Understanding the Adopted
by Nancy Newton Verrier
Gateway Press, 1993
Wound is a must read. However, it probably shouldnt be first
read. Nancy Verriers deep reach into the psyche of an adoptee
is not a work to be taken lightly. I would suggest readers prepare for the
insights the book will help uncover by first reading Adoption 101 Classics,
such as Lost and Found and The Adoption Triangle.
Like many of us, Verrier, an adoptive mother,
teacher, and therapist, believed love could conquer all when she and her
husband adopted a three-day-old infant girl. Her parenting experience led
to ten years of research to understand the complex dynamics of the adopted
person. Such behaviors range from testing and acting out to compliance and
withdrawal. All parents of teenagers face these adolescent challenges, but
adoptees carry a tangled web of issues superimposed on the usual stages of
growth and development that plague us all.
While our society and many potential adoptive
parents view adoption as a panacea for unwanted children, Verrier helps us
see the deep wounding and pain that festers and grows inside the adopted
person. In alcoholic families John Bradshaw coined the term the hole
in your soul for similar pain. This painor primal woundis
physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. We are now learning the
pain operates at a cellular level and is a part of the energetic system of
the mother and child. Relinquishing a child severs their tie and leaves indelible
marks on both mother and baby.
In Part I, The Wound, she describes
how the wound results in a loss of self-worth and a tendency to mistrust
the permanency of relationships. As an adoptee, my own low self-esteem as
a young adult and need to test my husbands commitment to me in marriage
are clear indicators that this invisible wound exists. As Verrier describes,
we all pass through the stages of grief, perhaps many times over, but to
an adoptee the grief can be endless.
In Part II, Manifestations, the
author describes the core issues for all adoptees: Abandonment and loss (that
manifests as rejection), trust, intimacy, loyalty, guilt and shame, power
and control and finally, identity. Some would tell us that all human beings
and family systems share these challenges in lifes journey. Why are
adopted people unique?
Denial and myth surround adoptees from the
day they are born or perhaps while in utero. We now know from Verny and
Kellys work, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, that the
Mother-Baby bond is established in the early stages of pregnancy. Imagine
then the negative energy and/or anxiety and depression surrounding an unwanted
and unplanned pregnancy. The baby is surrounded by this energy. The grief
is profound. The challenge for all triad members is to distinguish those
dynamics related to the primal wound from the challenges of coping in the
real world. Clarifying these issues can feel like trying to fly an airplane
through a glass of milk. Its not easy!
In Part III, The Healing, our author
guides us to think about whether adoption is to be avoided for all its messiness,
or if not, what can be done differently? The medicine pouch of healing includes
understanding, acceptance, empathy, and communications. The Reunion
Process can have a powerful effect on healing when expectations are
realistic and everyone learns reunions are not one-time events.
The same coping skills we use to deal with
lifes changes are useful for adoptees to apply when beginning this
healing journey. The ability to understand paradox, to view the many colors
of the adoption rainbow, not simply see life in black and white or right
or wrong, are essential skills to hone. Beginning to accept that perception
shades all reality and is a fundamental skill for all triad members to develop.
Verrier moves on to describe the ways adoptees can empower themselves while
reminding us of the barriers, namely: fear, guilt and shame and, finally,
anger. Finding a spiritual path can be a useful addition to ones medicine
pouch of healing,
The writer concludes by sharing questions put
to her during her years of research into The Primal Wound where she
discusses the implications of abandonment on other populations, step-families,
fetal alcohol syndrome and more.
This is a painful book to read. Yet, it is
only by walking through the pain of grief and loss that we are able to heal
ourselves. This is a book that should be read in small doses, leaving time
and space for contemplating how its messages speak to your heart. It may
make you cry, but you will know that you are not alone in this journey and
I guarantee you will want this book on your shelf for a lifetime!
Adoptee and Adoptive Mother
SW Regional Director, AAC
Excerpted from the October 1999
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 1999 Operation Identity