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Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming Their Power

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Mother love is often seen as sacred, but for many children the relationship is a painful struggle. Using the newest research on human attachment and brain development, Terri Apter, an internationally acclaimed psychologist and writer, unlocks the mysteries of this complicated bond. She showcases the five different types of difficult mother—the angry mother, the controlling Mother love is often seen as sacred, but for many children the relationship is a painful struggle. Using the newest research on human attachment and brain development, Terri Apter, an internationally acclaimed psychologist and writer, unlocks the mysteries of this complicated bond. She showcases the five different types of difficult mother—the angry mother, the controlling mother, the narcissistic mother, the envious mother, and the emotionally neglectful mother—and explains the patterns of behavior seen in each type. Apter also explores the dilemma at the heart of a difficult relationship: why a mother has such a powerful impact on us and why we continue to care about her responses long after we have outgrown our dependence. She then shows how we can conduct an “emotional audit” on ourselves to overcome the power of the complex feelings a difficult mother inflicts. In the end this book celebrates the great resilience of sons and daughters of difficult mothers as well as acknowledging their special challenges.


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Mother love is often seen as sacred, but for many children the relationship is a painful struggle. Using the newest research on human attachment and brain development, Terri Apter, an internationally acclaimed psychologist and writer, unlocks the mysteries of this complicated bond. She showcases the five different types of difficult mother—the angry mother, the controlling Mother love is often seen as sacred, but for many children the relationship is a painful struggle. Using the newest research on human attachment and brain development, Terri Apter, an internationally acclaimed psychologist and writer, unlocks the mysteries of this complicated bond. She showcases the five different types of difficult mother—the angry mother, the controlling mother, the narcissistic mother, the envious mother, and the emotionally neglectful mother—and explains the patterns of behavior seen in each type. Apter also explores the dilemma at the heart of a difficult relationship: why a mother has such a powerful impact on us and why we continue to care about her responses long after we have outgrown our dependence. She then shows how we can conduct an “emotional audit” on ourselves to overcome the power of the complex feelings a difficult mother inflicts. In the end this book celebrates the great resilience of sons and daughters of difficult mothers as well as acknowledging their special challenges.

30 review for Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming Their Power

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This was a well-written book with a great deal of good information about difficult mothers. However, the subtitle is somewhat misleading. If you are looking to 'understand' difficult mothers, this is a great choice. If, on the other hand, you are looking to 'overcome the power' of a difficult mother you will find very little of substance here. I suspect the author believes she has accomplished both goals, but that is based on her claims that 'once you have full understanding of a difficult mothe This was a well-written book with a great deal of good information about difficult mothers. However, the subtitle is somewhat misleading. If you are looking to 'understand' difficult mothers, this is a great choice. If, on the other hand, you are looking to 'overcome the power' of a difficult mother you will find very little of substance here. I suspect the author believes she has accomplished both goals, but that is based on her claims that 'once you have full understanding of a difficult mother and your responses to her, then you can change your thought patterns accordingly'. She then notes that everyone has their own situations and responses therefore must come up with their own ways of learning how to get from understanding to healing - tada! Now you know how to overcome the power your difficult mother has over you. Interestingly, one of the reasons I enjoyed a similar type of book - If You Had Controlling Parents - was that the author refrained from presenting a 'one size fits all solution' to the readers. He did, however, present a number of choices that worked for him and/or clients and that the reader might find useful in moving forward. He was clear that some suggestions would work for some people and some for others, but he did at least suggest a number of 'tools' that might be useful in fixing the problem. Apter takes a different approach. Imagine that you are trying to improve your core strength. Apter's approach would be to describe all of the core muscles in great detail then say 'there you go, now do exercises to strengthen them. I do not know which exercises you enjoy or do not enjoy, but you will figure it out. Done!'. She fails acknowledge that if you have never tried this type of strengthening, especially if you were raised in a home that was set-up against you even attempting such a thing, you likely have no idea of the types of exercises or options that are available to help you in your journey (though ironically she does cite examples of many individuals who have a very rich and detailed understanding of their difficult mothers' influence over them but who remain 'trapped' under their mothers' power). I gave the book three stars because I was looking for understanding more about difficult mothers. If I had chosen the book because I was also seeking to 'overcome their power' I would have given a much lower rating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    If there's one thing I appreciate, it's someone putting my experiences into perspective and letting me know that I am not alone in my perceptions. This book addresses the types of mothers who are not all loving, giving, affectionate, soothing, compassionate and perfect. The author does a fine job of describing the behavior of the angry, controlling, narcissistic, envious, and emotionally unavailable (i.e., difficult) mother and the impact she can have on a child's life from the very beginning. S If there's one thing I appreciate, it's someone putting my experiences into perspective and letting me know that I am not alone in my perceptions. This book addresses the types of mothers who are not all loving, giving, affectionate, soothing, compassionate and perfect. The author does a fine job of describing the behavior of the angry, controlling, narcissistic, envious, and emotionally unavailable (i.e., difficult) mother and the impact she can have on a child's life from the very beginning. She also discusses ways one can try to assess the impact such a mother's behavior might be having on the adult child. Reading this book sheds light on a subject that is generally not easily discussed or understood. We all complain about our mothers, but this author brings to light the painful struggle many of us have in playing the hand we're dealt at birth. We all would like to be able to love our mothers, but many mothers act in ways that make themselves difficult to love. Now I can clearly see why that is, and just understanding that makes a big difference in how I will be able to move forward in my relationship with my own mother. This book might change your life as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    Interesting but did not offer any profound insight into forming a better relationship with a difficult mother.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Travel Writing

