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Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  8,714 ratings  ·  512 reviews
All parents fall short from time to time. But Susan Forward pulls no punches when it comes to those whose deficiencies cripple their children emotionally. Her brisk, unreserved guide to overcoming the stultifying agony of parental manipulation—from power trips to guilt trips and all other killers of self worth—will help deal with the pain of childhood and move beyond the ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Bantam (first published 1989)
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Laura Miglets I think it would be helpful, because it talks about confrontation & how to deal with ongoing toxicity. She also talks about forgiveness & how…moreI think it would be helpful, because it talks about confrontation & how to deal with ongoing toxicity. She also talks about forgiveness & how to move on & find peace.(less)

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JV (semi-hiatus)
Whether or not you've been to hell and back, have a great or toxic relationship with your parents, have a dysfunctional family or not, Susan Forward's Toxic Parents serves as an insightful book that lets you exorcise the spectres and demons of the past, overcome the baleful impact of toxic relationships, and finally have the personal liberty to enjoy life with love, hope, peace, and much-needed healing.
"Loving behavior nourishes your emotional well-being. When someone is being loving to you,
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this book months or even years ago, rather than after I've finally made a decision about a toxic relationship in my life. Reading about the experiences of other adult children strengthened my acceptance of my history, and provided validation and a sense of being less alone.

One of the exercises I really enjoyed was the idea of a memorial exercise, to say goodbye to fantasies that childhood could somehow be different for me:

"I hereby lay to rest my fantasy of the good family. I
Our parents plant mental and emotional seeds in us—seeds that grow as we do. In some families, these are seeds of love, respect, and independence. But in many others, they are seeds of fear, obligation, or guilt.
As you grew into adulthood, these seeds grew into invisible weeds that invaded your life in ways you never dreamed of. Their tendrils may have harmed your relationships, your career, or your family; they have certainly undermined your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Few people make a
D. J.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-development
Honestly, someone bought this for me because they thought I 'needed' to read it. I was so ticked off - the nerve of that person! that I filed it away for about a year. Actually, until I recently unpacked from a move, I thought I'd pitched it while packing, out of sheer anger and disgust.

But I didn't throw it out and it is actually full of helpful insight and suggestions. There's chapter called, "No one in this family is an alcoholic" (or close to that) and it caught my eye while thumbing through
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Society responds to those suffering from physical illnesses, like cancer; we have become more receptive to those fighting certain mental illnesses as well, like depression. But we often turn a blind eye to the scars created by child abuse - we want to believe in the sanctity of family, even when millions of children grow up battered both inside and out. Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life provides a much-needed guide on how victims of abuse can ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book about how parents can really screw up their children.

The author breaks up abusive parents into 6 categories: inadequate, controlling, alcoholics (or addicts), verbal abusers, physical abusers, and sexual abusers. Between my parents, step-parents, and an adult relative I was often left with, I had the fun of experiencing five of the six types. Fortunately, none of them wanted to poke around in my swimsuit area.

The first chapter brings up a point that really explained a lot
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody

I forgot to mention one thing. This book is of course aimed at children of toxic parents, showing the different forms of abuse and manipulation, teaching how to handle the horribleness and find somewhat closure or rather start a healing process.
Even though it's meant for victims, I HIGHLY recommend this book to everybody!
Someone who has not experienced toxic parents first hand might not really understand the severity of mental and physical destruction. By dismantling and analyzing every
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wasn't going to make my completion of this book public. I thought it would be an insult to my parents if I did. Then I realized that it would be an injustice to others who may need to read this book, but dont know it exists, if I didn't. Not to mention doing things to please or placate my parents is one of the many reasons why I needed to read it in the first place soooo....fuck it! lol

The book is exactly what the title implies. A book to help those end the vicious cycle of self-loathing, low
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
It took me far to long to recognize the emotional manipulation and humiliation I grew up with. Once I did, a friend of mine recommended this book to me and I read it 2 years ago. I liked it a lot and it's helped me gain the courage to expect respect from my family. Just spent 10 days with them and I actually had the courage to speak up against the sexist, racist, and otherwise offensive comments and degradation. Unfortunately, I don't think I can do that for long. I need to re-read this and ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book pulls no punches. Reading it is an important step for anyone that had toxic parents in their lives. The exercises are insightful and the 'advice' is excellent. It doesn't focus on general abuse, but digs deep down into the different kinds of abusive parents (neglectful, alcoholic, sexual, physical, etc), so reading the entire book from cover to cover may not be 100% necessary. You can fine tailor your reading to the situations that most closely apply to you.

