Some recent comments by my dear friend and fellow adoptee Trace made me think, as always, and I pondered on the plethora of adoption stories and situations which demonstrate how people live by greed and will do anything for money, gain and profit. I thought then of the many, many stories out there that don’t get the publicity, because they are ‘feel-good’ stories, tales of success, courage and fighting the odds. There are so many good people out there in the world doing good things, trying hard to improve their tiny corner of the world or their neighbourhood. If everyone dedicated themselves to some of that every day, what a different world we would see! Sometimes of course, improving our world involves exposing the corruption, the bad practice, the greedsters, hucksters and shysters. Those exposures are never pretty, happy reading or soothing to the mind. If, like your Blogger, you spend time sorting the wheat from the chaff, it is very necessary to have down time, time well away from the horrors, the unbelievable and the incredible.
It seems to be that critics of adoptees who speak out about adoption, seem to think that adoptees live adoption every moment of their lives. While we never cease to be adopted people and the adopted life doesn’t end until we die, most of us do not think, write, blog about adoption in all of our waking hours or let it absorb us totally all the time. There are however times in our lives when many of us become preoccupied with adoption or some aspect of our own adoption for a time, because it is necessary when we attempt to work through what has happened to us, where we are going and who we are. Those times are often made much harder by the expectations of others, the conditions which are placed on us, the restrictions, rules and blocks. Sometimes we give over some of our responsibility for our adopted life to others when we attempt to discover our birth information, the whereabouts of our parents, the truth about our parents and our lives. I have seen so often and experienced myself what sometimes happens when we do that – we lose control over our information, the pace of our searching, what is revealed, when and to whom and the sense of achievement in doing it ourselves. We cease to own it and end up being told what is speculative, possibly untrue and unhelpful, just as we have in the rest of our adopted life. We then have more to unpick, more questions, less answers.
I’m thinking here particularly of the adoptees who have had revealed to them that they are the ‘product’ of a date rape. Often the mother will not reveal any other information or only limited information, such as the father’s make of car! Sometimes the mother infamously goes public, writing a book, promoting it and causing extreme pain and difficulty for the adoptee. It seems particularly to be a generational thing, amongst women who as girls had strictures placed on them about pre-marital sex – my generation. Finding themselves pregnant, some resorted to crying ‘date-rape’, thereby accusing an innocent man of something of which they were not guilty and in which they were complicit. Of course this was by no means always the situation and I would not for a moment wish to undermine in any way those women who were innocent victims of rape and suffered the horrors of abuse and the aftermath. It would be helpful is a study could be conducted on this type of conception to unpick the motivation, the pressures and strictures placed on girls who must have felt trapped with nowhere to turn and no answers. When found, they must experience much of the early trauma and the way in which they have lived, rationalised their situation and often buried their feelings which has harmed them through life in a way which is tragic. The knock-on effect to their first child and to any subsequent offspring is considerable, as we see amongst our fellow adoptees all the time.
For those of you who suffer anxiety I’ve just had a quick look at The Mindful WayThrough Anxiety by Susan.M.Orsillo and Lizbeth Roemer published by The Guilford Press. It looks useful and has tailor made exercises for anxiety in it’s many forms.There are step by step strategies described and free audio downloads at http://www.mindfulwaythroughanxietybook.com I can’t vouch for it’s effectiveness but it looks promising.
I have also been very struck by Mark Furlong’s article in the Journal – Psychotherapy in Australia – Volume 19 Number 3 May 2012. In discussing how the self can evolve, he discusses Blumer’s 1986 research in which he found that “current social influences acted to define and re-define identity”. It was argued that rather than early environmental influences making us who we are, “humans tend to become who they are treated to be”. In modern terms, human beings are “fungible” (don’t you love that word?) – we take up “changeable forms”, identity is not fixed. In other words if you treat us as if we are worth nothing, that is how we will be. If you treat us with respect, we will see ourselves as worthy of respect. It must by now be obvious to adoptees the implications, perhaps they don’t need spelling out and perhaps they do for non-adoptees reading here.
So, in adoption when adoptees are
*lied to about their adoption and their lives, they will not see themselves as worthy of the truth
*kept in the dark with secrets, they will get the message that they are not worthy of sharing with and are excluded from the truth and the ‘club’ of secret holders.
*given false information about themselves they may believe they are of no importance, don’t exist or should not exist
*taken from their homeland it gives the message that it is worthless, faulty, deficient, lacking, impoverished, inferior, a place of judgement, insignificance and a place of relative poverty
*born black but raised white or born in any other country but raised white, there will not be adequate teaching on how to be Afro-American, Asian, Russian, Roumania and so on because the separation from language, culture and society will be too final, will have been too brutal and cannot be taught by white aparents however well-meaning and diligent
*given the hugeness of American adoption and it’s profile at the top of the expense and lack of ethics in adoption league, being raised American does not trump all else and may in fact be quite opposite, despite considerable bodies of belief
All of these things reflect on our self-worth, our identity, in ways which can be hard to deal with; present ambiguous loss, loss, grief, longing, a sense of exclusion, aloneness, loneliness, being on the fringe, a sense of inferiority, unworthiness, bewilderment, non-alliance, exclusion, confusion, falsehood, uncertainty, rootlessness, ungroundedness, insecurity, lack of trust, hatred, anxiety, resentment, lack of support, disengagement, unattachment, disenchantment and many other individual effects according to our particular circumstances. Adoptees have many choices in how they deal with identity, their identity at different stages of their lives. They can choose to accept what is believed of them both individually and collectively in stereotypes and myths and continue to make that part of who they are or they can make other choices. Thanks to the social media, other networks and social groupings, we see many adoptees making new choices, inspiring new ways of thinking and being, chosing identity for themselves as ‘fungible’, pro-active, self-determining adults. Many of us are now ‘Out, loud and proud’ proclaiming our bastardhood or illegitimacy, our beginnings and our choices. Some are quietly and diligently getting on with becoming memoir writers, authors, academics, activists, professional supporters, therapists, parents, teachers, business owners and walking in all walks of life as best we can, facing the future and dealing with the past. Small daily acts of courage are carried out unrecognised and usually unnoticed, random acts of kindness accepted and made, brave decisions made and acted on. I am constantly in awe of my fellow adoptees, their perserverance, their ability to bounce back, to overcome, to accept the seemingly impossible, to create the new and to give to other adoptees generously and with their whole hearts. It has often been said that we adoptees are each others brothers and sisters, that only we understand each other fully and completely and that we belong to the same tribe, the tribe formed through mother-loss, trauma and the forced self-sufficiency of being left to fend for ourselves, being left to cry without comfort. Life doesn’t get much harsher than that for a baby or small child and when non-adoptees begin to recognise that, to acknowledge it, stop ignoring it, pretending it doesn’t happen or doesn’t matter and treat us with the respect we deserve for having survived it, like the heroes we are, perhaps we will see the tectonic plates of adoptionland crunching against each other, seismic shift happening and the lights of comprehension go on all over the world about the inhumanity and cruelty of adoption. We live in hopes!
If you want to view more on identity in relation to gender and in particular a courageous young adoptee wrestling with who to be, you might find this interesting, enlightening and something for the future – we never know as parents what challenges parenting will bring us and how we will face them! Some of these interviews are particularly relevant in relation to identity, how we become who we are treated to be and how we make choices. Sensitively handled by the interviewer too I thought. He had obviously done his homework and put in the time respectfully with the subjects.