    Insightful and encouraging book. It was very informative and had a lot of examples, but a little thin on the 'how' to overcome the difficult mother. I understand that the author was laying out that if you have the knowledge to understand a difficult mother, then you basically can overcome the difficult mother. Some quotes I liked. They came at the very end of the book. "...our mother's approval is not worth what we have to give up in exchange." "Ultimately, the challenge is not to resolve matters Insightful and encouraging book. It was very informative and had a lot of examples, but a little thin on the 'how' to overcome the difficult mother. I understand that the author was laying out that if you have the knowledge to understand a difficult mother, then you basically can overcome the difficult mother. Some quotes I liked. They came at the very end of the book. "...our mother's approval is not worth what we have to give up in exchange." "Ultimately, the challenge is not to resolve matters between you and your mother, but between you and the habitual fear-based thought processes that come between you and your capacity to thrive on your own terms." "The greatest release comes with the acceptance that it is not our mother who retains control over the fears, doubts, and dissatisfactions that we may have learned in the cauldron of of our relationship with her. Release comes from relinquishing the urge to fight one more battle with hereto gain recognition or acceptance or admiration. It is the enlightenment that our battles no longer between ourselves and a mother but between the history that formed us and our better possible selves."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    If only this book had been around 25 years ago...I think I'll be reading and re-reading this one. If only this book had been around 25 years ago...I think I'll be reading and re-reading this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    Every chapter in this book won't apply to everyone. It should be apparent within a couple of pages of the "Difficult mother types" chapters if that one applies to your mother or someone you know. First, the book explains what difficult mothers are - a mother that YOU experience as difficult. A sibling who grew up in the same home often may not feel the same way about the parent that you do. The book is careful to mention that this "difficult" label can be used to describe either parent - or a car Every chapter in this book won't apply to everyone. It should be apparent within a couple of pages of the "Difficult mother types" chapters if that one applies to your mother or someone you know. First, the book explains what difficult mothers are - a mother that YOU experience as difficult. A sibling who grew up in the same home often may not feel the same way about the parent that you do. The book is careful to mention that this "difficult" label can be used to describe either parent - or a caregiver, whomever that may be. According to the author, there are 5 different types of mothers, which are each given their own chapter: 1. The Angry Mother - a mother who uses anger to manipulate or control her offspring. 2. The Controlling Mother - A mother who wants total control over the life of her offspring, dictating where they may go, who they may associate with, etc. 3. The Narcissistic Mother - A mother who uses her children to prop up her poor sense of self, or to frantically avoid shame. 4. The Envious Mother - a mother who envies her child's accomplishments, and will show disappointment when they succeed, rather than pleasure. 5. The Emotionally Unavailable Mother - Exactly what it sounds like. Often mentally ill or substance abusers, these mothers aren't necessarily neglectful, they just don't forge an emotional bond with their children. I confess - I didn't read the whole of the eighth chapter, titled "Am I a Difficult Mother?" because I'm not a mother - it doesn't really apply to my situation. I read enough to know that I probably would have been one if I had wanted children in the first place, but I don't, so - that's that. The last chapter, "Resilience: Overcoming a Difficult Mother's Power" is about strengthening your sense of self and worthiness in the aftermath of a damaging childhood - or an ongoing relationship with the difficult parent. Compassion - understanding what the parent is feeling and why they may feel that way - is key to helping yourself. Telling your story, either to yourself or to others can be therapeutic and the way you tell stories can be an insight into whether you'll achieve a measure of resilience (read the book to find out!). The chapter ends with an "Emotional Audit" - homework, per se - to identify the areas that you may need to work on. The book ends with a chapter by chapter list of notes (for those of you who have read my reviews before, you may know that I love citations!). This book is a book with homework - not what I was really expecting when I picked it up - in fact, I don't know what I was expecting. Dealing with a difficult parent takes a lot of work on your part, because you know in your heart of hearts that your difficult parent won't meet you half-way. It didn't hold my attention as much as I'd hoped - but it is written in a format where you can skip one of the difficult mother types chapters if it doesn't apply to you and not miss anything. In conclusion, if you think you have a difficult mother and want to identify strategies on how to deal with her, instead of work on YOU - this may not be the book you're looking for. Although, keep this in mind: she's been playing the game much longer than you have. She's probably better than you at it, and she'll never tire. I like the conclusion of this book - that the best way to deal with a difficult mother is to use compassion, set boundaries, and work on your own emotional resilience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sunday

