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FiguringThingsOut

Toxic Parents - Good Book For Those With Parental Issues

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I'm nearly finished reading "Toxic Parents" by Dr. Susan Forward. The book is almost 25 years old but I find a lot of what she said relevant to today. There was a section that stood out to me about it being okay to be selfish sometimes. I was called selfish a lot as a kid, because I wanted to be an individual and I didn't want to be so intertwined with my family. I find that because I don't want to be called selfish anymore that I've overcompensated. I buy my family things to keep them placated, while not asking for anything in return. I let my mother guilt me into doing things that I didn't want to do, such as restart a relationship with my physically abusive father after I cut him off for so many years, because I got tired of her bringing it up and it was the only way to get her to stop. Meanwhile, it's eating me on the inside, because while my father's no longer physically abusive, he's now resorted to passive aggressive tactics and guilt trips.

I want to start to reclaim my life and individuality so badly, and this book has given me the tools that I need so I can start. I need to put my needs first and yes it'll hurt when they guilt me, but I'd rather hurt temporarily than have all these feelings gnawing at me.

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I have posted along similar lines before...sometimes the best course of action is to accept our past and move on...whatever that might mean. It is important to look at whatever role you played...accept it, forgive yourself; look at the other parties...and forgive them too. And then move forward...sometimes this means we must remove people from our lives, however much this may seem to hurt- maybe a short but definitive break...perhaps forever. You can't change others, but you might motivate them to change themselves...if they cannot you must do what is in your own best interests. Setting yourself free can be exhilarating!

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You can't change others, but you might motivate them to change themselves...if they cannot you must do what is in your own best interests.

I have no intention on changing my parents, and know that they won't change either. The main thing is to put myself first and reclaim my life, and to stop giving them power over me.

Setting yourself free can be exhilarating!

It is! :Coopyahoo:

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Thanks, Pinga! I feel that learning how to say no to my parents will help me become more assertive in other aspects of my life. While spiritsage is right about me owning responsibility for the things I may have done, I feel that a lot of my behavior and messes in my life began with a dysfunctional upbringing. And no, I can't change my past, but I want to fix my present and create the possibility of a better future.

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It's so hard to do what you're doing. I laid down the law a few years ago - and it rang on completely deaf ears. I keep distance from my family and it's lonely but not quite as painful as having to deal with their bullcrap and having my needs ignored or stomped on. I used to try to change them. Accepting that they won't is easier some days than others. I've been accused of abandoning them, of running away, of being selfish, you name it. Come to find these are all classic responses (I read that book too) of sick people who don't like to see people like us clawing our way out of the muck.

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I hear you, Grovette. There are some aspects of that in my family too. Like the instance of bringing my father back into my life. My life isn't perfect, but it was better without his misery in it. I felt that my mother wanted me to suffer with the rest of my siblings (she's divorced from him and they're estranged from one another; he talks about how he hates her) and deal with his drama like the rest of them. It's not healthy. We're at different places. He wants to wallow in his past and talk about how everyone has wronged him, while remaining unwilling to make changes in his life, while I am willing to take the steps to make changes in my life, and take the proper actions.

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I might pick up a copy or something similar because I need to distance myself emotionally, even if it's too early to completely cut anyone out of my life. I've been having to spend a lot of time around my family again and it's been dredging up a lot of dark feelings.

I believe the only reason I survive at all is because I no longer think about:

  • The fact that my mother married two men who abused her and us physically and psychologically
  • How my siblings and I were sometimes reduced to fighting over what food was in the house when she was away for long periods between marriages, and how my 16-year-old brother got a part-time job to stop it
  • How my siblings and I have only just started recovering from acting like animals to each other to protect ourselves and being close again, pretending we just didn't talk very much for a long time
  • The fact that our mother convinced us to lie to the county so that we wouldn't be taken away
  • How I was never able to have friends over or keep friends easily after having them over in middle school or highschool because my stepfather would harass them, telling them their religion was fake over dinner before he ever even asked their name

And so much more.

