Adoptee Rage! This blog is written exclusively for the 38% of Abused and Neglected Adopted Children. The U.S. HHSA Identifies #1 Risk: Maltreatment, Child Abuse and Risk for Death In Adopted children. Childhood domination, Coping compensation. Research in Adoption Psychology, Developmental Trauma"The Adoption Paradox". By Rainstorm Red-Smith
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.
For condoms, high-heels, paper and pens, we can thank the Ancient Egyptians. The Ancient Greeks gave us central-heating, anchors, maps and oven-heated bricks. Many of our modern-day laws were formed in Ancient Rome, including the right to vote, the 'right' to pay taxes and an accused person’s right to a defence.
Ask someone what pre-dates all of these and few would think to say 'adopting children'.
Adoption goes back to the dawn of civilisation. Written Babylonian laws, dating from 1772 BC clearly define adoption of children. The practice of adopting children has remained constant throughout history. We still do it today and can now even adopt children transnationally.
Despite the extensive history behind adoption, we are astoundingly short-sighted when it comes to understanding its impacts. Only in the last two decades have the emotional and psychological impacts been explored. Only recently have the feelings of grief, loss and abandonment been acknowledged. That adoptees have a propensity towards depression, ADHD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse has only recently been researched and theorised. Research is still limited on the high adoptee suicide rates and disproportionate admittance to correctional institutions but the most challenging, painful and distressing aspect of adoption is routinely unacknowledged altogether: Relationship problems.
In the face of the generosity and unconditional love it takes to bring adopt a child, this may seem an ungrateful, accusatory statement. Take a moment to baulk at such a provocative, nonsensical claim. Yet it is a warranted though hard to believe; that saving a child by adopting them could lead to a life of relationship problems. It is a claim that is even slightly insulting, to the loving adoptive family, the diligent adoption services and to those individuals who have battled serious psychological issues stemming from adoption; as an 'impact' it pales in significance when compared to depression, PTSD or suicide.
Is there any truth to the claim?
The formation of relationships, notably the development of intimacy with a romantic partner, can be a major challenge for adoptees. Why? Because their first and most important relationship was abruptly cut short. It was severed. It was irreparably destroyed. The person who was supposed to love them most, disappeared and they were passed to strangers who they were immediately expected to trust. This terrifically terrifying, traumatic experience imprinted anger, sadness and helpless upon an infant psyche. It instilled a persistent fear of abandonment deep within.
It is this that fear impacts future relationships. Many adoptees fear the unfamiliar territory of a relationship. They fear that what happened once might happen again. That each new relationship, like the very first one, will not last. Deep in their subconscious is the persistent question: If their own mother abandoned them, then why won’t others?
The impact of that broken bond is colossal. It cannot be understated. Adoption permanently alters everything a person was destined for. It alters the course of their lives, but also how they attach to people. The abandonment that precedes adoption causes bonding problems. It interferes with emotional development imbuing in the adoptee the sense that any situation can potentially lead to rejection.
Most of all it affects the ability of the adoptee to trust, to trust themselves and others. Relationships survive on trust but adoptees' trust in adults was broken at their most vulnerable time. Distrust was imprinted early on. Connection and intimacy become associated with rejection and loneliness. The idea that their mother loved them so deeply that she gave them away is a confusing paradox. Being loved becomes forever intertwined with being abandoned.
One of the most saddening deprivations is that of touch. Children need their mother's contact. Touch is intricately linked with early bonding and trust, but adoptees are deprived of their mother's touch and many are too afraid to allow the adoptive mother to hold or cuddle them. She might not feel right. She might have the wrong energy, wrong skin, wrong smell or she might not be an affectionate person. This will inevitably create issues for future intimate relationships.
Not being able to remember the traumatic event that was their adoption compounds the problem. Those adopted as infants cannot explain what happened, let alone ask for help. Their survival instincts took over and remained in-charge and they may have lived in a constant state of stress ever since, without realising it. For the adoptee, their whole life has been skewed to the point where it seems normal. This is why adoptees often have tumultuous relationships in adulthood.
It is rarely openly acknowledged that adoptees are notorious for making life difficult for their partners. It is like traversing a minefield. Relationships with adoptees are an emotional rollercoaster ride marked by combative and argumentative attitudes. They are sensitive to criticism and have difficulty expressing feelings. They have suppressed emotions for so long that they don’t know how to deal with them. Accompanying this may be an unrelenting need for control because adults, social workers and lawyers made monumental decisions for them. They can be manipulative and intimidating to partners, making a big fuss over trivial issues to portray a sense of power. Adults adoptees need complete control over their adult relationships; they relinquished control once before and the results were devastating.
Adoptees have hair-trigger reactions and lack impulse control. They frequently over-react to seemingly minor stresses. An explosion of rage, hostility or indignation is never far away for their partners. A wrong move can quickly be met with a veil of silence, withdrawal, rejection and disapproval. They harbour a great deal of frustration and anger, even if they appear placid to others. Very often adoptees are not angry at anything in particular; it is a front to hide pervasive sorrow, sadness and hurt. Strangely, the anger can often be a sign of connection. Nobody gets overly angry at people who mean nothing to them. That is why adoptees' partners often bear the brunt of their wrath.
