A book presents emboldening ideas to help readers deal with dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships.
From the volume’s start, Anderson (AFTER The Before & After, 2011) writes from a place of personal wisdom and resolved knowledge. Her detached objectivity rings clear throughout as she provides simple strategies that employ complex psychological exercises in practical ways. For example, she begins the work by describing a triangle of “victim consciousness”—victim, persecutor, rescuer. Many readers trapped in flawed mother-daughter relationships will likely recognize these roles. Anderson provides exercises to break from this pattern, including journaling and listing. The volume also suggests living through emotions rather than judging or pushing them away. Through this concept, the reader can explore which emotions arise from memories or interactions with a dysfunctional, often manipulative mother. And, by allowing the emotions to make their brief stay, the reader can become aware of ways to accept rather than reject the feelings. Yet perhaps one of the book’s most potent features is the way Anderson explains boundaries. They are not devices that will change the way others will treat a person, she explains, and perhaps that’s the most widely misunderstood idea about setting boundaries. Boundaries, she notes, are actually commitments to oneself and one’s own integrity. They are behavioral limits—meaning whether one reacts to certain things or responds to particular kinds of remarks. Anderson breaks down boundaries into two parts: requests and consequences. She explains that it is not a mother’s job to respect a daughter’s boundaries: it is the daughter’s duty to follow through and enforce the consequences she sets. The book is enlightening, clear, and concise and should be helpful to readers struggling with the helpless feelings of a manipulative relationship with a parent who seems impossible to sever from their lives without severe consequences. A later chapter discusses “mother” as a verb rather than a noun. Following the wisdom of author Martha Beck, Anderson asserts that readers are being mothered whenever they are accepted, nourished, instructed, or empowered. Once they detach the idea of motherhood from a particular person, she explains, they are free to receive it from all around—including from themselves. This is perhaps one of the most enlightening moments in the book, and readers will likely gain lasting insights from this poignant, stirring read.
This short, forceful work about mother-daughter dynamics gives clear pathways to relief and empowerment.