Adoptee Relationships


in this episode I’d like to talk about something that is brought up quite often. However, some people deem the topic to be out of bounds for adoptees.

This stems from a misguided perception that adoptees should be grateful.

It goes a little something like this:

A family member of the adoptee becomes insulted by the trying to find their birth family? Some take it personally as though we may want to replace them.

I can understand their apprehension, however, I don’t understand their aversion to the truth. The truth is and will always be at the forefront of every adoptee’s life.

To deny someone’s truth is to impose your reality onto them. Therefore I see this as not being the problem of the adoptee but the problem of the family member to firstly not understand the full gamut of the situation.

Then secondly, Ignore why they are feeling this way in the first place. The family member needs to take a step back and look at themselves and assess why they have these unhealthy views.

On top of being biologically separated and the trauma, that goes with it. Adoptees are obligated to be grateful because other people involved can’t face and get past their own issues and biased opinions for the good of the adoptee.

There are some dark elements in human psychology that reveal truths that are very ugly and are hard to face for everyone.

Adoption is not a perfect solution…

You see as an adoptee travels through the stages in their lives there are changes that develop.

Just like the stages of a normal biological human being.

See: Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development

  • Stage One — Trust vs Mistrust
  • Stage Two — Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt
  • Stage Three — Initiative vs Guilt
  • Stage Four — Industry vs Inferiority
  • Stage Five — Identity vs Role Confusion
  • Stage Six — Intimacy vs Isolation
  • Stage Seven — Generativity versus Stagnation
  • Stage Eight — Ego Integrity vs Despair

There is now a Ninth Stage of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development which is Psychosocial Crises:

Erikson’s model of human development is epigenetic. This is to say that each stage of psychosocial development is built upon the previous stage or stages of development and their outcome. For example, a child who has a significant sense of basic trust, will seek autonomy and test it behaviourally without readily falling into shame and doubt. Or obversely a child with poor resolution of shame and doubt issues will have more trouble developing initiative unclouded by excessive guilt.

In an adoptive family the child has nearly always been told he or she is adopted, often long before the conceptual notion of the word is within his/her range. In an adoptive family with a successful marriage with mutual motivation to adopt — as well as the capacity to grieve their infertility, and assuming the absence of mental illness including alcoholism, the child has adapted to their new parents’ idiosyncrasies sufficiently to have arrived at this stage of development with their own pattern of function.

In the greater family, there is nearly always significant contact with other children, most commonly cousins. Cousins are a common source of information, some of it wrong or distorted. The material has its origins in the aunts and uncles’ discussions about the circumstances of the adoption, and snippets of gossip or speculation about the original mother and father of the boy or girl. A child who is not informed derives information readily from other children; cousins are a frequent source; many crises may occur from wrong information, sometimes far-fetched, and even information that is roughly correct.

For an adoptive child, one alternative to this is no information whatsoever, a total wall of silence about his or her origins. Some adoptive parents provide information that is fed to them by agencies to be used at the appropriate age. Often this is edited, distorted or simply not factual, even the result of communication mistakes or deliberate miscommunication.

Anglo-Saxon and European culture has a background of centuries of successful breeding techniques long before it received help from science or the discipline of genetic research. Every family has its myths of who took after whom, and what the family was noted for in abilities, character and appearance. It is hard for an adoptive child to “…know what I am really like.”Other difficult notions are there for the child, such as “had to give you up for adoption.”, and “we chose you.” The culture doesn’t help the adoptive family either, because common culture says, “It will be just as if you had your own children.” The family are let down by not being supported by the culture in which they are supposed to exist as if adoption had had not occurred. Confusion and insecurity readily occur, particularly if one of Erikson’s first three stages has left some mistrust, shame, doubt or guilt as a problem for the child.

There is insecurity on both sides of the adoption. The child is insecure in not knowing how strong is this bond from adoptive parents — how committed are they to staying with it. And insecure children, despite their relative health, test out the adults of their family. Sometimes they do it aggressively, other times by adopting the behaviours of a younger care-eliciting child. When this goes on and on, and the child’s temperament appears strange and unfamiliar, some adoptive parents are tested too much in the same way as a fostering placement is tested and is unable to go on. Crisis phenomena occur and the more committed families seek help instead of giving up or blaming the child.

Adoptive parents who are insecure about adoption are outwardly distinct from the secure ones.

The secure ones know quite a lot about children generally and are interested in what the particular child is like and how they will develop. If this development requires straight answers or testing their origins, they make that possible without giving prejudicial information. They are able to let the adoptee differentiate into an adult with adult interests and finally develop a good adult/adult relationship with them. If they are anxious about reunion, it is that the adoptee won’t suffer a major let down or be rejected. They are usually interested in the biological family and what they do without deprecation. It is rare to see a mother and an adoptive mother become good friends, and it can’t come about any other way than with real trust.

The more insecure the adoptive family, however, the more they are worried that the child will leave them, judge them, and not want to know them, the more they will make up myths or stories to make the child think they are better off with them than they would have been otherwise, and the more there are stories that their mother couldn’t keep them or didn’t want them.

