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510 of 525 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Open the front cover to this important book by Dr Susan Forward and almost as an introductory note we are told that toxic parents are the inadequate parents, the controllers, the alcoholics, the verbal abusers, the physical abusers and the sexual abusers. This is not a book about parents who get things wrong. As parents we all get things wrong - I know I do, we all do things that perhaps we regret - this isn't being toxic, it's called being human. These mistakes very rarely do harm. A toxic parent on the other hand is an individual whose behaviour scars and harms their child/ren to such a degree that often it can seem like the there can be no resolution to the damage caused. As a result the children grow into adulthood feeling inadequate, unloved and worthless.
This book is about and at the same time is for those adult children.
As children, our parents give us a script, a way of being that we use to filter all that we experience. If that script is one that says ` you are worthless, to be abused - sexually, physically, emotionally ` then all I do in my life, all my actions, my reactions and interactions will be through the filter of my lack of worth.
This is a book for those adults whose sense of worthlessness underpins all they do.
I work as a counsellor and often those I work with tell me that they are responsible for what their parents did. "If I hadn't cuddled Daddy he wouldn't have got in to bed with me", "If I'd done better at school I wouldn't have got punished". A valuable message in this book is that the child is a child not a mini adult. The real adults are the responsible ones and it is they that are accountable for the abuse inflicted on their children. The abused adult child is however responsible for their actions as an adult no matter their experiences as a child. From this perspective the adult abused as a child has it in his/her control to change the script that has been given to them
If you want to change your unhealthy script or life pattern this book is for you.
There are some aspects of `Toxic Parents' that I have some professional and personal difficulty with. Chapter Seven for example is titled `Confrontation: The Road to Independence'. I wouldn't agree that confrontation is the only road to independence, indeed change, growth, self determination and awareness can all be experienced and lived without the need to confront. This aside, Dr Susan Forward has written an extremely useful book, non-academic and easy to read. As a result it will provide to those who have experienced toxic parents a valuable tool for change.
The journey to change will be difficult, it will be lined with pain and tears but you can get there, `Toxic Parents' will be a useful signpost on that journey.
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423 of 437 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading the one-star review by the reader from NY on March 14, 2000, I had to respond. It seems to me this person is awfully defensive and, I suspect, is guilty of some of the behavior that is described as abusive in the book...
No parent is perfect. We all know that. This book is not about demonizing parents. It is about learning to recognize incidents in our lives that adversely affect our behavior and our emotional well-being. I bought this book because of problems my husband and I were having with his parents. Since he was a child, he had been put into a role of emotional partner to his mother. When he decided to start doing some things on his own, she got very upset and started pouring on the guilt. I arrived on the scene at about the same time and became a convenient scapegoat, accused of manipulating him and stealing him away from them. Unfortunately (before I found this book and other helpful ones) things got really bad, and now we have virtually no relationship with my in-laws. It's a very sad situation. However, my husband and I now recognize the games for what they are and no longer buy into the idea that it's our fault for "upsetting" them so much that they just can't be around us. (If I hadn't experienced it myself, I wouldn't have believed that adults could behave in such an irrational manner! ) Reading books like this one and speaking with counselors has provided us with useful insights that will help us interact with them in a healthy manner, if we ever get the chance again.
If you're going through this too, you are NOT alone! Get this book and read it. It helps you recognize behaviors that are harmful to you. It helps you learn to overcome problems in the past and avoid inappropriate treatment in the future. I also recommend the book "The Adult Child's Guide to What's Normal" by John C. Friel and Linda Friel for anyone who found this book helpful. It's not as detailed, but it gives a lot of information in a very easy-to-read format. If you're being manipulated by your parent(s), I recommend "Emotional Blackmail," also by Susan Forward. If you were put into an inappropriate role by your parents, I strongly suggest "Emotional Incest Syndrome" by Patricia Love and Jo Robinson. The title is disturbing but the information is excellent!
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311 of 324 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book six years ago. I found it confronting and very supportive. I believe this book has the power to encourage a lot of personal growth for people who have experienced abuse of all types in their childhood. What I found particularly effective about this book was that it covered a range of abuse patterns, which I believe many abusive parents use. Other books I have read tend to focus on one form of abuse exclusively, whereas if you have experienced physical abuse or sexual abuse, you may be likely to have experienced verbal and psychological abuse also. I read through this book with a pencil in hand, I found so many parts that rang true for me. The checklists in the book are a way of gauging honestly where you in dealing with your life and your relationship with your parents. Now six years later, I have just reread this book and I see how much I have grown in this time. No longer is this book so confronting for me, I was more able to appreciate the suggestions and exercises made. I have been thrilled to see that this book had planted seeds of thought and realisation within me, and that over the years I have been able to instigate real change within me and in my relationship with my parents. These relationships are far more real and true to me. I now speak with more personal authority and honesty to my family. One criticism I have is the way that confrontation is seen as a necessary goal. It is certainly helpful if it feels right and necessary to the reader, but i feel that the most effective form of healing is to reach a point in ourselves where we know our own truth and set out our own rules, whether we need to confront our family with our truths or not. I think in many ways survivors of abuse have attempted to reach out to their families and communicate their feelings, but I take on board that this may be more effective with self-knowledge and improved communication skills.Personally I have tried confrontation and found it ineffective, but by believing in myself, being honest and creating a life that is right for me, I have found freedom. This may not be the case for many readers, so I do not mean to deter you. I offer my silent support. All in all, this is an extremely useful, supportive and valuable book which I would recommend to anyone who wants to improve their relationship with themselves, their families and create a life which has more potential for truth and happiness
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154 of 160 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Reading this book will confirm what you already suspect about your parent's behavior if you have toxic parents. It will also confirm that many of your emotional habits, such as letting people walk all over you, or not standing up to others because you don't want to make them angry, are because of the way you grew up. This book may help you to redefine your relationship with your toxic parent if you are in a position of still desiring a relationship with that parent. The short coming of this book is that it lumps so many kinds of abuse into one book that you don't get a good feel for how to deal with the specific type(s) of abuse that you experienced. It also doesn't really give the reader any tools to move forward in their own life. Yes, it validates that you were abused, but it doesn't talk about how to move yourself forward in any aspect other than your relationship with your toxic parent. The one thing that I took from this book, and am very greatful for, is the realization that my aging and in poor health, but still miserable, angry, mean, and toxic parent lived her life and made choices to get to where she is today, it isn't my fault she is miserable and mean (even though she would tell me otherwise). I am entitled to live my life, I don't have to feel sorry for her and try to make her feel better at my family's expense anymore. Basically, after reading this book and dealing with a nasty precipitating event, I have realized that I am not responsible for her problems, she is. So if you are in need of validation that your parent is toxic, read this book. However, if you are looking for a way to pull your life together because of childhood abuse, this isn't the book you are looking for.
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113 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book in secrecy one day while browsing through a book store, afraid that someone might know that my family at home was a little messed up.