    I read this book to see if it could be useful for some of my patients. The book is very easy to read with no jargon and psychological concepts are clearly explained in layperson language. The book starts with an introductory chapter on some of the different presentations of difficult mothers. This is followed by a chapter summarising in basic terms the science related to mothering, e.g., infant development, the fight or flight response, mentalization and mirroring, before a chapter dedicated to I read this book to see if it could be useful for some of my patients. The book is very easy to read with no jargon and psychological concepts are clearly explained in layperson language. The book starts with an introductory chapter on some of the different presentations of difficult mothers. This is followed by a chapter summarising in basic terms the science related to mothering, e.g., infant development, the fight or flight response, mentalization and mirroring, before a chapter dedicated to each of the difficult mother presentations, the angry mother, the controlling mother, the narcissistic mother, the envious mother and the emotionally unavailable mother. I found the book quite ambitious in what it aimed to achieve, for instance there are entire books written on narcissistic parenting, so to cover this in one chapter means that the content is quite simplistic. However I think the author did this well and the simplicity is also its strength in that it maintains accessibility for the lay reader. I thought the second last chapter "Am I a difficult mother?" was a particularly important part of this book; this is a fear commonly expressed by my patients that they will unwittingly perpetuate the pattern of parenting done to them onto their own children. This chapter provides hope for mothers that the ghosts of the nursery can indeed be put to rest by gaining an understanding of one's own experience and developing new patterns of parenting. The book is clearly aimed at the self help market rather than a professional text book and I feel it is a worthy addition to this genre.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookish Enchantment (Katherine Quirke)

    This is very good book particularly if you suspect that the relationship with your mother is flawed. For me the book did not tell me anything that I have worked out myself but it would have been comforting to have had this book earlier in my life. I do recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachal

    Frighteningly accurate and also very helpful in shedding light onto the strange dynamics a mother child relationship can take on.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fani *loves angst*