Adoptees are now finding out that that was not the case with the understanding of forced separation within the baby scoop era.

Some adoptive parents want school results and trophies on the shelf, and, if they just happen without anxiety and pressure, that is fine. But the adopted child is left with a burden of feelings of how to come to terms with obligation and expectations of gratitude. The secure adoptive parent can talk openly about this aspect of adoption and express what they themselves are thankful and joyful about. The insecure adoptive parents want their due.

One aspect of ‘wanting their due’, is control and maintaining the relationship on their own terms through later life. Stierlin has studied the ‘mission’ that families give to children and that begins to be acted on in a deeper manner when they are in later adolescence. In many adoptive families, it is to be outstanding in some manner, and generally to give the message of what a great family they were brought up in. If the pressure behind this is not too great and the means to this is flexible, it is restricting, but not too damaging. If the pressure is great and the means inflexible, then the child is often under unbearable stress.

However, it is important to remember that strong motivation themes, which may be very different between the couple and indeed their relatives, is a background to the development of an adopted child. The grandparent who rejects her adopted grandchild in favour of cousins for example, or the child with one parent who was not ‘the adopter’ in the first place, where the issue might be indifference: what difficulties does this make for a child’s understanding of their place in the world?

In Erikson’s terms, the stages of industry and identity in psychosocial development are a hard time for the adopted child, and, because they are the foundations for the later stages of intimacy and generativity that lead on to the child accepting themselves and their life, they are pivotal in the making of the person and the family of the future. While there are even echoes of adoption in society all parties to adoption require our compassion and support.

Above are some references from: 
by Geoffrey A. Rickarby FRANZCP

Richard Grannon talks about how perceived relationship obligations in general terms, however in regards to adoption it is quite similar.RICHARD GRANNON SPARTANLIFECOACH
“Spartan” Adjective Meaning: a. Rigorously self-disciplined or self-restrained. b. Simple, frugal, or austere: a…

Richard says your family hates you… and they love and that’s a big problem because of the pain of the slow drip effect on your self-esteem, confidence and sanity. You think “hey I’m doing good things here” but they seem to be judging
you by different standards than they judge themselves and a lot of people within the family unit and you slowly go crazy.

That’s the problem and the solution to this problem is greater understanding. The first thing that you must realise is your family does not want what is best to you and your realisation of that is portrayed as a myth. It creates a kind of mentally ill schizophrenic pattern of behaviour in you because you’re being given two conflicting modes of communication at the same time and one cancels the other out so your family will say they we just want what’s best for you but their actions and their communication clearly communicates that they do not want what’s best for you, or they don’t care what YOU want.

They want what is best for themselves. Gregory Bateson who came up with the door buying theory of schizophrenia first observed in psychiatric hospitals where psychiatric care staff would sedate patients and say hey this is what’s best, but actually what they meant was this is what’s best for us.

Your family does not want what is best for you because what is best for you may be the worst thing for them because you’ll make them feel depressed, insecure, jealous and resentful.

Richard also describes most families as sick and it’s a very very common, very very normal problem. Most people find their families very very taxing to deal with Ram Dasswas quoted as saying:

If you think you’re so enlightened go and spend a weekend with
your family

He was just amusingly pointing out how even for people who are into psychotherapy or spiritual growth or whatever it might be will find themselves being driven nuts and all of their psychological poison being drawn out just by spending a weekend with the family.

Gregory Bateson’s Labine theory of schizophrenia argued psychologists tend to view psychological issues as an individualised problem. Gregory Bateson’s Labine theory of schizophrenia shows whole family units are ill and what would happen is the weakest link in the family would often manifest the
symptoms of the mental illnesses of all the other people in the family then scaped goated to become the black sheep of the family.

Other researchers point out that this so-called weakest link is usually the more emotionally sensitive, psychologically tuned in. This person is also the more intuitive, creative and artistic person and is usually the person who’s picked out to be the scapegoat and they will usually manifest the mental illnesses of all the other people in the family.

You can’t stop it because they like it. Mobbing is a scapegoating group of people that attack one person because it feels good, it’s an enjoyable experience for them. The only thing you can do is to set up boundaries as you grow up and deal with these painful realities you need to realise that you must one way or another learn to live independent of the good or bad opinions of others.

It’s not your fault, it’s something that they’re experiencing and it’s almost like a software Fault in human psychology.

Forgive yourself for feeling the way you feel. You might feel weak you might
feel like you’re not being given the love that you deserve. Or what was wrong with me. Forgive the people who are experiencing this, they can only be feeling this way because of bitterness. Because they don’t know what you’re going through, they don’t know how tough it is for you. All they have is their perception.

They don’t want to start liking you because then they would have to deal
with their own issues.

Seek to actively increase your understanding.

In summarising, if you are reading this and have an issue with how or why adoptees or mothers search for their truth.

Go look in the mirror and ask yourself why YOU have a problem with it. You may just stand to grow in personal understanding and acceptance once you face your own demons and beliefs. Don’t inflict them onto someone else that not only does not deserve it but did not ask to be put in this situation called adoption!

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