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Review: Toxic Parents by Susan Forward

I unfortunately came across this book after finishing the first draft of my book, almost 2 years after starting my journey for living beyond my damage. One of Susan Forward’s other books, Mother’s Who Can’t Love was one of the first and most insightful ones I came across and you can find the review for that book here.


This book has 2 parts. Part 1: Toxic Parents & Part 2: Reclaiming You Life. I skimmed and mostly skipped Part 1. At this point in my exploration of the subject, I no longer dive into the sections of books that describe types of abuse, share stories of other peoples’ experiences or insight on how that plays out into our adulthood. I’ve covered a number of explanations, from a number of authors, both clinical and/or professional practitioners as well as deeply experienced researchers/survivors. I value the differing and creative ways parental abuse styles and their outcomes can be explained - but there is only so much of that shit I want to spend my time absorbing. I play by the 80/20 rule - collecting or reading 100% of the material out there isn’t necessary. I have gained enough of a competent knowledge base to yield positive and progressive results. I already went past the boiling point on that until I was nothing but steam.


That being said, I found Part 2 of this helpful, refreshing and validating - even after the fact. I want to give a special mention to her Chapter 9: You Don’t Have to Forgive. Although short, it was powerfully concise. I appreciated her uncommon viewpoint on forgiveness (which I happen to share,) especially since I haven’t come across another Ph. D therapist who expresses this.


The rest of the chapters in Part 2 are great exercises to participate in, one of them being a tool of hers that I share in Chapter 10 of Beyond Damage. There is a another tool she writes about, similar to the second tool I share in that same chapter, but developed independently through a conversation with a friend. Many of them are meant to be done with a therapist or prepare you for confrontations with a parent/family member. Again, as with most of the literature I’ve come across - although the tools and concepts for internal rewiring are absolutely beneficial, the book was published in 1989/1990. There has been extensive building of research in addition to what is offered in this book, yet I don’t find its offerings to be less valuable. Culturally, it’s a little stuck - since things like email, texting, Netflix and the fierce regrowth of Women’s Lib. But again - as an introduction to both insight and recovery from Toxic Parents, this book approaches a certain level of timelessness in the genre, for what it has to offer.

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