If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World Info

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Do you sometimes feel as if you are living your life to
please others? Do you give other people the benefit of the doubt but
second-guess yourself? Do you struggle with perfectionism, anxiety, lack
of confidence, emotional emptiness, or eating disorders? In your
intimate relationships, have you found it difficult to get close without
losing your sense of self?

If so, you may be among the fifteen
million adults in the United States who were raised with unhealthy
parental control. In this groundbreaking bestseller by accomplished
family therapist Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., you'll discover whether your
parents controlled eating, appearance, speech, decisions, feelings,
social life, and other aspects of your childhood—and whether that
control may underlie problems you still struggle with in adulthood.
Packed with inspiring case studies and dozens of practical suggestions,
this book shows you how to leave home emotionally so you can improve
assertiveness, boundaries, and confidence, quiet you "inner critics,"
and bring more balance to your moods and relationships. Offering
compassion, not blame, Dr. Neuharth helps you make peace with your past
and avoid overcontrolling your children and other loved ones.


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Reviews for If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World:

5

Oct 13, 2014

When I found out a couple of weeks ago that this book existed, I was shocked and so extremely happy. I hurried up and bought this book off of Amazon and began reading it as soon as it was delivered. I now consider this book to be my Bible.

Growing up, I always knew that there was something not quite normal about my family. My father worked 100 plus hours a week and very rarely wanted to spend time with me on his day off. In addition, he was drunk most of the time. That meant I was with my mother When I found out a couple of weeks ago that this book existed, I was shocked and so extremely happy. I hurried up and bought this book off of Amazon and began reading it as soon as it was delivered. I now consider this book to be my Bible.

Growing up, I always knew that there was something not quite normal about my family. My father worked 100 plus hours a week and very rarely wanted to spend time with me on his day off. In addition, he was drunk most of the time. That meant I was with my mother all the time. My mother was very controlling, and with the help of this book, I now know she was a smothering, depriving, and perfectionist controller, with slight hints of childlike and using showing up periodically.

I will list several examples from my childhood that show what I mean when I say my mother was controlling:

- She picked out my clothes for me. She chose what was purchased, when I wore an outfit and I had no say in if I liked it or not. She did this until I started high school. It felt great when I worked at a job and made money to buy myself an outfit. I will always remember what it looked like and where I bought it from.
- She packed me the same exact lunch from first grade until she allowed me to make my own lunch, again around the high school years. I had ham/turkey slices, carrot sticks, and a slice of cheese. Not exactly what children want to eat, and definitely did not eaten every single day.

- It was hard on my mother when I had friends over because she could not really control them. By second grade, I was not allowed to have friends over or go over to their houses.

- In addition, my mother did not want me to have friends, period. She would tell me how to act in school, and when I did, classmates acted like I was crazy and wanted nothing to do with me. I would tell my mother and she would say that they were jealous of my hair (!!!!) and to ignore them. By third grade, not a single classmate wanted anything to do with me due to my weird behavior. This lasted until after I graduated high school. I was very lonely and sad.

- I very rarely was able to see extended family. If I was at my grandparent’s house, I had to call my mom daily and if she did not like what I told her, she came to pick me up. I was virtually never allowed to see my dad’s side of the family. And when my grandma or aunt would try to make plans to get together, for a lunch or just a visit, my mom invariably cancelled. She could not stand the thought that circumstances might be beyond her control.

- I had to be perfect in school. I excelled at reading and writing but did poorly in math. We would spend hours after school, her attempting to drill math into my head. All it did was intimidate me and I did not do well. She would pound her fists on the table and scream at me.

- She often threatened to kill herself if I did not act the way she liked. One time, she was upset and I did not show enough compassion for her liking, so she screamed at me that she should just go to the kitchen and stab herself.

- Everything had to be spotless in our house. We would spend hours cleaning the house and be made to redo it if not up to par. If I did the dishes and one or two of them were still dirty, she would splash dirty sink water in my face and then make me rewash each and every dish, dirty or not.

