The Wounds That Bind: Adoption Series. No one is beyond the reach of Love. Though, for some, its embrace is uncomfortable and even painful. Such is the case for most adoptees. And I would like to speak to their predicament in this month’s issue. I think its time.
Data indisputably confirms that adopted children struggle in loving relationships. The only statistics yet confirmed is whether they are beyond healing. In a series of well researched books, author Nancy Verrier states that when the bond between the biological mother and her child are torn apart; “the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious mind of the child”… and that despite the loving embrace of adoptive families, all adoptees essentially struggle with “separation and loss, trust, rejection, guilt and shame, identity, intimacy, loyalty, and mastery or power and control…”. These issues, which she calls the ‘Primal Wound’, play out dramatically when an adoptee attempts a loving connection to an intimate other.
Love can be scary for many; but especially for an adoptee. Love is not easily trusted because, in most of the cases, Love has never come with unconditional acceptance. Instead of comfort and bonding, Love for the adoptee can easily trigger grief and anxiety. According to Verrier, even their birthday can be a traumatic reminder of Love lost.
The struggles of an adoptee have all too often been diagnosed (in personal and marital counselling) as some pathology unconnected to their primal wound. A wound so early in their development that they have no sense of what security feels like. And, even if the personal or marital issues were properly connected to the adoption, the kind of information necessary for healing has been buried under the nondisclosure practices of adoption agencies.
Verrier and others have daringly challenged these disclosure issues. In a book entitled ‘Lost and Found’, author Betty Lifton, counsellor and researcher, argues that disclosure practices favouring concealment have limited the adoptee in their endless struggle in forming an “authentic sense of self”. Without a history, the adoptee is lost in an artificially created fantasy and the adoptee’s wounds grow deeper and the resultant anger is given no voice. As a result, many adoptees struggle, almost shamefully, with resentments and lost feelings that have not been named or affirmed.
Despite all good intentions, assumptions can hurt us. Since the start of adoption practises, the subtle expectation of the adoptive parents (and involved agencies) is that the adoptee can be raised with love and affection to be a happy, thankful, well adjusted contributor to society. In my experience, loving adoptive parents (and in latter life, the devoted spouse) can not solely heal the wounds that bind the adoptee. Despite how strong one believes is the bond between them and the adoptee, the adoptee often has deeper wounds then the reach of another’s connection.
Thankfully disclosure practices are shifting under the direction of agencies like Family and Children Services.
Loves embrace can be uncomfortable and even painful . Many of us, not just the adoptee, can, because of past trauma and pain, experience Love with great dis-ease. Love, by its nature, touches our wounds. It’s healing balm not easy to have applied.
As I see it, Love is a process. It sometimes hurts to be in its embrace. With trust, through courage, Love’s process, as frightening and painful as it may be, will lead us all home. What may feel like we are falling apart…may very well be us falling together.