Thank goodness none of us have grown up to pass it on! I instinctively knew even at 14 to never imitate my mother and, if possible, to do the opposite. Because of that I left a potentially abusive relationship the very night it started, and that mindset in itself has been healing.

Edited by Licorice

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I might pick up a copy or something similar because I need to distance myself emotionally, even if it's too early to completely cut anyone out of my life. I've been having to spend a lot of time around my family again and it's been dredging up a lot of dark feelings.

You don't have to cut anyone out of your life if you don't feel like it. The choice on how to interact with your family is yours and yours alone.

Thank goodness none of us have grown up to pass it on! I instinctively knew even at 14 to never imitate my mother and, if possible, to do the opposite. Because of that I left a potentially abusive relationship the very night it started, and that mindset in itself has been healing.

There are a lot of things that my family did that I chose not to repeat in my life. And there were some things that they did that I knew as a kid just weren't right.

I saw a mention of your stepfather talking about religion. One of the clients in the book grew up with extremely religious parents, who made her feel as if her every action was a sin and if she was a bad person.

I want to say that you are brave, Licorice. You have overcome/are overcoming a dysfunctional upbringing and I wish you the best. You are not your upbringing.

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I like the book you mention but am even fonder of a book called "If You Had Controlling Parents" by Dr. Dan Neuharth, PhD. The two books by themselves have gaps which the two together seem to fill in. "Own Your Own Life" is another good book which complements the other two as well. I like his chapter: "Embracing Shame."

What has worked best for me in particular [and that doesn't mean it would be helpful to others!] is first, making the health of my brain my #1 priority and second, forgiving others. Protection of my brain first, forgiveness second.

It is one thing to commit to making the health of my brain #1 [as my brain makes my health its #1 priority]. But following through on that day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute is more difficult. I was raised to completely ignore my brain and therefore place its health and welfare last. And if I am not careful I fall into the rut of allowing "controllers" including the ones in my mind, to hurt my brain all over again. But I am trying. Saying "no" is difficult for me for many reasons. I find that saying "I can't" is a bit easier and works just as well. "I need to think about it?" to requests by controllers is helpful to me as well as it allows me to consider my brain when in a rush I might neglect it. Controllers like to operate with artificial senses of urgency and deadlines. And they like to make everything into matters of life and death.

"Forgiving" all kinds of controllers gives me peace of mind. It frees me to take whatever anyone dishes out and move on. I try not to assume malice and ill-will even when I want to. I try to think: "These people are broken. They need to control because they are broken. I forgive them but won't let them hurt my brain." I let controllers "own" their own feelings and try to just own my own.

But like I said, this is only what works for me. People still try to make me "own" their feelings [you're making me mad or sad] but I try to remember: You are making yourself sad or mad because of your unrealistic expectations and demands.

I'm glad you're getting free of things. That is a wonderful thing!

Congratulations!!!!

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You don't have to cut anyone out of your life if you don't feel like it. The choice on how to interact with your family is yours and yours alone.

-- But how can you have a healthy brain and a healthy relationship with your parents if you don't break off all contact with them?They both seem mutually exclusive.

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Great question Danaz. I'll be seeing my parents in a few weeks. Just made hotel reservations last night, then spent the rest of the night having nightmares about family rejection, woke up sweaty and screaming. Wish I could find a healthy balance without divorcing myself from them.

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My mom and dad got divorced when I was 8. He was a truck driver amd was gone most of the time, so I only remember a couple things about him from back them, besides to stay out of his way when he was home.

One of the things I remember from that time is him catching me throwing tiny pieces of newspaper on the red hot burner of the electric stove to watch them burn and him holding my hand down on it to teach me a lesson. I guess the lesson was not to hold your hand down on a red hot burner, because they'll burn the f**k out of you and I haven't done it since. The other thing was him whipping off his belt and popping me in the face with it like a whip.

He did come by once when I was 19 and took me on a run to California on the truck with him. He turned me on to some amphetamines and I didn't sleep for about 10 days. I was into that kind of thing back then so I enjoyed that more than actually seeing him.