This book also helps with
Bebe Booth
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very insightful and confirming of suspicions you may have had/ still have but refused to believe.
Ever felt any of these feelings below in the back of your mind growing up in a family that gave the impression of perfect happiness? But never understood why or couldn't bare to think that your 'loving' family would try to cause you (mental/emotional/ and or physical) pain intentionally?
Like you were:
Being manipulated
Being spited by a parent ( said things knowing it would hurt your feelings)
Kes Swanson
This was a quick read but really didn't offer any useful, or real world, advice on how to overcome toxic parenting and reclaim your life. The book mostly focused on realizing and confronting the toxic parents. I would have given this book 2.5 stars if I could.
S_Liz Kim
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was given to me about 8 years ago, maybe more. Reading the cover, I thought - what a ridiculous sounding book; I had always scorned the concept anyway... the idea that I would "excuse" my life/ self-image/ relationship issues due to my "difficult" upbringing and by placing the "blame" on my ongoing relationship with my parents. And then I read the book.

The author's layout of the book, her easy-to-read style, and her not too harsh tone earned my trust. It's a sensitive subject and she
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In my opinion, the single best book written on the subject of childhood abuse. I read this book originally fifteen+ years ago and it is still as powerful and as relevant today. The modern methodology for dealing with those who have been abused is much different than it was in days gone past, and Susan Forward makes a clear, concise and compelling point throughout about the strong feelings of guilt, of blame, and associated behaviours. How to deal with it, and how to reclaim your life.

This is a
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health, non-fiction
I had my first counselling session today, and mostly she just wanted me to read books, once she'd got some idea of how I'm feeling and why. This was one of them. I've always recognised that my parents were not the best possible parents they could be. While much of this book didn't apply to me, much of it could help me. While it does seem to set out a bit of an only-one-way attitude to it, which I don't think is true, it can definitely be helpful. It includes case studies as examples, some of ...more
Lily S.
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think everyone should read this, regardless of what kind of relationship they had with their parents. It can be used to detect toxic people and relationships in life and also shows what kind of damage it can cause.

EDIT: 6/30/2017
This book gave me a new perspective about forgiveness and I still think a lot about this particular passage:

"I also believe that forgiveness is appropriate only when parents do something to earn it. Toxic parents, especially the more abusive ones, need to acknowledge
Eliza Leone
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This a very difficult book to read. I was prompted by two different people in my life to read this book and listen to what it had to say and I found that after reading it I was much more aware of problems I had that I was not aware of. The way this was written was very positive and helpful, nothing making me feel like it was my fault I grew up the way I did, but also not telling me that I was completely without blame, because be honest. If I do not stand up for myself and try to change my life, ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
wow! this book really did help me to recognize how certain things affect/affected me throughout my childhood, and to the present. and i really like the first rule "you do not have to forgive." if you truly have not recovered from a parents toxic ways, you do not have to forgive them, cuz forgiving the toxic parent w/o addressing how they harmed/ affect(ed) you is like just sweeping the issue under the rug.. so not healthy. i highly recommend this book to anyone who had or has to deal with toxic ...more
Maedeh M
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Becoming a true adult is not a linear process. It will take you upward, downward, forward, backward, and inside out. Expect to falter; expect to make mistakes. You will never be totally free of anxiety, fear, guilt, and confusion. No one is. But these demons will no longer control you. That is the key.

This book is very important and essential, not only for adult children of some parents who didn't do as good as they were supposed to but for any adult or parent, because even if you can't relate
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-own, non-fiction
Wow. Unbelievable.

This book explains you.
It opens your eyes.
It teaches you.
It helps you.

I almost cried after reading some painful experiences in the book.
It's so sad to see how a bad parent can damage his/her daughter/son.

I totally recommend this book to anyone. Even if you didn't have a toxic parent.