    3.5 stars Interesting portrayal of difficult mothers, with enough psycho & neural analysis about how their attitude affects their children. It was easy and filled with enough useful tidbits to read. On the other hand, I've already read quite a lot on difficult or toxic mother, and this book serves as an introduction to the subject for those who are only now starting to question their childhood; if you've read a book or two on the subject, there's not much here besides the effect that attitude may 3.5 stars Interesting portrayal of difficult mothers, with enough psycho & neural analysis about how their attitude affects their children. It was easy and filled with enough useful tidbits to read. On the other hand, I've already read quite a lot on difficult or toxic mother, and this book serves as an introduction to the subject for those who are only now starting to question their childhood; if you've read a book or two on the subject, there's not much here besides the effect that attitude may have on the baby or infant. Besides, it makes it pretty clear that the effect cannot be removed completely ever, so it sends a pretty pessimistic message throughout for those searching for solutions to overcome their difficult upbringing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angelina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In this book, Teri Apter categorises a difficult mother as the one who may use anger as a thread and a control to manage her child due to lack of understanding and control of her own emotions; controlling mother is the one that may enmesh with her child and controls all aspects of the child's live how they think, feel, she criticises and commands; narcissistic mother is the one who demands the child to assist her needs and desires, she doesn't see and disregards the child's needs and wants; envi In this book, Teri Apter categorises a difficult mother as the one who may use anger as a thread and a control to manage her child due to lack of understanding and control of her own emotions; controlling mother is the one that may enmesh with her child and controls all aspects of the child's live how they think, feel, she criticises and commands; narcissistic mother is the one who demands the child to assist her needs and desires, she doesn't see and disregards the child's needs and wants; envious mother may resent her child for the success, wishes, and achievements; and emotionally unavailable mother may show no care, empathy towards the child, she is physically present but emotionally she doesn't exist. Then, within those categories the author explains how this affects the child; and how we can re-learn set patterns through resilience- understanding who we are & making sense of our own stories through our interaction with our mothers and other key relationships; controlling our feelings & assess if the response to others makes sense and bring positive thoughts of managing brought forward patterns. The key learning for me in this book was the Orchid gene concept, as I never came across of it before; and naturally I was able to relate to the concept. Basically children with the orchid gene may develop depression, addictions, have difficult of coping or may feel aggressive. Such children will have a highly active amygdala that makes them hyper vigilant to responses of others. It also gives a child an edge in wider age of learning: such child is more attuned to other people responses & feelings; quick to sense emotional temperature; and are usually creative reflective & resilient. Below are notes from the book. Notes: => 1.Emotional dilemma- anger. A parent may use anger to threaten or control the child, show disapproval, it can relate to unknown sources and unrelated frustrations. A child can learn what triggers a passion, but if patterns are unpredictable, the child will always be on the alert. 2.Control. this is where a parent takes control of child's live; what they should think, act vs advise check in on a child. Control- mother taken over the mind of the child; criticism and commands. Control- result child will lie, distrust, mutual deception can be created. The controlling parent acts as an expert what the child wants and needs are; rather than learning from a child. The parent acts as controller and director. Enmeshment -this is when a mother projects her own feelings on the child; healthy mother lets her child to mentalize contextualise their own feelings. 4. Narcissistic mother- mother doesn't see the child; she demands the child to mirror on their behaviour; demand admiration seeks attention; they needs are the most important. There is a difference between self-worth vs narcissistic behaviour. Child needs mothers focus and empathy but instead mother acts defensively, analysis and see remarks as insult. 3. Envy- this is when the success of a child disturbs the relationship. A parent may feel resentment towards the child's achievement or imagination. Envious mother- demands why she feels joy when I don't; why would she feel good when I don't 5: neglect - freedom of movement; education. Mother craving dictates the mothers live. Depressed mother is difficult mother as she is disengaged. It's either you please me or you don't exist. Emotionally unavailable mother- this is usually mother’s suffering depression or some addition. Physically present but emotionally disengaged, lack she is somewhere else. How children connect and protect themselves? Audit Affects of emotional unavailable mother: Ex do you think a purpose of social interaction is to regulate other people feelings? What lingers on your subconscious when you debating if should speak up or be quite? Should you leave someone on their own? Should you do what they ask? Do you anxiously monitoring others responses? Do you worry if they will be pleased if I do this for them? Should you do what they ask even though it’s inconvenient to you? would they be pleased when I do this for them? Will they fall apart if I forget something, if I refuse to do what they ask? Do you think it’s your job to notice what they are feeling? Do you feel you have a choice how to behave or her behavior decorates yours? Do you ventilate between hope and fear as you consider the affect you have on others? Do you think it’s your job to notice what everyone else is feeling?2. In step two weight your operating assumptions against the range of your interests & desires when you interact with your mother? What do you carry around with you & what feels as a burden? Do you have a choice how to behave around her or she dictates it? f you don’t follow the expectations set by your mother: Do you brut over potential consequences of your actions? Do you focus anxiously on what others need? Do you try to guess and provide what others need? . Does these actions shake my sense of identity? Do I associate others happiness with my identity? Is it my job to manage what other people are feeling? Do I panic that I am not able to fix someone else’s mood? Do I consider my emotions as allian or dangerous? 