- She would call family meetings. I knew this would be a time when all my faults would come out. She would sometimes sob that if I could just listen better, or love her more, everything would be ok.

- She treated my father like a child. He never stood up for himself or for me. He would seem relieved when I got into trouble as that took the heat off of him. To this day, I cannot stand my dad and believe if he tried to stand up for me when I was younger, I would be able to tolerate him better today.

- If we dropped food on our clothes while eating dinner, my mother would fly into a rage. It got to the point, during sixth grade, that I was so nervous to eat, that I usually skipped the meal or hardly ate at all. I lost a lot of weight during this time.


I liked that this book made me realize all of my feelings towards my parents that I have as an adult are normal and that many others feel the same way as I do. I very rarely call my parents and only see them now because of my own children.

Up until recently, I was afraid to do anything unless my mom was ok with it. I am married with two kids and still worried that she might get mad if I did something she did not like.

The third part in the book was very helpful. I like that the author said we had a choice as to how we dealt with the past. I have options and like that there is no time frame. I will keep this book and refer to it often. I also plan on reading some of the other books that Neuharth referenced as I think they will help, too.
...more
3

Sep 17, 2012

A pretty thought-provoking book.

"More than anything, children want love. When you are a helpless, tiny creature in a world of giants in which events happen that you don't understand and can't control--a 'blooming, buzzing confusion,' as William James called an infant's experience--a parent who loves you and whom you can trust and love is the top priority for survival. Children need not only love but also all that goes with it: nurturing touch; acceptance; safety; belonging; being seen for who A pretty thought-provoking book.

"More than anything, children want love. When you are a helpless, tiny creature in a world of giants in which events happen that you don't understand and can't control--a 'blooming, buzzing confusion,' as William James called an infant's experience--a parent who loves you and whom you can trust and love is the top priority for survival. Children need not only love but also all that goes with it: nurturing touch; acceptance; safety; belonging; being seen for who they are; and the freedom to laugh, cry, rage, and be afraid. Because they need love and acceptance so desperately, children will take them in any form they can get them. When they don't get love, they'll construe whatever they do get--including unhealthy control--as love. Therein lie the seeds of problems later in life.
"The most unfortunate parallel between controlling families and destructive cults is that parental control becomes internalized in children, just as cult dogma becomes internalized in cult members. No parent can be present twenty-four hours a day. But controlling parents don't have to physically be there because the family system installs an omnipresent inner controller in the child. These twenty-four-hour internalized parents, with their nagging commentary, second-guessing, and criticism, can perpetuate deprivation, perfectionism, and speech-and-feeling control well into adult life. The inner control may surface in the form of poor interpersonal boundaries, feelings of unworthiness, lowered expectations, self-loathing, fear of closeness, or poor self-image."

Exercises:
1. Meet your future self. When faced with a challenge or decision, envision yourself in 5 or 10 years, then ask your future self for advice. Doing so underlines the faith you have in your own innate development.
2. Trust yourself. Go through an hour assuming that you are completely trustworthy, your feelings reliable, and your intuition accurate. As situations come up, ask yourself, 'If I knew I was absolutely trustworthy, what would I do now?' This can help you see that you have within yourself all you need to handle challenges.
3. Trust gravity. One helpful exercise is Napier's 'Gravity-is-your-friend'. Lie down and feel the support of the bed or floor. Feel all you weight ease down into it and gradually let the ease deepen for five minutes. The earth will support your weight, and gravity will keep you grounded. Trust it. You can take this experience of trusting into relationships and situations.
4. Express gratitude. Take a minute at the end of the day to recollect all the experiences and gifts for which you are grateful.
5. Notice what you do. For one week, each night before bed spend 5 minutes listing what you accomplished, experienced, or became aware of that day. At the end of the week, look over your lists. You'll see plenty to acknowledge. This builds the inner nurturer instead of fueling the inner tyrants.
6. Explore various paths to spirituality. Pray. Meditate. Read. Visit a cemetery. Read about or visit Jerusalem or other 'holy' sites. Explore existential philosophy. Attend various church services such as an inner-city gospel, a fundamentalist tent revival, a Catholic mass, or a New Age or Zen center. Go on a vision quest. ...more
5

Mar 23, 2014

This is a good read for anyone who had controlling parents - not just domineering parents (though these are included) those whose parents were controlling in other ways.