My dad along with my stepmom it turns out, came from abusive families themselves and thus I grew up suffering their wrath. While growing up, I was afraid that I too would end up being far worse than them since they always seemed to unload everything from me. From their mind games, to their abusive words, to the way they put me down and never once admitted wrong.

Of all of the worst, my father was the most demeaning. It was sort of a jekyll and hyde relationship. He put me down the most, made fun of me the most and seemed to take pride in shredding whatever self-esteem I had. On good days he would seem almost loving, by talking to me, watching basketball games with me and buying me the things I wanted and loved. Yet just as quickly, and without warning, he could tear that all away in an instant. Whenever he chose to. It was very hard to please him. Jumping through endless hoops just wasn't enough, it didn't matter if I succeeded the first 80 times, the 81st would be treated as if it was the end of the world. I was denied the privilidge of going out at nights and doing much of what I wanted until I went away.

The point of all of this, is not to make you feel sorry for my ass but to understand that facing the truth really does hurt. My dad, never really knew what love was - and MORE IMPORTANTLY how to love ME. People need to realize that every individual is different and the way you express it, should never damage a person's self-respect or character.

The truth hurts, all this time I dreamed that if I made it big, that if I proved myself to his liking, that he would love me and tell me I was special. But it never did work out that way. There would be fault in no matter what I do. And he never would change. Confronting him personally, turned out to be one of the biggest arguments I have ever had, but I am better off for it, because I can see the person he really is and move onto better things.

In the end, I have to say I am better off from reading this book and seeing my parents as the cruel undeserving people they are. The truth hurts but face it squarely and it will set you free...
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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have read several books that attempt to help adult children of abusive (verbal or physical) parents, but most authors fail to connect with me because they feel a need to give the most horrible stories and examples in their books. My father didn't sexually molest me or tell me to die, but he did constantly belittle me with subtle remarks, jokes, criticisms. This book spends over 100 pages giving stories and examples of all kinds of toxic parents,not just the ones that make the most horrifying read. It seems a little vague and scattered at first, because there are so many different examples of so many different types of toxic parental abuse, then you realize that most of the symptoms of the adult child who has suffered, are the same. Children of alcoholics, molestors, belittlers, hitters, all share a commond bond of lacking an identity, and struggling with their self esteem, and fighting a rage deep inside them.

The second half of the book is the most impressive. The author is surprisingly and refreshingly realistic in her advice on how to start healing. She conveys that it is ok to feel whatever emotion you are feeling, because it is an emotion. She sheds a brilliant light on the act of forgiveness, and how the general concept of "total forgiveness" is not always best with toxic parents.

It was just a well written and realistic book that I think will appeal to all adult children who had or have "toxic" parents.
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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If sometimes you find yourself feeling depressed or angry for no apparent reason- there may be a reason.