4. Consider how this operational assumptions dominate you. Is they happiness & passiveness take a centre stage of your decision process? Do you feel a shift of your priorities when someone is feeling stressed or disengaged? Do you desert your short or long term plants to meet the others mood? 5. Identify set of behaviours guided by these assumptions. => A way to teach a child about their inner state is by mother presenting their feelings back to the children. A man other response with an expression of interest and concern by composing herself and loving imitation of some features of child distress such as frown partly mirrors the child's state and transforms it. By mirroring she shows that she just expressing her own feelings but her child's. Attuning - understanding that the child's feeling as their own and they are real for them ; mirroring - mother shows child's emotion vs her own emotion; seeing- mirroring and understanding, be a sounding board. We expect who knows us and invest in our development will try to appreciate us and understand us. Explain ourselves, our motives and influence views of others on us. When a child feels angry&expresses it to their mother and mothers response ”but I love you” sends a message that child's feelings do not matter. Mother has a narrow vision as she doesn't see the child's point of view; externalising; accusation - when mother is projecting to the child in stuff, implication is that the child's mind is not his own. => How a brain learns about emotion management?A early stage of development right part of the brain looks after emotional process, enterpriting facing, behaviours.key for this development is close relationship with mother; as she provides healthy social & emotional environment to her capacity to regulate her own emotions-anger,To develop strong neorosystem a child needs to be protected from prolonged & intend stress. Child needs to develop skill to mood changes and changing world. The role of the mother is to notice child's discomfort; soothe the child and adjust her voice and gestures to child emotional rhythm. Doing so helps the child to see that they can work together and recapture security comfort & safety & delight human interaction as the child engaged in affective dialogue & able to move with emotional management => Resilience-overcoming difficult mother power. Inner paradox we develop a sense of inner self not only through feelings and sensations but also through the relationship with others. Mother & baby develops foundational relationship where mother stimulates concept of I & other; mothers curiosity about our experiences and emotions we become self aware. Prolong difficult relationship with our mother is likely to impact our own inner world. Understanding who we are & making sense of our own stories are vital part of our well being. Making sense of important relationships are important to make a sense of our selves. his is physical and emotional as well as intellectual exercise.our thoughts about big things in our lives create strong sensations feelings infuse our view on the world. Our positive thoughts are broadly in sync with our expectations when we are making ourselves clear to others, we understand what is said and we understand how other persons reaction fit conversational flow, we feel whole, confident& energised. When we are mystified by shifting moods and inexplicable motives from someone we love and we can not find our footing we get emotionally seasick. Do you stick to generalisation or can you see a nuance within the situation? Are your stories flexible and inclusive or closed and static? Do you welcome opportunity to change or resist them? Can you sustain relationships with others or do you reject and feel threatened by others? An you focus on the experience without avoidance, confusion or changing the subject? => Recovered children demonstrate resilience after trial& error process they don’t remain stuck in the set backs; they learn about their set backs; they observe lessons of day to day psychology; they try to manage they own actions so they do not push others away; they try to control they own feelings & assess if they response to others makes sense; eventually they exercise their power to influence their environment. They are able to leave unsafe situations, lower the emotional temperature in the argument and respond positively to positive behaviour in other people. With this skills they are able to build supportive relationships. There is one more final piece of the puzzle of our experience of difficult mother and possibility of recovery. You may experienced your mother to be difficult and particular sensitive to her moods, her displeasure, her criticism or lack of care due to your genetic vulnerability in difficult circumstances- the depression risk gene- the orchid gene => Resilience exercise: make a list of feelings assumptions & behaviours which you think resulted die to the experience with the difficult mother. For each feeling assumptions and behaviour focus on steps you can take to change them. Understanding how the experience with the mother made self defeating feelings, habits to arise. The key question how can you be affective in your own life. Conduct autobiographical heath check relating to the experience with your mother. Test your descriptions watch out for generalisations no facts. Look out for expectations; give specific examples of general terms you used. est your ability to shift perspective, can you shift it to your current world. Try to notice your responses when your own feelings or behaviour of ours are confusing are you quick to blame others? Do you get angry? By being blamed on something spins you in to a feeling of anxiety or anger? Identify what you really anxious or angry about? Explain your feelings to your self. Do you over react to social awkwardness? Explain to your self what result you fear from this awkwardness? Assess if this fear or embarrassment realistic? - Do you still hope to resolve difficult dilemma even though you know you never satisfy your mother? Finding yourself hoping that one day you will be what she wants you to be and this will resolve in satisfaction and security. Consider if it makes sense and how you can move forward without a response from her. What sources can you receive understanding engagement? Can you really satisfy your mother fantasy by meeting only her expectations? How can you move forward without a response from her? Can you satisfy the fantasy that all will be well with your mother if you are the only one who makes a sacrifice, meet her needs expectations? Can you find a way to love her without seeing yourself as a failure or disappointment. Can you accept that your mother doesn’t want to get to know you or do you feel disappointed for her failure to listen responsively? Can you really satisfy your mother fantasy by meeting only her expectations? Focus on what you learned from a difficult relationship with tour mother; skills you developed as you dealt with this relationship.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Lewis

