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Mothers Who Can't Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters Paperback – 21 October 2014
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“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
From the Back Cover
Over the course of thirty-five years as a therapist, Susan Forward has worked with a large number of women struggling to escape the emotional damage inflicted by the women who raised them. Subjected to years of criticism, competition, role reversal, smothering control, emotional neglect, and other forms of abuse, women raised by mothers who can't love are plagued by anxiety, depression, relationship problems, lack of confidence, and difficulties with trust. But as Forward explains, it is possible to heal the mother wound and find help and validation.
Filled with compelling case histories, Mothers Who Can't Love looks at the devastating impact unloving mothers have on their daughters and provides effective techniques to help them overcome the pain of their childhoods, reclaim their confidence and self-respect, and break the cycle of emotional destructiveness for future generations.
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The author divides the 'types' of unloving mothers into 5 categories: The Narcissistic Mother, The Overly Enmeshed Mother, The Control Freak Mother, Mothers Who Need Mothering and Mothers Who Neglect, Betray and Batter.
These are reasonable categories that will ring true for a lot of people. But a category doesn't make a book. The author reveals such a shallow understanding of each of these dynamics that I was astounded. At page 112, after being increasingly appalled by the ignorance of the author, I came to this statement and had to put the book down and write this review:
"In an abusive marriage, the mother becomes a terrified child - far more concerned with defending herself against physical or emotional violence than she is about keeping her daughter safe. She hides - sometimes using her child as a kind of shield to take the brunt of the abuser's treatment - instead of taking the necessary steps to get the abuser out of the house." -This flitting, thin-slicing, shallow statement shocked me to the core and shows an utter lack of understanding the dynamics of domestic violence/abuse. Although this portrait of a mother in an abusive relationship may be the case for a tiny fraction, it is far from the reality in the majority of cases. If you are the child of a parent who was abused or abusive...read Lundy Bancroft's 'Why Does He Do That: Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men' - it is a brilliantly researched masterpiece that really saves lives. It will provide the level of deep understanding to help you to truly heal from this kind of childhood. Another of his books, 'The Parent as Batterer,' is the classic reference that provides guidance for Judges and Prosectors in cases like this. Mother's Who Can't Love doesn't even attempt to provide anything beyond the shallowest introduction to the subject and I feel confident the author has never reached a level of understanding herself.
But that was only the 'final straw' - the lack of understanding this author showed for narcissism and narcissistic abuse was equally astounding. The author essentially thin slices narcissistic mothers as 'competitive' and 'jealous' of their daughters. You will find little, if anything, in the authors level of understanding to bring you a level of clarity about narcissism; clarity that is essential to set boundaries and heal. If looking for a good starting point for understanding a potentially narcissistic mother, or if you are sure that your mother is one, then I would recommend 'Children of the Self Absorbed' by Nina Brown. The first 40 pages of this book will be profoundly awakening and it just gets better from there.
For the 'Control Freak' Mother - another of the categories in this book - the author reveals the same lack of understanding of abuse and domestic violence as she does in the Mothers Who Neglect, Betray and Batter category. If this was your experience, again read 'Why Does He Do That' by Lundy Bancroft...and just switch 'he' to 'she' and you will have a superb guide to understanding and healing.
Another important area to explore if your mother was unloving is sociopathy (not even mentioned in the entire section of Identifying the Mother Wound, where the author describes each of the 5 categories of unloving mothers). How can one not include sociopathic mothers in a book on this topic? Surely 'unloving' and 'lack of empathy' is a significantly researched area of psychology and psychiatry. Some mothers can't love...because they can't love...full stop. There are several important books on this topic and a good place to begin is 'The Sociopath Next Door' by Martha Stout. It's an older book (published 2005) in a rapidly growing field, but provides superb examples of seemingly 'normal' people who are sociopathic. It's a must read for those who experienced a loveless childhood, even if their mother wasn't a sociopath, as those that grow up like this are often so in need of love that they can fall victim to sociopaths in adult relationships. So studying sociopathy (not even touched upon in Mothers Who Can't Love) is essential for recovery from a childhood, and adulthood, with a mother who didn't love you.
There are many people who truly need help after surviving (and continuing to survive) an unloving mother, and having such an incompetent, ignorant therapist write such an appalling shallow and misinformed 'best seller' is profoundly disheartening. My heart goes out to each and every person who grew up without a mother's love and I wish you every success with healing and embracing the life, and love, that you deserve.
I wish I read this book 10 years ago. I cannot rate it high enough on here, but I can definitely recommend it to anyone trying to understand themselves and how the connections formed with their carers shaped their thoughts and behaviour!
This book along therapy helped me overcome guilt and shame.