About Adoptee Rage

Statistics Identify large populations of Adoptees in prisons, mental hospitals and committed suicide.
Fifty years of scientific studies on child adoption resulting in psychological harm to the child and
poor outcomes for a child's future.
Medical and psychological attempts to heal the broken bonds of adoption, promote reunions of biological parents and adult children. The other half of attempting to repair a severed Identity is counselling therapy to rebuild the self.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Social Alienation of the Adopted Child


Social Alienation of Adopted Children

Alienation, a sociological concept developed by several classical and contemporary theorists, is "a condition in social relationships reflected by a low degree of integration or common values and a high degree of distance or isolation between individuals, or between an individual and a group of people in a community or work environment." The concept has many discipline-specific uses, and can refer both to a personal psychological state (subjectively) as in the adopted child himself and to a type of social relationship (objectively) as in the adopted child within the adoptive family ingroup.


Alienation in the sense of a lack of power has been technically defined by Seeman as “the expectancy or probability held by the individual that his own behaviour cannot determine the occurrence of the outcomes, or reinforcements, he seeks." Seeman argues that this is “the notion of alienation as it originated in the Marxian view of the worker’s condition in capitalist society: the worker is alienated to the extent that the perogative and means of decision are expropriated by the ruling entrepreneurs". Put more succinctly, Kalekin-Fishman (1996: 97) says, “A person suffers from alienation in the form of 'powerlessness' when she is conscious of the gap between what she would like to do and what she feels capable of doing”.
In discussing powerlessness, Seeman also incorporated the insights of the psychologist Julian Rotter. Rotter distinguishes between internal control and external locus of control, which means "differences (among persons or situations) in the degree to which success or failure is attributable to external factors (e.g. luck, chance, or powerful others), as against success or failure that is seen as the outcome of one’s personal skills or characteristics". Powerlessness, therefore, is the perception that the individual does not have the means to achieve his goals.
More recently, Geyer remarks that “a new type of powerlessness has emerged, where the core problem is no longer being unfree but rather being unable to select from among an overchoice of alternatives for action, whose consequences one often cannot even fathom”. Geyer adapts to cybernetics to alienation theory, and writes (1996: xxiv) that powerlessness is the result of delayed feedback: “The more complex one’s environment, the later one is confronted with the latent, and often unintended, consequences of one’s actions. Consequently, in view of this causality-obscuring time lag, both the ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’ for one’s actions increasingly tend to be viewed as random, often with apathy and alienation as a result”.


A sense of meaning has been defined by Seeman as “the individual’s sense of understanding events in which he is engaged”. Seeman (1959: 786) writes that meaninglessness “is characterized by a low expectancy that satisfactory predictions about the future outcomes of behaviour can be made." Where as powerlessness refers to the sensed ability to control outcomes, this refers to the sensed ability to predict outcomes. In this respect, meaninglessness is closely tied to powerlessness; Seeman (Ibid.) argues, “the view that one lives in an intelligible world might be a prerequisite to expectancies for control; and the unintelligibility of complex affairs is presumably conducive to the development of high expectancies for external control (that is, high powerlessness)”.
Geyer (1996: xxiii) believes meaninglessness should be reinterpreted for postmodern times: "With the accelerating throughput of information [...] meaningless is not a matter anymore of whether one can assign meaning to incoming information, but of whether one can develop adequate new scanning mechanisms to gather the goal-relevant information one needs, as well as more efficient selection procedures to prevent being overburdened by the information one does not need, but is bombarded with on a regular basis." "Information overload" or the so-called "data tsunami" are well-known information problems confronting contemporary man, and Geyer thus argues that meaninglessness is turned on its head.


Normlessness (or what Durkheim referred to as anomie) “denotes the situation in which the social norms regulating individual conduct have broken down or are no longer effective as rules for behaviour”. This aspect refers to the inability to identify with the dominant values of society or rather, with what are perceived to be the dominant values of society. Seeman (1959: 788) adds that this aspect can manifest in a particularly negative manner, “The anomic situation [...] may be defined as one in which there is a high expectancy that socially unapproved behaviours are required to achieve given goals”. This negative manifestation is dealt with in detail by Catherine Ross and John Mirowski in a series of publications on mistrust, powerlessness, normlessness and crime.
Neal & Collas (2000: 122) write, “Normlessness derives partly from conditions of complexity and conflict in which individuals become unclear about the composition and enforcement of social norms. Sudden and abrupt changes occur in life conditions, and the norms that usually operate may no longer seem adequate as guidelines for conduct”. This is a particular issue after the fall of the Soviet Union, mass migrations from developing to developed countries, and the general sense of disillusionment that characterized the 1990s (Senekal, 2011). Traditional values that had already been questioned (especially during the 1960s) were met with further scepticism in the 1990s, resulting in a situation where individuals rely more often on their own judgement than on institutions of authority: "The individual not only has become more independent of the churches, but from other social institutions as well. The individual can make more personal choices in far more life situations than before” (Halman, 1998: 100). These choices are not necessarily "negative": Halman's study found that Europeans remain relatively conservative morally, even though the authority of the Church and other institutions has eroded.