    When you are a victim of emotional abuse by a parent, you find it hard to understand how and why, and are you, as they love to say, living in a fantasy world for actually mentioning it. This book, for me, opened my eyes to the fact that yes, it was abuse and no, I wasn’t alone and I could get past it. Allowed me to see I don’t have to feel like I’m going mad and some parents ARE like that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gato Negro

    I liked this book, tough as it was to read for me because of personal reasons. I think, for a mental health practitioner or someone working with difficult children, this would be an excellent read. For me, it was simply the catchy title and what it appeared to promise me as a reader. The focus appeared to be mostly (I'd say 85%) on "understanding" who the basic difficult mothers are (those who are overbearing, those who are jealous, those who are narcissistic, those who are unattached, etc.) and I liked this book, tough as it was to read for me because of personal reasons. I think, for a mental health practitioner or someone working with difficult children, this would be an excellent read. For me, it was simply the catchy title and what it appeared to promise me as a reader. The focus appeared to be mostly (I'd say 85%) on "understanding" who the basic difficult mothers are (those who are overbearing, those who are jealous, those who are narcissistic, those who are unattached, etc.) and the remaining 15% could be construed as "overcoming". Overcoming, as described by this author, seems to involve a lot of separating and not an overabundance of working through the issues with one's mother but I do understand that mothers with these interactivity issues often do not recognize how they are impacting their children, or they do and don't want to change. (Or, the shit has gone on for years and years and years and we have just basically accepted that this is how it is and we ourselves are afraid to do anything different either, disappointing as it is to constantly dream of what could have been...sigh.) My go to move(s) with my Mom is appeasament and deferring and I doubt strongly that those will change as a result of reading this book but the chapters did give me a little more insight into why my spouse and other good people I know have the hang ups they do...based on what I know of how they themselves were parented.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I didn't pick this book because I felt I had a particularly difficult mother, but because I imagine that I would be a difficult mother myself- "NO. WIRE. HANGERS!" seems pretty reasonable to me :) Anyway, this book is an insightful look into the mysterious workings of the baby brain, and is great for anyone who is curious about the developmental roots of their own unique personalities. Whether we had a good childhood with great parents or otherwise, this book offers a peek at how those formative I didn't pick this book because I felt I had a particularly difficult mother, but because I imagine that I would be a difficult mother myself- "NO. WIRE. HANGERS!" seems pretty reasonable to me :) Anyway, this book is an insightful look into the mysterious workings of the baby brain, and is great for anyone who is curious about the developmental roots of their own unique personalities. Whether we had a good childhood with great parents or otherwise, this book offers a peek at how those formative first years formed the foundation of our sense of self. The author demonstrates how the "self" is really an evolving pattern of responses born from experiences largely inaccessible to one's working memory. Although we may not remember our infancy or childhood in any great detail, parts of those experiences are reenacted in our adulthood constantly. What becomes the familiar, multifaceted, adult personality that we each come to love and loathe can be traced back, branch by branch, to the original "conversations" between mother (or main caretaker) and child.