When this happened to me I did everything from self-help books, to meditation techniques, to partying, to listening to music, to rolling up into a ball and laying there- all to no avail. Then one day during one of these moods I decided to try reading something yet again to get my mind off the out of the blue sadness- after reading only the first couple of chapters, something finally clicked in me, and I really knew for the first time what these episodes were about. For the first time ever I actually felt the healing process begin within me and could start taking charge of how I felt. I can't say enough about the excersises in this book! The last few chapters are especially helpful. When you feel up to it, you may want to take out your highlighter because there are some real gems in this text that you'll want to read and re-read for years to come.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Issue with advice on Confrontation: It really depends on an individual basis. You can not make a blanket statement like that. Usually you already know your parents very well. Most often I think, especially cases for NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) parents, you CAN NOT confront because it just doesn't work--they always think they are right and everyone else is wrong. Everything will be thrown back at your face and their rage will turn on instantly from the off position and the verbal/emotional abuse will surface again. It is better to just minimize contact (I usually limit conversations on the phone to non-personal matters--taking care of business, between 5-15 minutes), don't share too much personal information with them about your life, and be respectful (like you do to a stranger at the supermarket) in your interactions. I also don't visit her, and when she comes, it has to be a transit stop for her (meaning she is on the way to visit someone else like her mother), and we limit her stay with us (our territory) to one night only. I haven't seen her for a few years and don't plan to in the near future, but our conversations on the phone are mostly 5 minutes. It is very hard to let go, and sometimes memories still creep up on me, but my husband always tells me to just FOCUS on what we have now and our future together, and not on the painful past. I'm an adult now and no longer under her thumb, so MINIMIZE the emotional connection & interactions but no need to cut the cord. Let it go, and go on with your life by reading lots of self-help books, and be the best person you can be. Don't dwell on it because it just draws you down. That's just my personal experience.
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122 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Toxic Parents is a great resource for anyone who is suffering abuse at the hands of a parent. Susan Forward is an internationally recognized therapist and writer, who has also hosted her own ABC talk radio program.

As the director of Luke 17: 3 Ministries, a ministry for Adult Daughters of Abusive or Controlling Birth-Families, I must say that, next to the Bible itself, I have found Toxic Parents to be an invaluable resource for dealing with relatives who will destroy you if you allow it. When you love a family member, and treat them with love, it is hard to understand, or believe, that they would return your love with abuse and maliciousness. But unfortunately, that is reality for many of us, and this book helps us to come to terms with that, and protect ourselves from our family's destructiveness.

Do your parents still treat you like a child? Do they control you with threats or guilt or manipulate you with money? Does it seem that no matter what you do, it's never good enough? As a child, did you have to take care of your parents because of their problems? Do you still?

Toxic Parents explains the dynamics of a dysfunctional family in a very easy-to-read format. Types of toxic parents are discussed in detail, such as inadequate parents, controllers, alcoholics, verbal, physical, and sexual abusers, as well as the family system and why parents behave this way.

Some topics covered are: Spoken and Unspoken Rules, Obedience No Matter What, I Don't Know Where You End and I Begin, No One in This Family is an Alcoholic, The Family Balancing Act, and Fear of Anger. We are shown the rigid mechanisms by which toxic parents cope, such as Denial, Projection (accusing or blaming the child), Sabotage, Triangling (confiding in or enlisting the child against someone else), and Keeping Secrets.

The reader is given steps to reclaim her life and instruction on assertiveness, how to state what you are or are not willing to do, and how to confront your parent, including old, ill, or deceased parents. The chapters on confrontation are especially valuable, teaching what to expect and how to handle your parents' reactions( 'It never happened', 'It was your fault','I said I was sorry', 'We did the best we could','Look what we did for you', etc.), as well as your siblings' reactions and reactions from other assorted relatives.

Toxic Parents teaches you that you are not responsible for your parents' behavior, teasing, neglect, abuse, or unhappiness, their problems, or their choice to do nothing to solve their problems. Your parents are responsible for their own lives and their own actions.

This book will help you decide what kind of a relationship, if any, you can have with your parents. It helped me recognize much of what was going on in my own dysfunctional birth-family, and is a very valuable tool for anyone who needs help in understanding and freeing herself from a situation that is poisoning her life. It will open your eyes- and I highly recommend it to anyone dealing with "parent" issues in their adult lives.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
My life changed after I read this book in 1988. I finally understood how my childhood shaped my adult life. I was able to forgive my parents for some of their behaviors toward me and my siblings. I don't care what they do with their lives, I just learned how to not let their dysfunctional behavior affect my life any longer.
I recently gave a copy of the book to my husband who also grew up in a dysfunctional family. He is not even finished with the book and has already come to a new understanding of his life. It has already started helping him break the grip of a controlling parent. He is really letting go.
We decided that we weren't going to continue the cycle that was started by our parents. We intend to raise our child in an emotionally healthy environment.
I recommend this book to everybody who wants to take control of their feelings and their life.
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