J8’s Book Review: Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

by guest blogger Jade Miller, at thoughtsfromj8.com

Book Review: Toxic Parents

In keeping with recent events in my life, I picked up Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, by Dr. Susan Forward, about a month ago.  The book was a quick and decent read, but I think it was a little lacking for me.  Probably what I really need is something more specifically focused on narcissistic parenting.  Anyhow, here is a quick synopsis on it, with some commentary.

Toxic Parents, as most books like these do, starts with Part 1, which is essentially an introduction of their take on the various types of toxic parents, with a brief description of each. They are labelled The Inadequate Parents, The Controllers, The Alcoholics, The Verbal Abusers, The Physical Abusers, and The Sexual Abusers.  The author expounds on the types of covert or overt manipulation employed by that type of toxic parent, and the physical and/or emotional wounds resultant not only of the offending parent, but of the role that the non-offending parent plays as well.  Often the passivity of the non-offending parent, and their failure to acknowledge or intervene in the situation, can create just as many wounds as the primary toxic parent’s actions.

Part 2 of the book is about various strategies for reclaiming your life.  It walks through the ethics involved with forgiveness vs. non-forgiveness (note: the author is not a Christian, and forgiveness is not promoted as essential in this text), and then moves on to dealing with the emotional fallout from being raised by the various types of toxic parents. It works through the factor of responsibility, since most adult children of toxic parents have been raised to feel overly responsible, even for things that are legitimately not their fault. It helps define who is now responsible for what, once you are physically independent from your parents and out on your own.

The big recommendation in this book, which didn’t really apply to me since I’m no longer in relationship with my parents, was a confrontation with them about how their behavior affected you as a child and continues to affect you, with the intent to let them know you will no longer engage with them when they do x, y, or z or behave in other ways that are detrimental to your relationship with them. The author suggested that the confrontation could be in person, ideally in a therapeutic setting with a counselor or therapist as a supporting person. Or it could be a written confrontation, since writing was a guaranteed way to be able to express all thoughts and feelings with no interruption, and with the ability to revise and edit until you are satisfied with the message you are sending.

Book cover of Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr Susan Forward.

Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr Susan Forward.

Beyond the confrontation, Toxic Parents discusses ways to respond neutrally to emotionally charged situations with parents, and break the cycle of dysfunction.

I know my analysis all sounds rather dry, but that’s mostly because that’s the effect the book had on me… neither here nor there, really.  It was helpful to read something that marginally confirmed that I’m not crazy, but I feel like perhaps one of the types of toxic parents that wasn’t included (but should have been) was The Narcissistic Parent. Perhaps I will email the author and suggest a future revision.

My parents don’t really fit most of the categories of toxic parents discussed in this book. They were at times inadequate, at times controlling, with a little bit of covert verbal and/or emotional abuse here, a dash of neglect there, and heaping amounts of chaos and unpredictability everywhere.  My parents knew how to say a lot of the right words. But they only meant them about 24.8% of the time. The rest of the time, it was just empty words. But along those lines, they were good at building a false image of normality and the illusion of a loving, healthy relationship so no one on the outside would suspect how unhealthy things really were inside our house.

In keeping with their narcissistic tendencies, they tended to praise and/or give attention to the things I said or did that made them feel good as people or as parents. If I did something that resulted in positive feedback from others about myself or my abilities in a certain area, my parents congratulated themselves for having birthed/raised such a talented person, even if they didn’t understand or have any interest in said ability outside any vicarious attention they could attain from it through me.  They basically rode on my coattails, and worked hard to channel my interest and energy into things that ultimately benefited them. Any interests or successes I had that did not directly relate to them were either ignored, downplayed, outright punished, or slyly undermined until I let go of them on my own.  My life became about my image, or more to the point, their image as reflected by my successes or failures or strengths or weaknesses. I’ll likely write more about narcissism as it relates to my upbringing in a future post on my own blog.