  15. 5 out of 5

    C. Janelle

    I kind of skimmed this book in order to get it off the shelf before my mother visited, so maybe I missed this part, but I don't understand why the focus is restricted to the maternal relationship. Why doesn't Apter address the role of non-mother primary caregivers in a child's life? The descriptions of the different types of difficult relationships people have with their mothers seem overly narrow and rigid (although perhaps I only think this because my own relationship challenges aren't describe I kind of skimmed this book in order to get it off the shelf before my mother visited, so maybe I missed this part, but I don't understand why the focus is restricted to the maternal relationship. Why doesn't Apter address the role of non-mother primary caregivers in a child's life? The descriptions of the different types of difficult relationships people have with their mothers seem overly narrow and rigid (although perhaps I only think this because my own relationship challenges aren't described here). Although Apter cautions readers not to assume that our disappointment in our mother's responses is necessarily her fault, it seems to absolve grown children of the responsibility to interact with their mothers as though their mothers are adults. This seems like a fine book, but it didn't do it for me. Eventually I'll learn that self-help books are always going to leave me wanting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rosemarie

    This is a great book on a very difficult topic. Apter distinguishes very clearly between "good enough" mothers - who are not perfect - but no mother is - on the one hand, and mother/child relationships that cross over into the "difficult" catagory and why they do. Her definition is the best I've ever heard. "A difficult mother is someone who presents her child with the dilemma: 'Either develop complex and constricting coping mechanisms to maintain a relationship with me on my own terms, or suffe This is a great book on a very difficult topic. Apter distinguishes very clearly between "good enough" mothers - who are not perfect - but no mother is - on the one hand, and mother/child relationships that cross over into the "difficult" catagory and why they do. Her definition is the best I've ever heard. "A difficult mother is someone who presents her child with the dilemma: 'Either develop complex and constricting coping mechanisms to maintain a relationship with me on my own terms, or suffer ridicule, disapproval, or rejection.' " If you've ever wondered if your relationship with your mom is normal or harmful, and what you can do about it so it doesn't destroy the rest of your life, this book will be a great help and comfort.

