Given all the research about trends in the lives of adoptees, each adopted person will have unique feelings, experiences, and thoughts about his or her adoption. Some of these differences may be accounted for by individual personality traits, coping mechanisms, or other life events, but circumstances surrounding the adoption also may affect how an adopted person views the adoption.
For those who don’t know and those that do but are yet to realise the effect adoption has had on me, current article (“Seven” is no longer my luck number) follows my previous: (“What adoption did to me”).
I wrote the first not long after I was entering a dark place of uncertainty in my life. However at my core, I knew I had to travel through the darkness to find my answers and heal. Some adoptees and other members of the adoption triad may need professional assistance in recognising that they may have become trapped in the negative feelings generated by the adoption experience
With the help of the right people in my life, I am beginning to understand my true self and reconnect with the sensitive child within me. Little by little, each breath finds new strength, a new purpose, to reclaim the identity that was once mine then taken from me, and be happy for who I am. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
Thanks to these beautiful supportive people I’ve embarked on a physical, spiritual and emotional journey that has tested me more ways imaginable. I have approached this journey from an inherent holistic viewpoint.
Finding the necessary services I require to fully recover either don’t exist, are too far away or way too expensive. I’ve had huge issues with finding a psychologist that would bulk bill. I finally found a psychologist after months of searching, however he doesn’t specialise in adoption.
Getting outside my head and realising the denial bubble I was in for 42 years only happened for me 3 years ago. After my 1st marriage, I met my now partner and my adoptive mother told me to stop seeing her. Two years prior to that my son was diagnosed with a brain tumour which my adoptive family still blame me for him getting sick. Needless to say these traumatic events combined with their abuse triggered something inside me.
Unknown to me at the time, mentally my brain was shifting the fog on denial which had laid thick over my being for years. As the pending rejection from my adoptive family drew closer my physical health waned.
I knew I had to do something and fast, I could feel my soul dying, my solar plexus had a black hole I couldn’t fill, my shoulders ached and the weight of uncertainty and the stress of the last 45 years stabbed my heart repeatedly.
I started questioning everything I believed in. I was shaken to the core. I looked deep within my soul and I chose to believe in myself. I realised I was not the person I once was, and I was no longer the person others perceived me to be. I’ve started to strip away everything and everyone that have been holding me back including myself.
Through meditation and breathing I got through each day. Piece by piece I started putting myself back together. Researching, studying, growing, I found my own path combining spirituality and personal understanding.
Understanding and healing came from unknown places deep within me. It was as though I entered the world again from scratch, my body and mind started to realign by addressing my most basic needs and assessing what was missing or broken as a result of adoption.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The 6 steps in the “Hierarchy of Needs” are as follows;
- Biological and Physiological needs
- Safety needs
- Love and belongingness needs
- Esteem needs
- Self-Actualisation needs
- Self Transcendence
You must realise that adoptees have endured a catastrophic setback even before the first step of the hierarchy begins. This step precedes the current 6, reforming the hierarchy for adoptees into now (seven) steps.
This introduction to life sets the tone for a myriad of serious issues that will indefinitely effect the next 6 steps throughout their lives.
Adoption triggers seven lifelong or core issues for all triad members, regardless of the circumstances of the adoption or the characteristics of the participants (Silverstein and Kaplan, 1982):
7 Lifelong Issues in Adoption
These seven core or lifelong issues permeate the lives of triad members regardless of the circumstance of the adoption. Identifying these core issues can assist those affected by adoption and professionals in establishing an open dialogue and alleviating some of the pain and isolation which so often characterise adoption.
- Guilt and shame
Many repeatedly do and undo their adoption experiences in their minds and in their vacillating behaviours while striving towards mastery. They will benefit from identifying, exploring and ultimately accepting the role of the seven core issues in their lives.
The following tasks and questions can help explore the role of the seven core issues in adoption:
I’ve attempted to face these 7 questions honestly and openly in an attempt to heal, and this is my own journey through them.
- List the losses, large and small, that you have experienced in adoption.
- Identify the feelings associated with these losses.
- What experiences in adoption have led to feelings of rejection?
- Do you ever see yourself rejecting others before they can reject you? When?
- What guilt or shame do you feel about adoption?
- Identify your behaviours at each of the five stages of the grief process. Have you accepted your losses?
- How has adoption impacted your sense of who you are?
List the losses, large and small, that you have experienced in adoption.
Self Worth, Identity, Awareness, Inner Knowing, Strength, Ability to self care, Independence, Productivity, Trust, Self Trust, Confidence, Courage, Direction, Understanding, Control, Clarity, Connection, Security, Safety, Spontaneity, Acceptance, Belonging, My Birth Mother, Family, Friendships, Unconditional Love, Intimacy, Physicality, Energy, Time, Judgment, Happiness, Affection, Power, Balance, Laughter, Assertion, Boundaries, Capability, Fulfilment, Pleasure, Expression, Mental Health, Physical Health.
