Toxic Parents is aimed at those among us who have suffered at the hands of abusive parents: from the outrageously abusive and violent to the absentee apathetic to the controlling, manipulative, and subtly hurtful parent(s) on which we relied for our guidance, support, nurturing, and love. It illustrates and illuminates how our need for approval and our unhealthy relationships with these abusive parental figures has damaged us even in our adult lives. It is not just a textbook of family betrayal nor is it a tool for displacing blame completely, but a manual with instructions and exercises as well as practical advice on how to heal from the wounds that go deeper than we can sometimes even imagine.
Susan Forward has a very broad therapy pool from which to draw. She has many anecdotal examples of abuse, from the neglectful to the mindfully manipulative to the ultimate betrayal of incest. She talks openly and honestly about the roots of not only our attempts to accept this behavior and how it affects our lives now as adults, but also brings to light our tendencies to further justify their hurtful behavior and further absorb the guilt that they have successfully ingrained in us. She discusses techniques we can use to heal, recover, and confront the troubles from our past.
Toxic Parents is a veritable bible of how to heal from abuse. She reminds us and points out that our parents are solely responsible for all of our childhood woes as we were innocent and had no power or control, but that now as adults we are responsible for moving on and fixing our lives. She addresses the common current of belief integral to our largely Judeo-Christian belief system which recoils at the notion of anything except the highest honor for the parental paradigm. She challenges these notions as false and largely unhelpful. Dr. Susan Forward asks us to re-evaluate our beliefs regarding the infallibility of family and gives examples of the healing power of admitting and facing certain wounds and painful experiences from our pasts.
Toxic Parents is very well-organized into chapters that are labeled by type of abuse suffered: Controlling; Absent; Molestation/Incest; Violent physical abusers. After addressing the common abuse archetypes the author then goes on to offer and suggest exercises to identify our specific emotions regarding our relationship(s) with our parent(s), further suggestions for practices to get out of the same patterns of behavior which keep your from breaking free, and finally the ultimate in the culmination of what she claims is the final frontier: confrontation. She admits that confrontation is largely unpopular, even among her peers, but that it is an essential aspect of healing and regaining your power.
Dr. Susan Forward doesn't give you false hope in her assertions about healing, but explains that these are not magic tricks which will make everyone involved see the error of their ways. She admits and in fact emphasizes that it will be difficult, painful, and met with much derision and opposition from family members. She points out that upon confrontation, which she admits is a bit different than what most therapy professionals advocate, many of your loved ones will reject, criticize, and or deride you for your "attacks" on the family. She explains that these are just reactions to your attempt to upset the dynamics that they have become comfortable with. Many people are resistant to change at the best of times and in cases of family dynamics regarding abuse and dysfunctional behavior, there is even more resistance often to the point of even more attacks coming from those who are closest to the central orbital point with your parents as the sun in their own system.
It is well-thought out, well-researched, and well written. It is open and honest and could be seen as very challenging to old world thinkers who regard the parental figure as one of almost godlike position. Many people will be resistant to her encouragements and evolutionary expressions.
Although it is excellent in its execution, the reader may still find him/herself with a few uncertainties regarding the confrontation exercise. As the seemingly ultimate goal of this therapy and the point of the authors advice, there was not enough time spent on the most challenging part: the actual confrontation which at the best of times can be daunting. The author reassures us that the worry about facing the problem is often much worse than the actual facing of it. So perhaps the object is not in confrontation but in getting to a place of healing so that confrontation is possible and that, in and of itself is most of the battle, both emotionally and psychologically.
Anyone who has had a hurtful, frightening, and traumatic upbringing should read this book, even if you decide that the changes offered within are too challenging or that the healing promised would not in fact be worth the price of upsetting your family's long legacy of denial and stagnation. I even recommend this book to the seeming minority of people for whom childhood was not a scary roller-coaster which oscillated between misery and joy. You will get a glimpse into something which may enlighten your views, enliven your gratitude toward your own family, and strengthen your understanding of your friends for which the content of this book was written. Everyone who reads this book will come away with a better grasp of the paradox of just how abuse can and will always be uniquely universal.
But overall, I give this book &&&& ½ out of &&&&& scholarly books for its amazing and enlightening honesty, organization, and content.
Where to buy: You can purchase this book on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble and Borders Book Stores throughout North America.
*I receive no compensation for my recommendations and do not have any professional or personal relationship with any of the authors unless otherwise stated.