  17. 4 out of 5

    AG

    This was a very interesting and pertinent read. I especially liked the way the author translated neuroscience for the masses, to explain attachment theory and the effect parenting has on a child. The distinctions between the 'difficult' mother and the 'good enough' mother were a good addition to the book and injected a measure of realism into the subject. I found the worksheets useful and will be placing this book into my 'self workbook' category to fully utilise the tools provided. This was a very interesting and pertinent read. I especially liked the way the author translated neuroscience for the masses, to explain attachment theory and the effect parenting has on a child. The distinctions between the 'difficult' mother and the 'good enough' mother were a good addition to the book and injected a measure of realism into the subject. I found the worksheets useful and will be placing this book into my 'self workbook' category to fully utilise the tools provided.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    I don't feel like the categories were fully developed. I have a mother who was neglectful because of her narcissism. Few of the behaviors described were exhibited, she was just waiting till I was old enough to be kicked out so she could marry a rich man and relive her youth. This book was not helpful at understanding her, teaching how to move past the damaging effects or how to facilitate change in our relationship. I don't feel like the categories were fully developed. I have a mother who was neglectful because of her narcissism. Few of the behaviors described were exhibited, she was just waiting till I was old enough to be kicked out so she could marry a rich man and relive her youth. This book was not helpful at understanding her, teaching how to move past the damaging effects or how to facilitate change in our relationship.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally B

    Finally someone who understands my mother. Someone put into writing my life. I am grateful to have been adopted as a baby by two people who could take good care of me, but at the same time my mother was distant and scrutinizing my every move and word. This book helped me understand her better, but it has been difficult to implement her strategies because my mother catches on. I have definitely been able to put my foot down however as a result of the knowledge and wisdom the author provides.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    While I certainly did not have a difficult mother, we all have loved ones and acquaintances that have. This book focuses on parental issues but is not necessarily limited to only that. Extremely eye-opening and insightful as to how and why life issues are dealt with by all people, whether they be mothers, fathers, grandparents, bosses, co-workers, children, or even yourself. Great read and relevant for anyone that doesn't live in complete isolation. While I certainly did not have a difficult mother, we all have loved ones and acquaintances that have. This book focuses on parental issues but is not necessarily limited to only that. Extremely eye-opening and insightful as to how and why life issues are dealt with by all people, whether they be mothers, fathers, grandparents, bosses, co-workers, children, or even yourself. Great read and relevant for anyone that doesn't live in complete isolation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mari

    An uneasy but enlightening read - I now understand the chemistry and complex relationship between my mother and grandmother much better. Only time will tell whether this newfound knowledge is of any help I future dealings with my extremely difficult grandmother.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    This book was a self-serving adventure for me. I love pop-psychology, and also I have a difficult relationship with my mom. It was a decent book. Shared some research and I will return to it when I need reminders of my current state of mind concerning this relationship.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Catarina

    Um livro interessante sobre este tema. Acho que uma citação ajuda mais do que a minha opinião :" But you can gain the courage and power to say "I find your coldness, condemnation, manipulation ir mockery unpleasant, but these will not change who I am nor they will deatroy me". Um livro interessante sobre este tema. Acho que uma citação ajuda mais do que a minha opinião :" But you can gain the courage and power to say "I find your coldness, condemnation, manipulation ir mockery unpleasant, but these will not change who I am nor they will deatroy me".

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cleokatra

    Excellent book! I spent years trying to figure out why my relationship with my mother was such a mess. This book spells it out in detail. Now I get it. If you think you need this book, you probably do. If your mom is/was awesome or even acceptable, don't bother. Excellent book! I spent years trying to figure out why my relationship with my mother was such a mess. This book spells it out in detail. Now I get it. If you think you need this book, you probably do. If your mom is/was awesome or even acceptable, don't bother.

  25. 5 out of 5

    LJB

    Great book This is an extraordinary book. Clearly written, insightful and without gobbledegook. Refreshing distinguishment between difficult and good-enough mothers. Great description especially of mother-infant interactions.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dindy

    Brilliant definition of depression, " is mourning for a loss of one's self...it is closer to the death of a feeling." Brilliant definition of depression, " is mourning for a loss of one's self...it is closer to the death of a feeling."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    So far, so good. Masterfully written. Highly readable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    If you want to understand yourself, you need to understand our relationship with your mother. Very helpful, especially if you are familiar with attachment theory and intersubjective theory.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    Interesting read, research backed and comes from a place of solution- finding.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Celestino Lopez III

    Good read Good read. Explains various difficult mothers and the impact they sometimes have after their death. The battle sometimes continues years after.

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