Susan, you're my hero.
Jaymi Boswell
Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone working with children, therapists, or people dealing with abuse.
Recommended to Jaymi by: Joy Pickard, LMHP
This book was so painful for me I had to stop reading it. I picked it back up a few more times with breaks in between. You have to be ready to handle a book that makes you look at these very difficult issues. I do believe it's essential to read if you are going to work with children and or come from a background of abuse of ANY KIND.
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Healing and insightful but painful to read.
Life's a bitch, I guess. No matter what you do, you'll still be on the wrong side, in the wrong life and in therapy.
tl;dr: This book is very, very, very dated and has many incorrect and harmful stereotypes about abuse victims, abusers, and gay men. However, this book is potentially useful for those who had abusive parents and are still coming to terms with it.

Ultimately, this is a useful book. It's a dated book, though, and many things need to be taken with a grain of salt. A hefty portion of salt. An entire pallet of salt.

In particular, the author's insistence on apologizing for an abuser's actions by
Michael Cable
Oct 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-my-library
Never has a self-help book been more self-helpful and poignant. Once I picked this up, at the suggestion of my therapist, I was swept away. I saw myself and my life in ever page and the book helped me to recognize why many of the things that have gone wrong in my life have happened. Through the stories of the case studies, one begins to feel a developing sense of compassion and understanding for these injured people that eventually helped me to feel the same for myself. Ms. Forward's logic is ...more
Shirley Cooper
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book around 15 years ago. Since then I've re-read it many times and bought copies for others. I have a yahoo group with the same title and I set questions on the book every week or so. I grew up in numerous toxic families. In the 90's I decided to pull off the onion skins and get to the heart because I kept having itises and I learnt that a sore throat is unshed tears. So although it was very painful to look deply ito my childhood I persevered, started changing my life, wrote my ...more
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Such an informative and well-written book.

Adult children of toxic parents tend to have chaotic and confusing definition of love due to the fact that they were manipulated, controlled and harmed in the name of love. It is a lot tougher to see how hurtful and toxic parents are if they aren't overtly abusive but this book help to trace the origins of this inaccurate definition of love.

In a nutshell, trying to get toxic parents to love you and accept you for who you are is such a foolish thing to do
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
DISCLAIMER: If you did not enjoy this book, it is because of:
1) You did not have toxic parents, nor any experience of toxic parents by association
2) You are not open to what the book contains. For example, while I am open to information and aim to improve, I know my brother would either scoff at the book, or agree with the contents but say the book would help others (and not realize the impact our parents had on him). This is the reaction of someone who is not open to change, nor realize they
Huma Rashid
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Susan Forward has done such tremendous good in writing this book.

I'd advise all my Desi kid friends to read this. Our parents are classic "Controllers." And we are all fucked up because of it, tbh. But Forward helps set forth the work we have to do to be better.
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is provocative and may strike some as harsh and negative, more fuel to the fires of nastiness that already smolder and flare in families. Others may feel it to be a perfect description of their situation. I'm sure it helped garner attention for the book. My early enthusiasm for its content provoked jarring reactions on facebook and nudged me to more thoughtful consideration, which I will share in this review.

When a person without a cognitive disability has trouble
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
While I appreciate the objective (and subjective) value of breaking one of the last taboos in Western society, this wasn't quite the book I expected. I'm sure this is a great read for people who are only just starting to come to terms with the past. As someone who's already moved past the initial stages, I found it less helpful than I'd hoped.

More than half of Toxic Parents... consists of other people's experiences as case studies, peppered with bits and pieces on how those experiences
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One of the nation’s leading therapists, as well as a best selling author, dynamic lecturer and frequent talk-show guest. In addition to her private practice, she has served as a therapist, instructor and consultant for many Southern California psychiatric and medical facilities. She is the author of the #1 New York Times best sellers Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and Toxic ...more
“Children who are not encouraged to do, to try, to explore, to master, and to risk failure, often feel helpless and inadequate. Over-controlled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves. This makes it difficult for them to mature. Many never outgrow the need for ongoing parental guidance and control. As a result, their parents continue to invade, manipulate, and frequently dominate their lives.” 98 likes
“Most adult children of toxic parents grow up feeling tremendous confusion about what love means and how it’s supposed to feel. Their parents did extremely unloving things to them in the name of love. They came to understand love as something chaotic, dramatic, confusing, and often painful—something they had to give up their own dreams and desires for. Obviously, that’s not what love is all about. Loving behaviour doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. Love doesn’t hurt, it feels good. Loving behaviour nourishes your emotional well-being. When someone is being loving to you, you feel accepted, cared for, valued, and respected. Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.” 62 likes
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