Mothers Who Can’t Love by Susan Forward

Read: 18 January, 2016

I decided to read this book after seeing it recommended by one woman who had grown up with a narcissist mother to another. It was described as an amazing book that could really help with understanding those dynamics and learning to move forward in a healthy way. The person making the recommendation also added that it would be very helpful for people who’ve had dysfunctional relationships with their mothers for other reasons.

Forward begins by covering the different types of dysfunctional mothers – there are the narcissists, the overly enmeshed, the control freaks, the role reversals (who’ve expected their daughters to console and care for them from a young age), and those who neglect or abuse more directly.

While the examples Forward uses are fairly specific, and I found them to sort of skip over how complicated and variable these relationships can be, she did cover enough examples that I felt I could grasp her point and see the subtle individual shades between her archetypes.

Once the problem has been defined, Forward moves on to solutions. She begins with a process for identifying and coming to terms with the reader’s specific feelings, which can be far more difficult than it might initially seem! Most of the section, though, has to do with finding, establishing, and maintaining boundaries, despite a range of reactions of events.

Overall, I found this to be an excellent book. It can be hard to read, especially if the material has personal significance, and Forward herself recommends that her book be used in tandem with a therapist who can help to manage and guide. Still, though, the advice given is practical and thorough, and I think it’s applicable even when parental relationships aren’t quite as dire as the examples given in the book. In fact, I think that the sections on establishing and maintaining boundaries would be useful to anyone.

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