Neuharth outlines the different types of unhealthy control that parents might exert on their children, as well as some of the likely results in the children and the adults these children become.

One of the aspects of the book that I really appreciated was that Neuharth avoids assuming that a) a particular type of controlling This is a good read for anyone who had controlling parents - not just domineering parents (though these are included) those whose parents were controlling in other ways.

Neuharth outlines the different types of unhealthy control that parents might exert on their children, as well as some of the likely results in the children and the adults these children become.

One of the aspects of the book that I really appreciated was that Neuharth avoids assuming that a) a particular type of controlling parental behaviour will necessarily lead to a particular type of result in a child - he outlines the most likely and most often found impacts that people experience but recognizes that individuals have individual responses; and b) Neuharth allows the readers to choose options that might work best for themselves in modify and/or eliminating dysfunctional responses they have as adults as a result of having controlling parents.

Unlike some writers, who claim that 'you can heal so long as you follow my rules and/or my step-by-step program', Neuharth outlines a number of techniques that have proven helpful to him and/or his clients in overcoming different types of responses to different types of controlling behaviours. Neuharth is very forthright, acknowledging that while these techniques are likely to offer help to individuals, each reader might find all, some, or even none of the suggestions useful for a particular situation. Neuharth empowers the reader simply by giving options and assuming (with some gentle guidance) that the reader is capable of making decisions for themselves.

I also appreciate that Neuharth does not make 'forgiveness' a pre-requisite for healing, this is in stark contrast to many individuals and books I have come across in my own journey. Neuharth discusses forgiveness and outlines the reasons why this path might work for people and also why it not be a good choice, and might even be detrimental to an individual's healing process. Again, Neuharth empowers the reader by assuming he/she is able to assess the options and decide for themselves what the best choice might be.

I will end in the spirit of Neuharth: If you had controlling parents, consider that this book might offer some extremely valuable advice to you in your healing journey. ...more
2

May 05, 2017

Unfortunately, this book was not for me; not because I didn't have controlling parents, but because 75% of the book is about identifying the problems caused by your controlling parents in your childhood and I've already done that part. I was mainly interested in the healing process and what I found here was inadequate, or things I'd already read elsewhere or figured out for myself.

There is a large part of the book that's concerned with putting everything in boxes: types of controlling parents, Unfortunately, this book was not for me; not because I didn't have controlling parents, but because 75% of the book is about identifying the problems caused by your controlling parents in your childhood and I've already done that part. I was mainly interested in the healing process and what I found here was inadequate, or things I'd already read elsewhere or figured out for myself.

There is a large part of the book that's concerned with putting everything in boxes: types of controlling parents, type of effects on their children, methods of manipulation/control and how to figure out where you or your parents belong. Personally, I can't see any use at all for that knowledge and the author doesn't offer any different advice for the healing depending on the kind of control your parents exercised.