Identify the feelings associated with these losses.
Emptiness, Loneliness, Doubt, Unmotivated, Disappointed, Tiredness, Anxiousness, Stress, Sadness, Angriness, Nervousness, Worry, Frustration, Boredom, Confusion, Numbness, Irritation, Unaccomplishment, Hopelessness, Hurt, Restlessness, Drained, Tense, Insecurity, Uneasiness, Nauseousness, Dissatisfaction, Heartbroken, Negativity, Jealousness, Agitation, Unwantedness, Paranoia, Grumpiness, Melancholy, Lethargic, Embarrassed, Fatigued, Ashamed, Afraid, Distracted, Uncertainty, Betrayal, Apprehensiveness, Impatientness, Regretfulness, Concern, Helplessness, Homesickness, Disconnection, Discouraged, Weakness, Dysphoria, Abandonment, Inadequate, Rejection, Awkwardness, Moody, Grogginess, Miserable, Cranky, Trapped, Unfocused, Decent, Pensiveness, Disgusted, Terrified, Unappreciated, Pressured, Manic, Patheticness, Furiousness, Frightened, Obsessive, Intimidated, Neglected, Disturbed, Manipulated, Withdrawn, Disrespected, Craziness, Claustrophobic, Devastated, Ambivalent, Shyness, Hysterical, Guarded, Skeptical, Teased, Recklessness, Violent, Powerless, Humiliation, suspicious, threatened, Reluctant, Degraded, Resentful, Misunderstood, Offended, Desperate, Defensive, Troubled, Flustered, Hostile, Provoked, Alienated, Grief, Judgment, Vulnerable, Invisible.
What experiences in adoption have led to feelings of rejection?
Every adoption begins with loss. The torment and primal wounding of adoption and losing the connection to my birth mother haunted me for what seemed to be forever, setting me up to fail right from the beginning and I didn’t even know it.
I was forced to attend boarding school even though I lived 5 minutes down the road. As a highly sensitive introvert in primary school I was ostracised and bullied by peers to the extent of developing a severe stutter.
My son was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012 which has left him with lifelong disabilities and personal challenges. My adoptive family still blame my ex-wife and I for causing his illness.
A broken marriage, after my wife ran off with another man, and lost my house and the majority of contact with my 2 kids.
Having to deal with a psychologically controlling, invasive, matriarchal, somewhat narcissistic adoptive mother who demanded me to stop seeing my new partner at this age. I was 42. They also repeatedly overstep and disregard boundaries demanded by myself in regards to my parenting requirements and them accessing my son. This recently led to a mass falling out and disownment from the family.
When I was adopted my adoptive parents were given the impression that we were blank slates and that adopted families weren’t any different from any other family. That’s just not true. We were supposed to fit in and mould to their world, their heritage, and be just like them.
My adoptive mother controlled my relationships and used food and financial support to trigger my guilt to keep her happy. She used this to her advantage without considering my true needs. I was not permitted to search for my birth family, and I was forced to sign a veto to stopping my birth family from contacting me.
Everything seemed to be smothered in darkness right from the beginning, including my bedroom growing up. I’d get in trouble for opening the curtains. I’d go to bed in fear.. one night I woke up and my bedroom door shut, I panicked and thrashed the walls wanting to get out. I screamed, nothing came out. Only now I’m thinking to myself this may have been a sign of not being heard and not being where I truly belonged.
At the same time the smothering was so consuming that my adoptive parents didn’t see past their own needs in regards to me becoming part of their family. My true deep seated needs and ensuing issues from adoption were oblivious to them. They kept me smothered to the point where I could no longer grow and become independent. I believe this was a deliberate tactic to keep me under their control. And it was working. I lacked self respect and confidence. I had become reliant on people and possibly began relationships for the wrong reasons. It seemed to be the right thing to at those times because I didn’t know any better and didn’t even know that I was doing it. Their heavy parenting style came with a high level of expectation on everything. Everything I did was heavily scrutinised. Not complying with their expectations resulted in abuse and threats.
As Adoptive parents, shallow thinkers as it seems, didn’t have a clue what they are getting themselves into, and definitely did not make adoption parent material. I may have been way ahead of them intellectually and that probably frustrated the hell out of them, because they had no idea what I was about.
Do you ever see yourself rejecting others before they reject you? When?
Hell yes! I’ve now figured out that if someone makes me feel inadequate as a result of their misplaced opinions of me, it usually comes from them not understanding where I’m coming from. The subject of adoption is completely foreign to them, it’s not in their universe. I’ve become aware of people’s true intensions in regard to why they need me in their lives. I started to push back and stand my ground. I didn’t know why at first. All I know is that somethings needed to be changed.
