rumination and self-criticism, their positive and negative sides, and what to do about it. It talks about how to apply Cognitive Behavior Therapy as a possible solution to different problems covered in the book. It also stresses the normality of difficult and unpleasant emotions we feel in our lives, especially those following rejection. Unfortunately, we are culturally taught that negative emotions aren't normal and should therefore be avoided and eliminated as much as possible.
The books presents five levels of psychological awareness. They are (1) a core belief, (2) the situations where this core belief is likely to affect thinking, (3) the automatic thoughts that come to mind in these situations, (4) the subsequent emotions. According to the author, most people are only aware of their emotions and have no idea what lies underneath. As you've guessed right, the book will help you to become more aware of the other, much more profound and important levels.
I liked the book a lot. I use it often and refer to it regularly to better understand my social interactions and overal behavior in regard to the need to be liked and likable. I've become easier on myself and I do not longer expect myself to be immune to others' behavior or not to care at all what others think. It's impossible. All I can do is to slowly and deliberately recognize my problem behaviors and change them for the better.
On the negative side, I think the book misses some important issues. I found that the difference between the need to be liked vs the need to be likable in general and the way the book's different topics should be applied in a slightly different way to each of them aren't properly explained in my opinion. The book also lacks somewhat in the way it is organized: I thought it could have been presented in a clearer and more organized way. In addition, and even though it appears to provide comprehensive coverage of that issue, in truth it doesn't talk at all about some other important and central protective mechanisms we use to respond and prepare for future threats of rejection. I am talking primarily about putting ourselves above others to compensate for the feelings of being rejected and wounded, i.e., narcissism. It's a complex matter in and of itself. It is not mentioned at all in the book, but I believe that for many people this might be one of the central issues of dealing with the pain of early life rejections and the feelings of being unlikable. Besides, it doesn't talk about the issues of being artificially too nice and too soft, of trying to be perceived in a certain way by others, of compromising, of being a pleaser in order to win others over. And so on.
But it's still a great book. I gave it 5 stars because of its relative clarity, novelty, and importance. Read it if you are interested in the subject and/or think you aren't likable or liked enough. Read it if you want to understand yourself better in regard to your social interactions. I haven't seen any book like that so far on the market. The topics that are covered in the book will let you see things see and comprehend that important subject much more clearly. And they will allow you a greater control over your life.