I want to make a quick note that he is talking mostly of adoptees and adoptions that took place many years ago -- things have changed since I was adopted, some for the better, some for the worse. And of course, these things he expressed aren't true for everyone, but I've talked to enough adult adoptees lately to know that they are true for enough of them! I started off by adding my own life experiences, but took that out because it became unwieldingly long - I'll deal with those in another post.
adoption -- it's all about wanting to belong and yet fearing belonging
"Adoption is a pretty weird word, because it's about the only condition that doesn't really describe what's happened. Talking about adoption is a denial for starters... it's a denial of relinquishment, because that's the wound." I guess this is the difference between adoption as a social construct, and what adoption does/can do to the adoptee. I've heard many adoptive parents (online) say their children "were" adopted then go on to say how it was a one time thing and now it's over. Usually the adult adoptees will jump all over that. It's NOT over, I *am* still adopted and it has affected my whole life.
Relinquishment is a sort of developmental Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There is no adoption without trauma, there is no relinquishment without trauma
There is enormous grief in ALL three parts of the triad - the adoptee loses a mother that they already know and need (plus all the ancestry), the birth mother grieves the loss of their child, the adoptive parents often have the grief of infertility. I think a portion of adoption "trauma" is that our grief is brushed off. At least as adoptees, if we tried to grieve we were told "it's over," "be grateful," or we couldn't even express it due to fear of hurting our adoptive parents (not a groundless fear, at least in my case!). Quite a catch 22.
Adoptees are "massively" over-represented in treatment (percentage of adoptees seeking therapy is higher than the general population).
"It's about someone entering a family that doesn't genetically fit, with an impossible job description, the job description of having to be someone they can never actually be, to fix a wound."
"For the adoptee, the issue of abandonment is life threatening. Can we imagine? Is there a bigger trauma then being separated from your mother, the one person you need at the beginning of life? I think not!"
this stuff, which is preverbal and can't be recalled, IS remembered
neurons that fire together, wire together.
"If life begins with a trauma, and that trauma feels life threatening, and that trauma is about separation and abandonment, those neurons are going to fire. The human brain is a reflective organ, it constantly reflects on past experience and thinks about...where have I come across this before and how do I respond.
It will be little wonder, that for a lot of adoptees, there is a real sense of.. a real fear of abandonment in relationships. And an enormous...the contradictory need... this desire to attach, this hunger to attach, that is so strong, that has people acting against their best interests, but with a contradictory feeling of "this is not safe". Because if the first most significant person in your life gives you up, how do you know the next one won't do just that?"
Think about a trauma a person has as an older child or adult, say a car accident. It was bad enough that they are scared to get into a car again. But if they seek help for that, they can be assured that *before* that happened, they were OK, they have a "pre-trauma" personality that you can compare yourself to - some place to look back on and try to "reset" to. In adoption (typically) there is NO pre-traumatic personality. "They believe that their post traumatic personality...is them, there is nothing to compare it to." Your stress, your trauma, grief, shame becomes your whole world. It becomes, in your mind, WHO YOU ARE. And there are often multiple relinquishments in adoption - the birth mother, a foster family or orphanage (even if only for a few weeks), or more, then an adoption.
He started talking about parenting after trauma - (i.e. the mother is an adoptee) "If the mother can tell an emotionally coherent story about herself and her life...if the mother can do that, then actually the child has a really good chance of being well balanced."
Thinks it's interesting when people in therapy say, "oh by the way, I was adopted" as if somehow it wasn't relevant (when it really matters a lot) -- I did exactly this!!
I find the next part fascinating and true --
"The people who were adopted, were very often presenting as really quite put together" - "we started to notice that these people who had come along, not because they were adopted by the way [they were seeking therapy for other reasons] .... were scoring sort of up in the 30's (on a test where if you score 22 or more you should seriously look into getting some antidepressent medication) ...and yet you wouldn't see it." Usually you "see" serious depression - it's held in the body language -- the adoptees he saw did NOT have that, and yet they were scoring way high on the depression index. There is a serious disconnect there (fascinating) (they were so well "put together" on the outside). YES YES!!! This is why I hate when someone disses my pain by saying, "I know many adoptees and they are FINE and happy." Ummm, maybe you do, and maybe you don't -- I'm going to bet that anyone that knows me, other than my dh and anyone that reads this blog, lol, thinks I am totally fine and put together...wonderfully happy even. Especially as a child.
He says adoptees are often prone to addictions, particularly love addiction --
love addiction is the need to regulate mood by the positive regard of a significant other.
I love how he calls us "the real experts" in adoptee life. THANK YOU!