There is nothing narcissists fear more than the day you see them for the predators that they are. This is the ultimate exposure that has the possibility to blow their house of cards to the ground. Once you understand how a narcissists mind works, their tactics to control and manipulate, their dysfunctional abusive ways, and even the way they chose words they lose all power to control or manipulate you.
Their cycle of attraction and rejection is busted. My self worth amplified as I began to stand up for myself. I was no longer willing to just stand there as someone who was meant to be close to me was shaping to reject me. I get to decide, so I’m taking this opportunity to walk away.
What guilt or shame do you feel about adoption?
I was told to be grateful that you were adopted. The fact is that I am NOT…
For whatever reasons, my adoptive parents needs were fulfilled by neglecting mine and they didn’t even comprehend that my needs as an adoptee existed. After long deep contemplation, I’ve recently come to the conclusion the life time of guilt and shame I previously felt was imposed by others either by their need to dominate and bully to make me feel beholden, or to ignore their own insecurities by projecting their needs as mine.
To this day I feel immense self shame for taking on their projected needs as my own, subsequently relegating my own self needs behind theirs because I felt obligated. A condition for said gratitude.
Identify your behaviours at each of the five stages of the grief process. Have you accepted your losses?
Grief is a positive, beneficial response because grieving allows you to come to terms with the loss. If feelings are granted expression, they gradually become more manageable.
There is no easy way around the grieving process. It is important to remember that everyone goes through it in their own way and in their own time.
As an adoptee I have suffered grief over the loss of a relationship with my birth parents. I have repeatedly dealt with abandonment issues in just about all my relationships. I struggled with self-esteem and identity development.
1. Denial & Isolation
My earliest recollection was getting told around the age of 4 that I was adopted, being that young I really had no idea what it meant. My adoptive mother tried to explain it to me the best way she knew how. The analogy she gave me was that I was adopted “You know! Like a dog!”
I didn’t know why at the time, but I was quite shy and somewhat of a loner even at that age. I tended to keep to myself and not interact in large groups. My adoptive Auntie has just recently told me that I behaved that way even in extended family gatherings. I’d get my food and then move away and sit on my own under a tree etc.
Little did I know, or my birth family know, that I was suffering from my first loss … the initial separation from my birth family. Even if the loss is beyond conscious awareness, recognition or vocabulary, it was affecting me on a very profound level.
On my first day of school I screamed and cried as my adoptive mother dropped me off. One of the teachers grabbed my hand and pulled me away. As we now know, multiple disruptions in attachment results in issues with future relationships — Reactive Attachment Disorder.
As my early years rolled on, the concept of adoption slowly seeped in to my consciousness and then into my awareness. I started thinking “If these people are not my real Mummy and Daddy. Where are my real Mummy and Daddy? Why did the not want me? Did I do something wrong? Will I do it again? Will they leave me too?”
In my early teens I kind of knew something was up. I knew something was missing. I could feel it.
By late teens I was in the grip of my very first bout of what I now know is depression. Even though I didn’t know her, I had regular scarily accurate visions of my birth mother, I’d get a feeling of what she would feel like. My gut feeling is that this was bought on by the classic adoption tale — “Who Am I? Where Do I Belong?” Not knowing the answer to either of these questions I stuffed it down deep within, in order to conform and abide.
My only way to cope was to deny my adoption ever happened. Every now and then I’d be reminded by a comment that I looked so much like my adoptive father. It cut the deep wound of adoption open over and over again.
I grew to hate my circumstances, “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ”Who is to blame?” My denial could not continue.
I have finally realised that I’m angry that my adoptive parents were completely unprepared to be parents to anyone, yet alone an adoptee. Instead of assisting their children to fly solo after leaving home, they fostered a system of fear to keep their children under their control and benefit their self-worth at the expense of their children.
I was told that my birth mother didn’t want me. I was angry at her, however I now realise my anger was forced upon me, made up, so my adoptive parent felt less threatened by her to appease their own needs as parents.
No amount of questioning, begging, bargaining, would or will make them see what they had and continue to do to me. Yet I kept going back. I was under their narcissistic control. The more I hit my head against the wall, the worse they became.
If only I hadn’t been adopted…
If only I was adopted by an understanding family that did not ignore my needs from being adopted…
If only I left sooner…
Adults with C-PTSD have sometimes experienced prolonged interpersonal traumatisation as children as well as prolonged trauma as adults. This early injury interrupts the development of a robust sense of self and of others. Because physical and emotional pain or neglect was often inflicted by attachment figures such as caregivers or older siblings, these individuals may develop a sense that they are fundamentally flawed and that others cannot be relied upon.
In my late teens early twenties, I unknowingly suffered what I now know as depression. I believe it was brought on by a lack of identity and purpose as a result of adoption. Not knowing my place, were I came from, who I was, what I wanted to be, I felt completely and utterly lost. Simply because I was expected to not look or ask for any information about my birth mother. I remember thinking about her regularly knowing nobody in my adoptive family cared for what I needed. My attempts were met with outright denial. I was forced to sign a No Contact Veto on my 16th birthday.