Nancy Verrier, the renowned adoption author, provided the most apt summation of summed adoptees' relationships:
"Very often, if an adoptee is just getting to know someone, there is no fear of abandonment because there is little connection. This is why adoptees are often more true to themselves and authentic at the beginning of a relationship. The two people are still strangers and the adoptee can be more authentic. The adoptee can risk allowing more of himself to be seen. The other person genuinely likes or falls in love with the essence of the adoptee. However, as the relationship progresses and the friend or partner becomes more important to him, fear takes over and sabotaging begins. The expectations of being abandoned by the important person in his life cause behaviour which will lead to that very thing. The adoptee becomes the scared, frustrating child."
When Verrier refers to sabotaging, she describes how adoptees are so scared of being abandoned that they employ various distancing techniques. They avoid the vulnerability of intimate relationships by withdrawing and isolating themselves. They evade closeness and commitment because they struggle with emotional expression and often act emotionally absent or completely disinterested in the relationship, ensuring that the partner feels unloved and assuming that the relationship is decaying. They constantly test the limits of their partner's patience. They push them away to see if they will leave or they push them away before they get close enough to abandon them - a counterphobic reaction of 'reject before being rejected'.
What is rarely acknowledged is that their behaviour is a sign of a stunted emotional development and unresolved childhood trauma. It shows the scared child still lives inside. It is a side-effect of trauma. It is not the rational adult who walks out and slams the door on their partners. In scary situations, the scared child takes over.
High risk, high reward?
That is not to say that adoptees do not want intimacy. Possibly the saddest aspect is that that deep down, they really do want to ‘give everything’. Behind the barriers, they long for a close, trusting connection with someone special and want to let someone ‘in’. Adoptees yearn for intimacy, but the 'closeness' required in a relationship alarms them. Petrified of being hurt, the openness and vulnerability is just too risky. Opening the door to let someone ‘in’ also opens the door to rejection. This is why many adoptees articulate that they have never felt close to anyone.
To make matters worse, they often choose partners who are equally unavailable emotionally, physically or socially. They select partners who are suffering too; that may have been half the attraction in the first place. They prefer the company of those who are not committed or unable to express emotion. Attractive partners include those who are angry about a previous injustice, who are not over past relationships or who have their own histories of abandonment. Adoptees are drawn to those who like themselves, are prone to avoid and run away from stressful situations, who are passive-aggressive and who always are relationship-enders, never being broken up with. They are drawn to others who are deeply wounded. Why? Because these partners will collude to keep everything at a superficial level. The problem is that those partners will eventually do what they fear most - abandon them.
Even the most dedicated partners struggle to see past the deeply ingrained trauma if the adoptee is treating them badly. Living on an emotional rollercoaster is exhausting. Even if they recognise that deep, sensitive wounds exist, they become tired of walking on eggshells. Many partners simply allow the adoptee's behaviour to continue because they are intimidated into silence. They do not dare risk an outburst of pent-up angry, pain and volatility.
Some partners may also become sick of the 'parent-role'. Adult adoptees often yearn to heal childhood wounds, but this requires fulfilment of childhood needs. Thus, partners often feel as if they are a parent in some way. This only prevents an intimate, mature relationship and eventually, the partners will reach breaking point. Even if they are aware of the residual trauma, they will leave. They will realise that they cannot change the adoptee; only the adoptee themselves can do that.
What doesn't break you, makes you
It is vital that adoptees and those around them understand why close relationships can be difficult. These issues cannot be dismissed. PTSD, depression and suicide may be more dangerous impacts of adoption, but the seemingly banal problems that plague the adoptees relationships are not to be overlooked, minimised or dismissed. That initial separation of mother and child can cause persistent sadness which casts a shadow over their lives.
The adoptee may eventually mature and gain insight into their behaviour in a relationship, but by that stage, the damage may have been done. Adoptees need help to realise that avoiding intimacy will not keep them safe; it will only prevent them from having meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Distancing techniques may provide some semblance of safety, but unfulfilling relationships will leave them sad and alone. By avoiding getting close to someone, adoptees just prevent themselves from achieving their own happiness. The paradoxical yearning for intimacy but fear of connection will linger on, leaving nothing but an unfulfilling, sad and lonely existence.
No matter how difficult, adoptees need relationships. Failed relationships are undoubtedly devastating and can feel like abandonment. Failed relationships also force adoptees to admit secrets that were dormant, suppressed or hidden, even from themselves. It can floor the adoptee because they waited so long to find someone special with whom they wanted to connect, but sometimes it is only after a failed relationship that adoptees begin to realise that their coping mechanisms are what drove their partners away. For some, it is only the painful and consistent failure that causes them to recognise that there are other factors at play. That realisation is a positive, signalling a realization that the childhood trauma needs to be healed. In fact, if adoptees are ever inclined to seek help for adoption issues, it is often because those issues have been triggered by a failed or difficult relationship.
Ultimately, failed relationships can be a blessing in disguise. Is it implausible to think that deep wounds caused by a failed relationship can also be healed through a failed relationship? Sometimes it takes painful failure to achieve fulfilling happiness. Relationship success for adoptees will only come after some tough lessons have been learned. A failed relationship might merely be an important instance of failing in order to truly succeed.