The 'why' however can help, but I think I've figured it out myself a few years ago: My mother was neglected as a child so when she made her own family, she decided to claim the spotlight she felt she'd always deserved. That meant we all had to appear perfect to outsiders so that everyone would admire or even envy her. Outside the house she was always smiling, helping people, with a kind word for everyone and perfect manners. Inside she would criticize all those people she'd praised an hour ago, humiliate anyone who'd disagreed with her, refuse to give praise for an 'A' because -as she claimed- then we wouldn't have any motivation to strive for an 'A+'. When we'd get an 'A+' she'd remind us of the 'A-' or 'B+' we got in another class. I felt like a hamster running inside a wheel with no end in sight. She'd tell me I was 'selfish', 'ungrateful' and 'too difficult for anyone to handle' when I reached puberty and started rebelling against her. If I said that she was being hurtful or unjust she'd tell me to 'just get over it' while reminding me that everyone liked her so I obviously had to be wrong in thinking unkindly of her and since her reasoning made sense, I believed her. It goes without saying that my mother (my father was so enthralled by her, he always followed her lead) had a say on what we'll study, on what we wore, on our boyfriends/girlfriends (=that was a big fat 'NO' for both my brother and me, as flirting would take our focus away from good grades), and the friends we kept (=only those with good grades or good breeding were deemed acceptable). After I got in the university she stated that now I should find myself a good boyfriend (=one that ticks several boxes like wealth, breeding and education), after I finished and got a job that now was the time to find myself a husband and after I got married and barely 3 months into our marriage, she told me I should get pregnant soon because she was in a good age to become a grandmother and if I left it for later, she'd be too tired to help me. Even now that I'm over 40, my mother calls to say her opinion about how to raise our kids, how often I should clean the house or how to style my hair.

All that said, the stories in this book made me feel guilty for thinking badly of her, as she didn't physically abuse me, she only withheld hugs when we didn't act as she wished but otherwise would play games with us and laugh and sit by our bedside when sick, she didn't order for us in restaurants as I read in here. However, I do believe that subtler forms of control can be just as devastating because the back and forth between loving parent and emotional abuser makes it even more difficult for the children to realize that this environment is unhealthy and that their parents, while well meaning, have scarred them for life.

As for the healing part of the book, I didn't find much practical advice as I'd expected. I liked that the author doesn't 'force' you to forgive your parents in order to heal as most books out there do, nor is he a believer that you have to confront them in order to get better. But if your parents are not 100% evil, there's no clear advice on what to do to salvage your relationship with them without cutting ties with them. Plus, because my mother was not as bad as those stories mentioned in this book, I now feel even guiltier than before I picked it up for wanting to distance myself from her.

You can’t change them, you won’t beat them, and you probably won’t get them to see the “error of their ways.”
....
Controlling parents are generally disinterested in exploring their adult children’s grievances with them. When one forty-four-year-old man wrote a letter to his self-centered father telling him what troubled him in their relationship, the Using father wrote back with an attack. “He said, in essence, ‘Don’t blame me—everything good in your life you got from me, everything bad in your life is your own doing,’” recalls his son
.....
All parents want to be appreciated by their children. Healthier parents recognize that appreciation is a gift their children may give, not something they must give. Healthier mothers and fathers may crave their children’s love, respect, approval, and loyalty, but generally recognize that things like respect and approval must be earned by parents as well as by children.
Controlling parents, however, don’t seem to know that truth. If they felt they had to earn their own parents’ love, they may feel entitled to their children’s love. In controlling families, need is stronger than love. Controlling parents need, expect, even command their children to love, appreciate, admire, listen to, and reflect well on them. Because controlling parents believe they own their children, they feel justified in such expectations.

In short: This book is recommended for people who have only now began to realize that their parents may have screwed them up by over-controlling them. If you're already further along in your journey to become a really independent adult, look elsewhere. ...more
3

May 31, 2014

The book is predictably general, mostly common sense, thus shallow for my taste. The examples of real life people could be more distinctive and differentiable among the categories it creates.
5

Nov 15, 2017

So many parts of this had me nodding my head and exclaiming, "Yes!!!" Easy to read and very helpful. It validated how much work I've already done to escape the legacy of my controlling parent. If you experience(d) this, it will help you too.
4

Sep 07, 2016

Well-structured and informative, slightly too focused on theorizing and classifications, but with enough case studies and exercises to add some nice practical value.

The only thing that didn't sit quite right with me was the author's slightly exaggerated tendency to put everything in neatly-labeled boxes - there are X types of controlling parents, Y types of controlling behaviour, and so on. Firstly, this kind of approach almost always leads to things falling through the cracks. Also, abusive Well-structured and informative, slightly too focused on theorizing and classifications, but with enough case studies and exercises to add some nice practical value.