My second onset of depression was brought on by a bad personal decision in 2009 to leave a job I enjoyed for one with a higher income. The following 3 years went from bad to worse. My wife, in-laws and my parent were not supportive.
My current and hopefully final bout of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. Being the obvious black sheep of the family, it has taken me a long time to realise that I cannot tolerate having toxic people in my life.
In December 2011 my 13 year old son was diagnosed with a brain tumour. My then wife and I took him to the doctor multiple times after he started bumping into things and become very vague and losing interest in things he had previously loved doing. For nearly a 12 month period we were repeatedly told from numerous people he was fine and it was just puberty and hormones kicking in. They were wrong. Over the last 5 years my adoptive family have blamed us for him getting cancer. Their persistent inability to show empathy to us as parents has woken me to their well hidden narcissistic behaviour and has amplified my anxiety and depression to extremely dangerous levels.
Children are unique and all are differently by their life experiences including the experience of being adopted. The affect of adoption on a child will depend on a number of factors such as their personality, their age or stage of development, their access to background information, the support and openness of those around them.
I have to tell myself “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t change anything.
Every adoptee is different and would have their own way of coping through these stages.
I accept that I must now own, and live with two identities. Adoptees work twice as hard as any other person just to get though the day. On top of that we navigate and battle depression, C-PTSD triggers, self-doubt, anger, sadness, guilt, and extreme loss.
I do not accept however that I’m supposed to be grateful, or that my original identity is not acknowledged by my adoptive family and that the general public has a misinformed outlook on the “standard fairytale of adoption”. Their blindness is bred from the lie of pro adoption, which perpetuates ignorance. This is based on ideals of certain parties intent on inflicting a form of family genocide. They instilled fear, false information through a bent almost evil intention. Religious groups, hospitals and governments where meant to look after our best interests. They lost their way all in the name of false appearances, heartless standards and money.
It’s up to me to find my way, because the people took my mother away from me and put me in this situation are doing nothing to help me heal.
How has adoption impacted your sense of who you are?
Dissociative Identity Disorder is the most severe form of dissociation and involves radical changes in one’s sense of identity and normal behaviours coupled with amnesia for behaviour in dissociative states. Depersonalisation, trance possession, amnesia, fugue, and many other unusual experiences may occur as symptoms of DID. In this disorder two or more personalities seem to be occupying the same body and mind. Switching occurs under stress, during an emotional crisis, or in responses to certain environmental cues or triggers.
Growing up, everything seemed to be smothered in darkness right from the beginning, including my bedroom growing up. I’d get in trouble for opening the curtains. I’d go to bed in fear. One night I woke up and my bedroom door shut, I panicked and thrashed the walls wanting to get out. I screamed and nothing came out. Only now I’m thinking to myself that this may have been a sign of not having a voice when I was born and not being where I truly belonged.
At the same time the smothering was so consuming that my adoptive parents didn’t see past their own needs in regards to me becoming part of their family, that my true deep seeded needs and ensuing issues from adoption were oblivious to them.
They kept me smothered to the point where I could no longer grow and become independent. I believe this was a deliberate tactic to keep me under their control. And it was working, I lacked self-respect and confidence. I had become reliant on people and possibly began relationships for the wrong reasons. It seemed to be the right thing to at those times because I didn’t know any better and didn’t even know that I was doing it.
Their heavy parenting style came with a high level of expectation on everything. Everything I did was heavily scrutinised. Not complying with their expectations resulted in abuse and threats.
I‘m sure there was good times however I have troubling remembering.
Adoption is a psychological barrier
Adoption is a psychological barrier. Not knowing how or why you got there. It feels like you are forced to live your life in a bubble chained to the ground that belongs to someone else. Inside your head, your brain feels like its being restricted, with a thick invisible fog that’s anchored at the base of your skull with an axe. Physically you voice has been stolen from you by society and held to ransom. Your heart feels crushed with grief and loss. Your perception of life is skewed into one that others expect you to have. Your abilities and life skills are severely hampered, distorted and delayed. Your identity is confused. When you finally see a way out, it’s like you’ve been drugged. Your consciousness stumbles out of the fog while your body and your abilities hit against every obstacle imaginable. The only way out usually means walking through your adoptive family’s collective heart. Bloodied guilt drags behind you like a constant reminder of where you’ve come from. Waves of pain and guilt hold on to you, trying to pull you back in.
The light ahead is blissful yet I feel lost, not knowing where to go, or what to do next or even how to do it. The unknown is frightening but I feel compelled to breathe like it’s my first breath and take each step, one at a time in the hope that I will eventually find myself wherever that may be.