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When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends:
Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life
Healing and empathetic -- a blueprint for change, September 30, 1999
I read this book a couple of years ago, and it
literally changed my life. For so many years I felt
guilty about the tensions between my hyper-critical
mother and myself -- as if it were somehow my fault that
she got under my skin and that I should somehow be able
to rise above it and simply accept her for who she is,
which is what a lot of "experts" on this
subject seem to suggest. Victoria Secunda takes a
different perspective -- she looks at the situation from
the daughter's point of view. Her first goal is to
empathize with the daughters who are suffering from their
mothers' unhealthy patterns, and to validate their
feelings. She describes the "Bad Mommy Taboo,"
which is society's tendency to glorify the
mother-daughter connection and condemn all valid negative
feelings daughters might have toward their moms. This
leaves the daughters feeling as if their pain is somehow
their own doing; that daring to find fault with their
mothers makes them horrible, ungrateful children.
Thankfully, Secunda, by naming this syndrome, gives us
permission to look at our mothers more objectively. I'm
now at the stage where I am working on myself, trying to
strengthen my boundaries and sense of self, because I now
know my mother won't change -- she'll probably keep her
critical ways for the rest of her life. My pain is real,
however, and I'm working on transforming it. Secunda
shows us how, and gives us hope that we don't have to
prolong these patterns into the next generation. This
book is a wonderful gift from the author to daughters
everywhere. I marvel at the courage it must have taken to
write it! Thank you Victoria Secunda!!!
Help in dealing with an unfortunate reality for
many of us, December 18, 2004
Learn how your relationship with your mother colors your other relationships and influences your choice of a mate, how to recognize the difference between a healthy or destructive mother-daughter relationship, how mothers manipulate us and how we react, why you tend to become your mother's opposite- or her twin, how to find your truest self, and how to stop the cycle.
The book discusses the Bad Mommy Taboo, in which many in society refuse to accept that a mother can be destructive to her children, but prefer to see all moms as warm, loving, "America and apple pie" types. Great pressure is put on adult children not to mention or discuss anything bad their mothers might do, and to accept abuse because "she's your mother". A daughter who rebels or stands up and tells the truth is often criticized by acquaintances, and even outcast from the family. "And so the Bad Mommy on a cultural level gets protected. Or she protects herself. Or she is protected by her husband."
I found myself nodding in agreement as I related my own life testimony, as well as other testimonies I have heard to many of the teachings in this book, especially the Bad Mommy Taboo. It is amazing just how universal and pervasive this is. People with normal mothers find it difficult to understand how it can be possible to have a destructive mother. But the strange thing is that even those with very abusive, controlling, or downright evil mothers can still be in deep denial concerning their mothers' true natures. Many continue to take the blame for an unsuccessful relationship and to expose themselves to abuse, thinking there must be something wrong with them because mom couldn't possibly be the problem. After all, moms are loving and caring of their children, right?
Well, unfortunately for some adult children, that's not right, and understanding this and realizing what is going on is the first step toward healing. This book is very helpful in that regard, and will teach us to recognize and deal with such a mother, even if she is our own. It is also encouraging in helping us tell the truth and protect ourselves over the objections of outsiders- which includes other family members.
We learn about the Evolution of the Unpleasable Mother, and there are chapters covering different types of abusive mothers, including the Doormat, the Critic, the Smotherer, the Avenger, and the Deserter. Part Three discusses how daughters react to our mothers' destructiveness, many by becoming the Angel, the Superachiever, the Cipher, the Troublemaker, or the Defector.
In Part Four, we are given suggestions for breaking the cycle and redefining the mother-daughter relationship. We are helped to understand what kind of relationship, if any, might be possible for us to maintain with our own mother. We might be able to achieve a genuine, loving, respectful friendship. We might settle for a "truce" in which we manage to have a relationship on a limited basis without compromising ourselves beyond our tolerance- one in which we successfully enforce boundaries. Or the only way we may be able to survive might be to "divorce" our mother. One women explained,"....I've finally come to the conclusion that I am much better off never seeing her again. She's just not good for my mental health." We are encouraged to make divorce a last resort, and to expect social censure from those who have their own reasons for not understanding and feel it is their place to judge us.
The author tells us, "Of the women I interviewed who have divorced their mothers, there isn't one who wouldn't have gladly sacrificed just about anything to avoid the harrowing conclusion that it was the only alternative. What most people fail to realize is that a daughter makes so heretical a move only after years of trying to make it unnecessary." The reader is taught "that life- and a healthy adulthood- may not include your mother."
This book is well-researched and well-balanced. Many suggestions are given for trying to improve our relationship with our mother, but the reality that this may not be possible is not denied. It is important to see how our victimization influences our personality and impacts our other relationships, and to stop the cycle before it affects the next generation.
Drawing on years of research and hundreds of
interviews, the author "shows you how to let go,
gain understanding and acceptance- or achieve a separate
peace at last."
The most helpful book I've ever read!, May 25,
Quest for resolution, February 2, 2001
This book changed my life really!, June 15,
I was on the verge of never speaking to my mother or her side of the family again, but this book turned it around and now although I doubt we will ever be like a TV 50s family, I can talk to my mom and she appears to listen to what I say.
I highly recommend this book if you are feeling the
least bit guilty about what you feel about dear old mom,
want to cut her out of your life, or just want to
understand why you and your mom have little to nothing in
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