The only thing that didn't sit quite right with me was the author's slightly exaggerated tendency to put everything in neatly-labeled boxes - there are X types of controlling parents, Y types of controlling behaviour, and so on. Firstly, this kind of approach almost always leads to things falling through the cracks. Also, abusive control is a complex issue; things are rarely that clear-cut. Although the author does acknowledge this, I think the book would have benefited from exploring this topic in more detail.

Still - this is a solid read overall, worth picking up if you either grew up with excessive control, or if you're dealing with a controlling person (not necessarily a parent) right now. ...more
4

Jul 13, 2013

The book has many disturbing examples of parental neglect and abuse. A very thought provoking read to understand how some people are the way they are. Seventy percent of the book is focused on very practical ways to deal with growing up with troubled parents. It's a book for illustrating what not to do as a parent and also how to emerge as an independent, healthy human being. Great read.
5

Aug 20, 2013

I must read for a lot of people I know who (won't) read this.

So many people who grew up in the fundamentalist community should read this.
They could use a better understanding of themselves and the healing they need to seek out.

This book offers that.

There are lots of little exercises I'll be doing in the future to help heal my screwed-up thinking about the world.
5

Aug 27, 2017

This book helped me through some very painful parts of my life, and will continue to help me. I started it over a year ago, and put it down when it got too painful. Now, I've finished it, and I can say I've grown as a person and in being able to acknowledge the nuance that is in this book: what my parents did is not my fault, but what I do from here on out is my responsibility. It's a lot more freeing of a statement than I realized when I first saw it.

I can only highly recommend this book to This book helped me through some very painful parts of my life, and will continue to help me. I started it over a year ago, and put it down when it got too painful. Now, I've finished it, and I can say I've grown as a person and in being able to acknowledge the nuance that is in this book: what my parents did is not my fault, but what I do from here on out is my responsibility. It's a lot more freeing of a statement than I realized when I first saw it.

I can only highly recommend this book to folks like me who grew up with very controlling parents. ...more
0

Jul 15, 2017

Took a long time to get through this due to much needed processing time. I thought the last third was very very good and helpful. I found the first sections quite graphic and disturbing, actually exploitative. Be forewarned. I would imagine the descriptions of people's experiences could be quite triggering to some, so just know what you're getting into.
5

Mar 07, 2020

Easy to read. Straight forward. Full of clear examples and case studies. Contains strategies and exercises to aid in recovery. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who feels they may have been overcontrolled in childhood. Tou'll find validation, relief, and a path forward.
4

Apr 14, 2018

This is an extremely helpful book for anyone whose parent(s) fit the description. This book came equipped with quite a few tactics and truths. Definitely a book worth keeping as a reference.
0

Nov 29, 2016

I have just started the book, but am shocked how much it makes sense and applies to me. The categories are helpful and puts things into perspective for me.

Although the stories in the book seem small compared to mine.

I look forward to the healing process.
5

Apr 04, 2014

Should be required reading for people in any sort of relationship with a controlling person, not just a parent. Summary: You have a right to individuate yourself, and to honour your individuality and your sense of safety in various ways, including distancing yourself from the person that harmed you.

Neuharth details the subtleties of various forms of controlling behaviour and the often decades-long devastation they wreak on the controllee's self-confidence, trust in his/her own opinions, Should be required reading for people in any sort of relationship with a controlling person, not just a parent. Summary: You have a right to individuate yourself, and to honour your individuality and your sense of safety in various ways, including distancing yourself from the person that harmed you.