Anyway, I can neither strongly praise nor sharply criticize this book. It was a bit “blah” for me, but hopefully for the reasons I described above, that might be understandable.  I’m glad I read it (I guess?) but I can remember nothing particularly memorable or supremely helpful about it.  Cheers. ~J8

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50 Shades of Grey is like Twilight – Domestic Abuse is normalized

The mass marketing campaign that follows the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy seems unaware that it promotes non-consensual physical and sexual activity.

50 Shades of Grey is not portraying Safe, Sane and Consensual kink (BDSM) within a relationship… for instance Ana says “No” to sex, and Christian then rapes her. Some bloggers have also pointed out the undertones of pedophilia, despite Ana’s reported age of 21.

50 shades of abuse romanticized poster

50 shades of abuse romanticized from http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca

The level of emotional abuse and manipulative behavior includes stalking, isolation from others, and harassment,  paralleling criticism of the Twilight Saga, which ironically was written by a woman with very conservate views on relationships.

How many of the overt and covert signs of domestic violence and emotional abuse can you spot from 50 Shades? What counts as criminal activity where you live?

Read 50 shades of grey Warning Signs & The Cycle of Abuse.

Related links

Discovering That I am Allowed to Have Fun!

An inspiring blog about allowing yourself to have fun, and defeating the childhood messages that made having fun ‘dangerous’

DIDdispatches Blog



Last week I realised that I didn’t know how to have fun instinctively, in fact I found it hard to acknowledge that I was allowed to have fun. I know these behaviours and thoughts are the result of my past, but it is hard to rebuild a life that is over forty years in the making. The idea I could have fun seemed absurd, it’s a bit of an alien concept to me and so I really wasn’t sure if I was ever going to change this inability to have fun. To do the things most people take for granted, like paddling in the sea or having a picnic, seemed way too far ahead of me and so far out of reach at this time.

But spurred on by my psychologist and his words in therapy about fun being ok, I decided to try and change things. You see…

View original post 1,417 more words

Depersonalization Disorder – a personal experience of treatment

This blog was inspired by an excellent blog post describing elements of living with chronic Depersonalization, which is now known as Depersonalization/Derealization disorder. Read Sandy’s blog to find her experiences of treatment Dreamchild – Therapy and Medication.

Diagnostic Criteria

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder description

Depersonalization disorder is a Dissociative Disorder. Depersonalization is an experience that can occur within a schizophrenic, depressive, phobic, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as well as being a separate disorder.

Certain substances can also cause these effects, so these are excluded in the diagnostic criteria. Depersonalization often includes Derealization experiences (DR); they are now considered a single disorder.

The Stranger In The Mirror

Art from http://mermann87.deviantart.com/art/Mirror-Transgender-Self-90629564 Known as DP or DPD, Depersonalization Disorder can be difficult to treat. One example of depersonalization is being unable to recognize yourself in a mirror. Dissociation expert Dr Marlene Steinberg’s reflected this in the name of her classic book, The Stranger in the Mirror, Dissociation – The Hidden Epidemic, and the art work here.

Artwork from http://mermann87.deviantart.com/art/Mirror-Transgender-Self-90629564

What does Healing from Abuse look like? Is it all about talking about memories of abuse?

Learning to heal yourself, and learning what is “normal” and “healthy” in relationships is not easy when you have never had chance to learn what healthy relationships, for instance if you were part of a dysfunctional household or were abused as a child.

The post also talks about unlearning the harmful messages that were learned during abuse. Without discussing the abuse in detail, this survivor reflects on situations and identifies thinking and core beliefs which resulted from emotional abuse, and by changing these he/she is learning the new way of thinking and a new, healthier way of managing relationships.

The most basic task for one’s mental, emotional and social health, which begins in infancy and continues until one dies, is the construction of his/her positive self-esteem.                    Macdonald, G. (1994) Self esteem and the promotion of mental health. Promotion of Mental Health. vol. 3, p 19

Healing from child abuse is not just about talking about the worst experiences, it is also about the here-and-now, and how the past has affected that, and how the present and future can be different.


Dynsfunctional families - don't expect a sane response from an insane system.

Dysfunctional families – don’t expect a sane response from an insane system.

honor thy children