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Mothers Who Can't Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters Hardcover – October 1, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
In this powerful guide, Forward (Toxic Parents) offers a lifeline for those who have suffered through a dysfunctional relationship with a parent. After defining and describing the five most common types of abusive mothers (overly enmeshed; severely narcissistic; control freak; mothers who need mothering; and those who are physically and/or emotionally abusive) Forward gets to work showing adult daughters how to address the negative beliefs that grew from an unhealthy upbringing. With empathy, she assures those who suffer that the abuse is unequivocally not their fault and offers a series of exercises designed to reveal the truth of the situation, acknowledge the pain, learn to set boundaries, and break self-defeating patterns. In a particularly sensitive area, Forward addresses the issue of incest and mothers who have been complicit in such abuse, urging incest victims to seek professional therapy. While this title is labeled as a guide for women whose mothers are unable to love, its sound advice is applicable to persons of any gender. And while readers may be overwhelmed with painful memories at some junctures—an eventuality Forward expects and addresses—this book should be considered required reading for anyone who had an abusive childhood. (Oct.)
“Forward validates the reader’s feelings and presents effective coping mechanisms, offering suggestions on setting boundaries, negotiating for a better relationship, [and] being assertive . . . Highly recommended.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“A useful challenge to accepted wisdom about the normally taboo subject of mother love, with helpful tips on how to jump-start the healing process.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Once again Susan Forward has identified an important issue that has been calling out for her expertise and unique perspective. This landmark book is powerful, accessible and extremely supportive - just what women need! Her case examples are riveting, her techniques are brilliant and her wisdom is poignant.” (Beverly Engel, author of Healing Your Emotional Self and The Nice Girl Syndrome)
“A riveting, compassionate guide to helping women transcend the wounds inflicted by their rejecting or abusive mothers.” (Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To)
“Susan Forward has saved millions of lives with her profound wisdom that children raised by abusive parents need not “forgive and forget” to heal and move on to happy, healthy lives. . . . A powerful guide to self healing.” (Carole H. Brower, Research Professor, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA)
“I know so many women who will feel enormously grateful for Mothers Who Can’t Love, and rightly so. This thoughtful and thorough book will validate their feelings and their stories, and even more important will offer invaluable and empowering wisdom.” (Mira Kirshenbaum, author of I Love You but I Don't Trust You and Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay)
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The first part of her book addresses the many faces of an unloving mother. Mine was the narcissistic mother. Sometimes she could be downright psychotic and abusive. For me however when you have been hit enough, it's only a sheer irritation that my mother thought she could scare me with a belt. Susan gave me such clarity and validation with this section. I was always so confused as to why my mother could occasionally be loving and why everything went down the drain when I found my soulmate. These kinds of mothers don't mind you as long as you do what she wants you to do, as long as she has control over you, and most of all-- as long as you don't become a woman. I no longer feel threatened when my relatives try to remind me of the good times I had with my mother. In a lot of ways, I was no more than a piece of property to her. I was deprived and pruned so that I could one day be given away like property then people would see how amazing and strict she was. Thus, she would gain other people's fear and respect. That was her ambition all along and it didn't sit well with her that I refused to be treated like a trophy. My world came crashing down when I realized her need for fear and respect from a bunch of faceless people meant more to her than my life and happiness. She had no qualms about trying to break me, thinking I would eventually capitulate. Like many unloving mothers, she wreaked havoc on my conscience. I felt horrible for not obeying her commands. I felt so guilty whenever she reminded me of all she did for me. Like many daughters of unloving mothers, you break in another way be it physical illness or in my case: depression.
This book also made me aware of how every experience with an unloving mother will mold the way you go through life. I've been on the receiving end of my mother saying: "I wish you were never born" and "You should have died a long time ago"-- all in the same breath. However, her destruction did not start when I fell from grace. The tendency to feel responsible for other people's happiness, feeling guilty if you don't comply with other people's wishes, and chasing approval all steams from how your mother raised you. It was such a shock for me to read that love does not have to be earned. I still remember my bridesmaids' speech during my wedding. They called me loving. They said they loved me. I was speechless and felt that I didn't deserve it. Sure I love my husband but I never expected much of it back. How bizarre it was for me when he was always there for me and took care of me without a second thought. How bizarre it was for me when a friend pointed out that my husband loves me more than how other husbands love their wives.
All of these scars and self-punishment were from the way my mother programmed me from birth. No, I will never have a loving mother but that is okay. The notion of the Loving Mother is bade farewell in Susan's book. I learned to say that it's okay. Moreover, I can be a loving mother to myself. And just because I never received the nurture I needed, it doesn't mean that I can't be a loving mother when I have children.
Most importantly, my rights are spelled out. I no longer need to feel guilty. It was my right to live my life the way I wanted. It is MY choice whether I want to have my mother in my life. If I am ever urged or criticized again to have my mother in my life, that person will be on the receiving end of some very good non-defensive communication.
This book helped me realize that my mother's imperfections, projections, and most of all her abuse, were not my fault. I had already been on the path of healing but deep down I blamed myself for all of it.
The author is completely honest about how toxic some relationships can be. What I find particularly important is that she doesn't force you to think that every relationship is salvageable, unlike some other therapists and authors. Sometimes they won't change, sometimes they won't learn, and sometimes they will continue to abuse even worse than before. She tells you that it's okay to let go, and that you don't have to sacrifice your own health to pretend that the cultural script of "Mother's always right" is, well, always right.