Neuharth details the subtleties of various forms of controlling behaviour and the often decades-long devastation they wreak on the controllee's self-confidence, trust in his/her own opinions, thoughts, and perceptions of reality. He addresses parental normalization or outright denial of the fucked-upness they inflict on their children, leads the reader through the emotional complexities of acknowledging the damage, and how to deal with simultaneously loving and being justifiably angry at the controller. Most importantly, for my money, Neuharth validates controllees' feelings of hurt and anger, and offers diverse and concrete suggestions to figure out what path forward is best for you. ...more
4

Mar 30, 2014

If you had controlling parents and have never worked through the emotions associated with your experiences, this is a great book to read. The author shares a variety of stories that demonstrate mildly controlling parents to off the charts controlling parents. Each scenario gives the reader reason to pause and ponder their own experiences. Going through this exercise can help you understand yourself and stop blaming yourself for things that were out of your control as a child. Even if you have If you had controlling parents and have never worked through the emotions associated with your experiences, this is a great book to read. The author shares a variety of stories that demonstrate mildly controlling parents to off the charts controlling parents. Each scenario gives the reader reason to pause and ponder their own experiences. Going through this exercise can help you understand yourself and stop blaming yourself for things that were out of your control as a child. Even if you have worked through your experience with controlling parents, the latter half of the book discusses reasons why your parents are the way you are. The author doesn't excuse our parents or the way they treated us. But by helping us understand our parents, and the possible reasons for their behavior, it may be easier to feel sympathy for them and ultimately forgive them so that they no longer have power over us. ...more
4

Aug 12, 2008

You might be surprised how many of the various terrors of childhood in the shadow of bad parenting fall under the rubric of overcontrol. Author Dan Neuharth breaks down various types of controllers, and various styles and methods of control, so that the reader, provided, of course, they had experienced overcontrol when growing up, might more easily pinpoint the genesis of some of their personal anguish. He uses case histories to serve as examples of the various types of controllers, as well as You might be surprised how many of the various terrors of childhood in the shadow of bad parenting fall under the rubric of overcontrol. Author Dan Neuharth breaks down various types of controllers, and various styles and methods of control, so that the reader, provided, of course, they had experienced overcontrol when growing up, might more easily pinpoint the genesis of some of their personal anguish. He uses case histories to serve as examples of the various types of controllers, as well as to help the reader jog his/her memory as to any relatable experiences from his/her own life. Neuharth also provides suggestions of how to deal with and heal from the pain of such a childhood. Full of insights and eye-openers. Highly recommended. ...more
4

Oct 17, 2012

I had to read this book pretty slow not because it was a difficult read but the content will bring back a lot of memories. The book surfaced a lot of emotions that I tried to ignore, but without letting them manifest I would never heal. I really appreciate the message in this book because we all were controlled and do control others in some way. The message is to recognize our faults and learn from them. Its a daily practice that will never end.
4

Dec 13, 2011

Yes, another pop-psych book. This was very insightful, and gave me lots of memories to regurgitate and detoxify. I'd recommend this for any and everyone to read, because ALL of us have been controlled and controlling at some point. Awareness is the first step to recovery--even if you didn't have controlling parents, you're interacting with many who had. It's time to grow up the healthy way!
4

Aug 08, 2013

Lots of repetition in this book but that doesn't bother me because what I find most helpful is the pages seem to validate my feelings. It's like have a personal therapist that understands me and all I need to do is read a paragraph or two. I'm not saying this is 'the book' to understanding self and family but it has helped me release deep seeded feelings inside me.
5

Sep 16, 2012

I only got through about half of this - meant to finish it but what I'd already read was a lot to chew on, and then I passed it on to a friend who needed it too. I feel like the part that I read gave me what I needed although I'm curious to read the rest.
4

Jul 09, 2015

If you fit into this category, this book is a must read. It is very helpful with breakdowns of scenarios and analysis. It provides insight, explanations and practical steps of healing. I had borrowed this book from the library and then had to purchase a copy so that I could mark it up!
2

Jun 23, 2016

Contains some useful insights, but is so repetitive that I found myself skimming or skipping big chunks of it.
2

Aug 30, 2010

Never knew why I felt certain ways until I started reading this book.
4

Sep 09, 2012

Very helpful in looking at family dysfunction objectively whilst one is in recovery.

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