About 7 years ago he showed back up and wanted to establish a relationship with my sister and I, and was going to come up to my sisters house to visit. I'm over 50 years old, and a dad myself, so my days of needing a father figure in my life are long past. I learned what it means to be a man without any help from him and wasn't going to have anything to do with him, but I figured if I didn't show up then I would have been the Ahole, so I decided to go see him.

I took my wife and introduced her, met a half brother and sister I never knew I had, and was glad I had gone. He came up a couple more times and the more I saw him the more it wore on me. What really bit my butt was how they talked about him having been adopted and how he never really knew who his parents were.

Well, hey, old man. I grew up witout a dad too. It just sat wrong with me, and I thought he had a lot of nerve to even say something like that, so I cut any ties that had started to have been established and don't talk to any of them now.

I was just past the point of needing him in my life and didn't feel a longing to let him in now. I didn't mention anything about the abuse that went on, because it really didn't mean anything after 50 years. If I let everything bad that happened to me in my life overwhelm me I'd be a mess. What's done is done and best to make peace with yourself and move on.

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I'm nearly finished reading "Toxic Parents" by Dr. Susan Forward. The book is almost 25 years old but I find a lot of what she said relevant to today. There was a section that stood out to me about it being okay to be selfish sometimes. I was called selfish a lot as a kid, because I wanted to be an individual and I didn't want to be so intertwined with my family. I find that because I don't want to be called selfish anymore that I've overcompensated. I buy my family things to keep them placated, while not asking for anything in return. I let my mother guilt me into doing things that I didn't want to do, such as restart a relationship with my physically abusive father after I cut him off for so many years, because I got tired of her bringing it up and it was the only way to get her to stop. Meanwhile, it's eating me on the inside, because while my father's no longer physically abusive, he's now resorted to passive aggressive tactics and guilt trips.

I want to start to reclaim my life and individuality so badly, and this book has given me the tools that I need so I can start. I need to put my needs first and yes it'll hurt when they guilt me, but I'd rather hurt temporarily than have all these feelings gnawing at me.

Oh my god, are you me? (Am I you? WHAT IS LIFE.) This is exactly my situation (minus the physical abusive father). I get guilted into everything by my parents because I don't want to be called selfish. On top of everything, I was an only child through extraordinary circumstances and my mom would barge in my room without knocking, she'd borrow my things without asking. I couldn't (and still can't) keep any aspects of my life secret from my mother, whereas I tell my father nothing. It's really difficult to reconcile the relationship with my mom because I love her, but I don't want her to be an emotional vampire and vicariously living through me. It's purely exhausting.

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Sounds like just the book i need to get too. I think a lot of my problems stem from my mum and how she was with me. She smothered me and guilt tripped me about how lonely she was and basically tried to take over my life and my friends. She once made me make a suicide pact with her when i was around 15/16! Too much more to go into on here but i have now cut her out of my life for my own sanity and well being. The last straw was her continued interference with our eldest son when she'd been asked to stop. She's already messed his head up by making him feel like he's really special and better than everyone else. It's us who is having to deal with the problems and trouble that he's getting into because of that though. He goes through life thinking he's never wrong, ever, thanks to her.

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Susan Forward has written other books that I've read:

"Emotional Blackmail" (I don't stand up for myself enough and let people walk over me and guilt me, but I want to put myself first more)

"Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them" (I've never been in an abusive relationship and don't plan on it, but it was good to read anyway)

I think a lot of my problems stem from my mum and how she was with me.

She also has a new one that just came out, "Mothers Who Can't Love." That may be another one that you could look into.

Edited by FiguringThingsOut

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My last therapist had me read this book and it helped me understand myself a lot better. It hasn't helped as much with the actual rebuilding but it helped me start to be able to separate myself from the bad habits I got from my parents. I'm not an inherently broken person, I was just REALLY mistaught how to live life, socialize and be happy by my crazy parents . . .

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Another great book that I've been reading is "The Dance of Anger" by Harriet Lerner. The main idea is that to stop the cycle of negativity is to change how you react to another person. It put a lot of things into perspective. It also said that if you don't fix the issues that you have with your "family of origin" (blood relatives), those cycles will continue on in other aspects of life. Great book.

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