ADOPTION AND BIRTH TRAUMA
Counselling for adult adoptees
Being separated from your birth parents (mother) is a loss that all adoptees share in common. The impact of this varies from person to person. You may experience this as an ongoing pain and emptiness, or you may experience this as a curiosity about your biological parents and a need to contact them. Your experience with your adoptive family will shape the way this loss has developed in your life. Many adult adoptees experience difficulties forming intimate relationships, dealing with emotional stress, and feelings of confusion about identity.
Loss is a human experience we all share. Because there is an implicit experience of loss at birth for adoptees, it may be hard to understand this pervasive experience of loss and sadness you carry. In other words, it is an unconscious experience of loss that has no cognitive memory attached to it. For some of you this may not come into awareness until something triggers this such as re-connection with birth family, or loss of a loved one. For others it can be an ongoing sense of sadness and grief.
Who we are is shaped by family and mirrored back to us by those around us. Adoptees often feel they don’t fit in or belong due to a lack of family resemblance, not knowing anything about their birth family, and generally experiencing the world as looking in rather than feeling truly connected. This can then lead to many questions about who you are or struggles with your sense of self.
Many adoptees feel torn between their loyalties to their adoptive family and a desire to connect with their birth family. This can lead to not talking about your needs and feelings for fear of upsetting those you care about.
Connecting with your birth family
Adoptees who connect with their birth family often experience this as a mixed blessing. It often brings up more grief in dealing with a sense of what could have been, or not finding the answers one was hoping for. There can often be an experience of familiarity alongside the difficulties of developing a relationship with family who feel a great deal of guilt and loss.
The way forward
Empowerment is connected to self knowledge and responsibility. You may have spent your life trying to figure out what others wanted from you and adapting to that. As the external cues change your sense of self keeps trying to adapt to fit in. You end up feeling powerless to get it right and disconnected from yourself. Developing a relationship to your self is key to feeling empowered.
At your core you may not believe your existence matters to anyone. Empowerment is also based on having an impact. It is important that you check out that you matter to others. Learn to be realistic about what you can and can not control.
Empowerment is also about respect. You are not powerful if you treat others badly or allow them to treat you badly.
You may fear connections with others and tend to keep your distance, feeling isolated from others. At the same time longing for connection.
When you struggle with feelings that you don’t matter to those around you this can often result in intense power struggles and emotional roller coasters. Control, mistrust, disrespect and irresponsibility can plague relationships.
Being focused on others needs rather than your own can make it difficult to be yourself in intimate relationships. You may find yourself feeling that even those you are most intimate with do not really know you.
These are just a few of the relationship issues that can come up for the adult adoptee.
In counselling with me:
Thinking about counselling can be challenging because it can bring up a lot of these relationship and attachment issues. Taking time to address this and create safety and a space where your can explore your experience is what I aim to do. You are not required to be any particular way in therapy !!
Useful resource is Nancy Verrier’s books; The Primal Wound and Coming Home to Self.