If the reader avoids stumbling over the multiple interpretations of the title, he will find The Sensitive Manipulator a unique and comprehensive collection of concepts associated with the process of change as it relates to human behavior. The author has attacked the difficult problem of cognitively discussing an affective subject with a gutty freshness. From his earthy anecdote of the strained relationship created between two college roommates because one habitually “. . . kicked off his shoes, peeled off his socks, and with obvious relief began to systematically clean the forefinger”, to the nostalgic recall of “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” as illustrative of the current stress on family contiguity, Dr. Dyer has attempted to link the vitality of his subject to the sterile world of psychological and systems jargon.
The effort to tie the content of the book to one’s family life makes this text a commendable contribution to the field of social psychology. It is a marked shift from the bland profit-centered or free-yourself-from-personnel-problems approaches that usually pervade such subject matter. Aside from a few awkward overstatements that inaccurately attribute start and stop characteristics to dynamic processes such as, “Unfortunately, most people have not learned to be interdependent with others”, or “The couple needs to develop together a whole new set of norms, roles, and expectations”, the book is a well-organized and pithy treatment of the process of change. Compared with treatments of the subject by other qualified academicians, it is most refreshing, and should be welcomed by students and faculty alike. It is probably still too technical to generate much enthusiasm among lay readers, however.
The major limitation of the work is the same limitation of most if not all scholastic treatments of living processes. They are exhortations that tell what, but not really how; for example, “Sometimes this means that in order to achieve a new and more effective level of interaction, both subordinate and authority persons need to re-example their attitudes and behavior and work out a change”. The work is descriptive, but hardly causal in its impact. More that other books on this subject, however, Dr. Dyer’s material occasionally sends faint impulses to the reader that suggest that its concepts and interpretations are rooted in a vital reality that is being tactfully hidden. One can only lament the fact that too often marketing of a product requires compromising the packaging process.
Perhaps the author should be challenged to share with the readers of Studies his exploration of the hidden root system to the tree which he has so successfully painted in this secular treatment of the change process. Recognizing that it may not be economically realistic to write a document that spotlights the true foundations of “. . . changing in directions of improving maturity, effectiveness, and satisfaction”, one can still appreciate the value of shoveling the dirt away from the footings. With the contents of The Sensitive Manipulator as preparation, it seems that Dr. Dyer could shed some light on the nature of desire, its origin and maintenance; the element of agency, its impact and consequences; the role of divine influences such as the Holy Spirit; and the place of principles such as faith, hope, charity, virtue, knowledge, temperance, etc., a la the D&C 4:5–7. One job rather well done certainly deserves the invitation to do another.