Social isolation

Social isolation refers to “The feeling of being segregated from one’s community”. Neal and Collas (2000: 114) emphasize the centrality of social isolation in the modern world: “While social isolation is typically experienced as a form of personal stress, its sources are deeply embedded in the social organization of the modern world. With increased isolation and atomization, much of our daily interactions are with those who are strangers to us and with whom we lack any ongoing social relationships.”


One concept used in regard to specific relationships is that of parental alienation, where a child is distanced from and expresses a general dislike for one of their parents (who may have divorced or separated). The term is not applied where there is child abuse. The parental alienation might be due to specific influences from either parent or could result from the social dynamics of the family as a whole. It can also be understood in terms of attachment, the social and emotional process of bonding between child and caregiver. Adoptees can feel alienated from both adoptive parents and birth parents.
Familial estrangement between parents and adult children “is attributed to a number of biological, psychological, social, and structural factors affecting the family, including attachment disorders, incompatible values and beliefs, unfulfilled expectations, critical life events and transitions, parental alienation, and ineffective communication patterns.” The degree of alienation has been positively correlated with decreased emotional functioning in the parent who feels a loss of identity and stigma.
Attachment relationships in adults can also involve feelings of alienation. Indeed, emotional alienation is said to be a common way of life for many, whether it is experienced as overwhelming, or is not admitted to in the midst of a socioeconomic race, or contributes to seemingly unrelated problems.


Self-estrangement is an elusive concept in sociology, as recognized by Seeman (1959), although he included it as an aspect in his model of alienation. Some, with Marx, consider self-estrangement to be the end result and thus the heart of social alienation. Self-estrangement can be defined as “the psychological state of denying one’s own interests – of seeking out extrinsically satisfying, rather than intrinsically satisfying, activities...” It could be characterized as a feeling of having become a stranger to oneself, or to some parts of oneself, or alternatively as a problem of self-knowledge, or authenticity.
Seeman (1959) recognized the problems inherent in defining the "self", while post-modernism in particular has questioned the very possibility of pin-pointing what precisely "self" constitutes. Gergen (1996: 125) argues that: “the traditional view of self versus society is deeply problematic and should be replaced by a conception of the self as always already immersed in relatedness. On this account, the individual’s lament of ‘not belonging’ is partially a by-product of traditional discourses themselves”. If the self is relationally constituted, does it make sense to speak of "self-estrangement" rather than "social isolation"? Costas and Fleming (2009: 354) suggest that although the concept of self-estrangement “has not weathered postmodern criticisms of essentialism and economic determinism well”, the concept still has value if a Lacanian reading of the self is adopted. This can be seen as part of a wider debate on the concept of self between humanism and antihumanism, structuralism and post structuralism, or nature and nurture.

Mental disturbance

Until early in the 20th century, psychological problems were referred to in psychiatry as states of mental alienation, implying that a person had become separated from themselves, their reason or the world. From the 1960s alienation was again considered in regard to clinical states of disturbance, typically using a broad concept of a 'schizoid' ('splitting') process taken from psychoanalytic theory. The splitting was said to occur within regular child development and in everyday life, as well as in more extreme or dysfunctional form in conditions such as schizoid personality and schizophrenia. Varied concepts of alienation and self-estrangement were used to link internal schizoid states with observable symptoms and with external socioeconomic divisions, without necessarily explaining or evidencing underlying causation. R.D. Laing was particularly influential in arguing that dysfunctional families and socioeconomic oppression caused states of alienation and ontological insecurity in people, which could be considered adaptations but which were diagnosed as disorders by mainstream psychiatry and society.(Laing,[1967] 1959). The specific theories associated with Laing and others at that time are not widely accepted, but work from other theoretical perspectives sometimes addresses the same theme.
In a related vein, for Ian Parker, psychology normalizesconditions of social alienation. While it could help groups of individuals emancipate themselves, it serves the role of reproducing existing conditions.(Parker,2007). This view can be see as part of a broader tradition sometimes referred to as Critical Psychology or Liberation Psychology, which emphasizes that an individual is enmeshed within a social-political framework, and so therefore are psychological problems. Similarly, some psychoanalysts suggest that while psychoanalysis emphasizes environmental causes and reactions, it also attributes the problems of individuals to internal conflicts stemming from early psychosocial development, effectively divorcing them from the wider ongoing context Slavoj Zizek (drawing on Herbert Marcuse, Michael Foucault, and Jaacques Lacan's psychoanalysis) argues that in today's capitalist society, the individual is estranged from their self through the repressive injunction to "enjoy!" Such an injunction does not allow room for the recognition of alienation and, indeed, could itself be seen as an expression of alienation.(Zizek, 1994).
Franz Fonon, an early writer on post colonialism, studied the conditions of objectification and violent oppression (lack of autonomy) believed to have led to mental disorders among the colonized in the Third World (in particular Africans) (Fanon, ([2004] 1961).
A process of 'malignant alienation' has been observed in regard to some psychiatric patients, especially in forensic units and for individuals labeled 'difficult' or who aren't liked by at least some staff, which involves a breakdown of the therapeutic relationship between staff and patients, and which may end in the suicide of the patient. Individuals with long-term mental disorders, which may have originally stemmed from social alienation, can experience particular social and existential alienation within their communities due to other people's and potentially their own negative attitudes towards themselves and 'odd' behavior.