Where there is secure infant bonding, there is a significant affect on neurotransmitters.
So adoptees are different brain chemically-wise (at least at the beginning...) -- they are changed at birth by being relinquished, sometimes more than once. Concentration and focus are affected by the increase of adreneline and cortisol and the reduction of serotonin.
90% of adoptees are diagnosed with ADD (ADHD) (quoting Nancy Verier)
"They are living on red alert! -- my life nearly ended! There was a trauma! I'm going to jolly well make sure it doesn't happen again!" "Here are these people, what do you have to do to get on and belong around here."
Oh my goodness yes. CONTROL. FREAK. (Except I don't push it...I just die inside when I don't have control. Like, umm, most of every day with 5 kids)
The slow loss of self, and the belief that I can't be myself in relationship, because the first time it was pretty disastrous. I'm going to have to be hyper-vigilant.
The chemicals produced by the stressed infant (and adult!) affect sleep regulation, managing mood, gastrointestinal problems.
Serotonin is about soothing, so if you have low levels of that (due to the infant stress situation) you have a need to self soothe because you can't naturally do it chemically (because in your first few months you lost a lot through stress). It also regulates shame. You feel like "It's not OK and I'm not OK". Ha, I hate when people act condescending to me and say "It's OK..." I want to shake them and say "It's NOT ok and I'm NOT ok! Hear me!"
Adoptees are often hooked on adrenaline...they are so used it being "up/on" all the time (because they had to be, see above) when adrenaline goes down, they feel withdrawl...chemically and emotionally.
The only people who record sessions with him are adoptees - when they are talking about adoption baggage in the session and then they leave the session, it's just "gone" - there is some link between a preverbal wound and inability to recall what was discussed about it later.
They take an enormous amount of management - the hyper vigilance, anxieties, catastrophic thinking (whatever is going to happen is always awful) - the "wound" was a "life threatening" one, and it was so preverbally, that other "tiny" wounds seem huge -- they are used to those chemical feelings being "life threatening" so little things seem life threatening (yes)
How do I need to be to be accepted because being me is not OK. (he says adoptees at level 10 when other addicts are a 9.5 on that scale)
Control freaks - if I can't manage in here in my head, I can at least try to manage the outside world. Managing self esteem by spending money or workaholism.
Trying to make the inexplicable (being abandoned by your mother) explicable --
Shame and anxiety right from early life.The bad baby syndrome - if I was given up, I don't have value. (hypothosis) It's an attempt by the infant to explain the unacceptable/inexplicable by saying "its my fault". I was given up? it must be my fault - my parents are infertile and sad about it? It must be my fault. They really wanted a biological child and I can't be that? must be my fault
The trees that blow down in a storm are blown down because their roots aren't strong enough to hold them up. -- if your roots are attached you are going to be more resilient
Palestinian refugee camps - the psychologists thought the kids there should be REALLY distressed. They weren't. They weren't because they had people around them that said, "this shouldn't be happening...we are all in this together"
Now relate that to being adopted - particularly in the past - you had this grief, and no one believed you, and people told you you should be thankful, and you can't talk about it with your parents because it hurts them, you really feel all alone.
Like a plant that has to grow up around a stone, it has to adapt - so we are talking about "adaption" (adoption not a good descriptive term)
*Hunger* for attachment that has them acting against their best interests
Just desperate to bond, but the need is so high it could never happen
"I can't do it, what you want is something that I just can't provide" by partners (its enormous, to much for anyone to give). LOL, dh jokes with me using Nine Inch Nails Lyrics -- "If I was twice the man I could be, I'd still be half of what you need."
They believe the person they've adapted to become is actually who they are because they have no pre-trauma personality, but that's not the case. Trauma is stored in the limbic system...it is triggered nanoseconds before the frontal cortex - it's the fight or flight feeling, triggered before rational thought can kick in.
They feel they want this, but they don't want this...lots of ambivalence with adoptees...decision are life threatening... limbic system kicks in with catastrophic thinking.
if you have an attachment wound you haven't become a separate person, because your whole life was trying to figure out what to do to fit in and be accepted/loved/kept -- the real challenge for an adopted person is to "be themselves" in relationship. Everything in the limbic system is saying DON'T DO THAT! DON'T BE YOURSELF! DANGER!
I feel these last few thoughts are SO important - think about it - the adoptee as an infant NEEDS to bond, needs to love and feel love, but at the same time bonding is "dangerous" because their body is telling them it's not safe to go there again. These are very mature feelings to have to deal with. Doing something "brave" and having to be "strong." I wonder if other adoptees always felt like an old woman in a little kids body like I did?