Customer Review

525 of 544 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An extremely useful book, non-academic and easy to read, August 17, 2000
This review is from: Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (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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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 29, 2007 10:37:17 PM PST
I personally feel that an adult who has had inadequate parents has to Reparent themselves.. this would include such issues as boundaries, responsibility, and yes, even protection. Perhaps it is not best for EVERYONE to confront, however, if it is at all possible I do believe that it is necessary to fully recovery. (Infact, the only time I would think that it isn't the best thing to do is if you think such confrontation could result in some kind of physical reaction on either persons part). However, doing so accomplishes many tasks.. it reaffirms that you are worth standing up for, it establishes boundaries for behavior and consequences, and foremost you will become aware that you don't have to just sit there waiting for a parent who won't rescue you to rescue you.. that you are that parent and you can rescue that child within.. everyone, even an adult with a child within deserves a responsible loving parent willing to go the mile for your protection. Out of years of counseling the most effective thing I was ever asked to do was to bring a picture of myself in kindergarten in .. in that session I realized that I was not the blame, and that me, myself, and I were all responsible to care for that little girl within. That session is the most self loving thought I have ever had.. in closing.. I say confront the abuser just as you would for your own child... if you start caring for yourself as you would your own child you'll soon love yourself just as much as your own child... Best of Luck to all those who need this book!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 21, 2008 9:10:00 AM PST
I agree 100% with your thoughts on confrontation. This is one of the things that I liked about the book, in fact. Forward says that your parents are accountable for what they did to you. I think this is one of the hardest things for abused children to acknowledge. I like her thoughts about forgiveness, too. It gives a lot of readers license to get in touch with their justified anger--and this is something that is very hard to do for most of us. I'm still having a hard time acknowledging my anger without feeling guilty--as if the abuse were somehow still my fault.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 12:50:50 PM PST
Burlap McGee says:
I agree with the author of 'Toxic Parents' that systematic abuse is damaging and distorts children's understanding of love and support.

I agree with the reviewer that children are not mini-adults, and that parents impose a script upon their children through which children see the world.

I disagree with the reviewer that confrontation is not a vital part of standing up for yourself. I disagree with the reviewer that damage caused to children by parental mistakes is not serious. Impressions are powerful filters too.

The key to health is for the child to express his feelings in response to the mistake or systematic abuse and to trust her own perceptions. If not, the repressed feelings can later be displaced against oneself or someone other than who first caused the feeling.

In 'Toxic Parents', I appreciate the easy-to-read guidance on how to recognize abusive dynamics and how to free oneself by breaking the cycle.

I also recommend books, such as 'Drama of the Gifted Child' and 'For Your Own Good', by Alice Miller, who examines the roots of violence, depression, and narcissism.

Posted on Sep 2, 2010 10:33:14 AM PDT
Evan McGrath says:
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Posted on Oct 18, 2010 10:36:17 AM PDT
Concerning the issue of whether confrontation with the parent is helpful or not, I can only say from my single experience is tha tit should be judged on a case by case basis. Where physical reaction might occur, of course confrontaion needs to be avoided. But also, when dealing with someone who is not going to accept your rational thoughts and rationalizations, confrontation can only put you back on the defensive and leave you frustrated. Specifically, confronting someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is a lose-lose situation that is best avoided.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2011 5:43:56 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2011 5:45:31 PM PST
Again, concerning the issue of confrontation - I would say sometimes the "letter" doesn't need to be actually "mailed," sometimes the "letter" needs to be "mailed" but there's no need to "read" the response, and there are times as well when the entire conversation is needed (and sometimes more than once)... but the confrontation (even if only one-sided) is always needed (the only road to developing the practice of building healthy boundaries). Determining which type of confrontation is needed requires some real thinking as well as expert "peer" review to get right. One key problem IMHO to most all self-help advice is the entity "you vs them" (or it) perspective when a more systemic "us" is always more useful. Many sales books recommend, for example, always meeting with (confronting) a "toxic" client using a team approach (zebras have stripes to encourage "toxic" lions to see all zebras in a heard as one zebra).

Posted on Dec 19, 2011 11:01:44 AM PST
Cookie says:
Thank you for the excellent review. I have overcome my problems but might read this book just because I can't believe there are other people out there who have had the same experience! All my life, I am told that "Of course your parents love you! All mothers love their children!", to the point that I learned not to talk about my parents to anyone anymore. This is so validating. I didn't know there were books like this. If only I had found this 20 years ago!

Confrontation? Haha... my mother does not think that she did anything wrong and calls me ungrateful.

Anyway, since you are a therapist, I highly recommend "Cutting Ties that Bind" by Phyllis Krystal. Cutting the Ties That Bind It is an energy exercise and was very helpful for me. It's about how toxic people feed off your energy by controlling you and tying you with their apron strings (no matter how far away you live). When I started the exercise, my parents suddenly became very aggravated and reacted negatively. I guess they must have subconsciously detected that their energy source was being cut off. It took many more years and lots of other things, but I'm free now.

Posted on Dec 20, 2011 12:11:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 20, 2011 12:18:18 PM PST
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Posted on Feb 5, 2012 6:52:59 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on May 28, 2013 9:27:39 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2012 7:43:03 PM PDT
I, too, confronted my mother, before I even read any books or talked to counselors, and she shrugged everything off, saying things like: I did not know any better. It only happened a few times (which is a lie; I still flinch when she gets close), and she never acknowledged any emotional abuse at all, and accused me of making everything up so I could "badmouth her." I am seeking the help that I need now. Also reading "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?"
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