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Choosing to Heal

posted by Estes Turner on Friday, January 11, 2013

When my life gets stressful, my tendency is to feel inadequate and insecure. It is like I have an emotional sunburn: sensitive to the touch, wary of anyone who gets too close, and angry with myself for allowing the situation to get out of control. To those closest to me, I may seem distant, withdrawn and sullen. Pretty quickly the feelings become too burdensome and I begin to look for someone else to blame (a way to discharge pain and discomfort). Anger feels like power and control. Vulnerability feels like weakness and annihilation. The snowball is rolling downhill and very difficult to stop.

You might think that to call this behavior an adoption issue is a stretch. On the one hand, I agree; people who are not adopted may have a similar pattern that results from an event in life – likely in early childhood – that was painful and wounding and unresolved. Consequently, every “new” situation that feels similar to that wound could trigger this kind of response. It is an unconscious response; in my case, withdrawing, feeling abandoned and alone. What makes it an adoption issue for me is that my “primal wound” occurred at birth; it is pre-verbal and can only be accessed emotionally. It is virtually impossible to reason my way to feeling whole.

I have come to believe that the most powerful path to well-being is almost infantile – to cry. To cry loud and long, without holding back, and without judgment, like a baby. When a baby cries, we hold her and comfort her and over time, build trust and reassure her that she is not alone. Adoptees, sadly, often were alone in the first few hours, days, weeks, months, and still feel alone. The mother longed for and cried for is gone. Every vulnerability and insecurity, every feeling of inadequacy may be an echo of that cry of loneliness. Therein lies a significant difference for adoptees and children reared by their birthparents. For adoptees, the pain and unfulfilled longing feels life- threatening; it feels like annihilation. Nancy Verrier addresses this fear of annihilation in her book, The Primal Wound.

If you check out Karen Gillooly’s recent blog, “Grief and Hope: Digging Deep and Bright Blue Skies,” she speaks about just “being” with her little guy when he feels his existence is threatened. That IS the appropriate and loving thing to do. For those of us who are 40-, 50- or 60-something, the comfort we seek is harder won. Enter Adoption Network Cleveland.

In our Adoptee Journeys series, Dr. Tom Rogat, PsyD., talks to us about “The Change Process.” He outlines several options for treatment: Adoption Network Cleveland workshops and events; support groups; individual therapy; interpersonal group therapy; and self help. I am fortunate to have pursued all these, and yet every day I have to choose to heal. Dr. Tom encourages us to “practice, practice, practice” and to “be accepting and kind to yourself!” Dr. Brene’ Brown says that what is required to move forward is to practice vulnerability.

I recognize that my past participation with Adoption Network Cleveland has been an unconscious strategy to heal and grow. I have heard that the highest form of learning is to teach. While I do not see my role within the Network as teaching, my struggle to share my experience, my story, is meant to be a contribution in our ongoing conversation. Out of that, I am free to consciously choose to grow and heal and continue to discover who I am.

1 Comment(s)


Loretta said: 

Thank you for having the courage to share your feelings. It helps me better understand my now-adult adopted daughters. Please keep it up!
May 02, 2013 at 9:50 PM
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