Dr Albert Ellis is considered by some to be the father of psychotherapy and he invented the term ‘musterbation’, to describe the way in which we and others make unreasonable emotional and cognitive demands that result in ‘self-defeating’ behaviour for individuals and groups. Those demands are typified by words such as ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘ought to’, ‘have to’, ‘need to’ and so on. As the originator of REBT he believed it was important to challenge the words and the underlying beliefs and to replace them with more ‘realistic, elegant and accurate words’. In other words to flip the script and engage in the therapeutic work which reduces the words to absurdity and guides the worker/survivor/client/seeker to health.
How often we see musterbation at work in adoptionland, when we adult adoptees tell our stories, express our views or give our opinions on adoption, our own adoptions and lived experience. We are so often told to get a life, to learn to do good in our community by telling our stories differently, to stop ‘spewing vile words’ and how to live without being bitter, angry and obsessed. Any adoptee who blogs, has a profile on Facebook or anywhere on social media, will have encountered such demands. It sometimes seems we spend our whole time challenging the words and the beliefs underlying them, often feeling it is futile in the face of the beliefs which fuel such demands, because they are religious in nature or cult-like in persuasion. In adoptionland there are so many groups of ‘true believers’ who believe adoption is ‘beautiful’, that adoptees are ‘gifts’ and/or that mothers are self-sacrificing saints. They come from many walks of life, many persuasions, religions, political beliefs and are united in their devotion to the ‘beauty’ of adoption, where love is everything and cures all. It is a cult, which will take more than the heart-felt views of adult adoptees to change. Adopters like to tell us how much better adoption is today, while still taking it upon themselves to tell the adoptees’ stories, speaking for those adoptees and telling us how they feel, their motivations and their goals. It is sometimes far healthier for adoptees to walk away, to leave firm believers and devotees to their own devices, however dangerous and destructive (see the Pearls books on raising children for example ) and to concentrate their energy on finding new and productive ways to survive, to deal with their experiences of adoption and to live productive, healthy lives in which they call the tunes, make the rules and create the language. Happily we see this happening in ever increasing and inventive ways with the #flipthescript movement providing an active, imaginative and creative example.
From adoption.com and a post entitled The New Wave of Adoptees (thanks to TAO for this link, see a post on it reblogged and also in the FB group Adoptees on Adoption )
“After many years as both an adoption lawyer and an adoptive mother, I know better than most that adoptions can be treacherous. But our family’s experience is that the gloom and doom and tragedy that so draws readers and viewers to adoption nightmare stories is fast becoming dated. In this new era, we believe adoption can and should be treated with as much humor as reverence. We even share a blog with our funny adoption stories.
Adoptive parents, adoptees and birth parents may succeed or fail at incorporating the experience of adoption according to their own personal strengths, weaknesses, luck and effort. But let us welcome with a smile this new critical mass of adoptees who are enjoying the benefits of the era of openness.” I could take this quote phrase by phrase, but will just comment that I find it shocking that someone who professes to know adoption can be so dismissive of the stories of adoptees who had a tough time, deeming the expression of them as ‘fast becoming dated’.
I’m all for humour and believe it is a sign of health when a minority group can begin to laugh. The idea that adoptees can fail at ‘incorporating the experience of adoption’ etc, is offensive, ignorant and totally lacking in understanding of the process of adoption and the pathology of adoption. I dare say the smile with which this new era of adoptees is to be welcomed is smug, all-knowing and dismissive of those who won’t play the game, stick to the script and haven’t learned or been encouraged to musterbate!