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Adoption Trauma


Society’s view of adoption and permanency is that it is a single, simple, problem solving event where everyone involved benefits.  This narrative puts an exclusively positive spin on adoption and permanency.  This speaks to adoption as a concept but, not as a lived experience.  At the core of adoption is loss.  Though, many times the loss of the first mother is pre cognitive and preverbal, our bodies remember.  We tend to unconsciously personalize that loss in an attempt to understand what happened and develop coping mechanisms to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  In the book The Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency,  Loss, Rejection, Shame and Guilt, Grief, Identity, Intimacy and finally Mastery and Control are addressed.  The generally accepted narrative about adoption doesn’t include acknowledgment of these and other complicated experiences an adopted person may have.  The presence of these issues does not indicate that adoption and permanency is pathological.  Rather, they indicate expected issues that logically evolve around this type of loss/early separation.  Studies have shown that infants placed in incubators at the beginning of life experience these same core issues.  Denial of these lived experiences create additional losses for everyone involved, including attachment between mother/family and the child joining the family. Adaptive coping can look like pushing people away or being “the good adoptee”.   It puts the burden of conformity and happiness on the adopted person or, risk being seen as ungrateful or not a part of the tribe.   Untangling this external narrative from our own, in my experience, takes time, patience, courage, curiosity and compassion.  I will come alongside you on your journey of reclaiming your own narrative, voice and identity, gently inviting a reconnection to your body/mind/spirit.

On the Road

Identity is our sense of self. It is who we see ourselves as in terms of our inner landscape, and in relation to others. Identity formation begins at birth and is largely shaped by our early relationships with our parents and families. Psychology Today offers this definition of identity; “Identity encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self. This amalgamation creates a steady sense of who one is over time, even as new facets are developed and incorporated into one’s identity”. 

A core theme in research on identity is the concept of Identity Constancy. The human brain strives for consistency, and we establish the foundations of our identity early in life and utilize that identity as a lens through which we view and interpret our world. 

Another aspect to identity is social categorization. We naturally define ourselves according to which “groups” we belong to. This likely harkens back to the evolutionary development of remaining within our “tribe”, which was essential to our survival. This sense of belonging to our group is fundamental. Without belonging, we struggle to define our identity.

Hope and Healing

Hope and healing is possible.  In taking the reins of our own narrative we can powerfully define our own identity, find our voice and create the live we love to live.  

Green Forest
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