A Lot Of Anger

Today’s story – She is 13 years old. She has reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and takes it out on the whole family. She is my cousin’s child, so also my cousin. She is placed here along with her 2 other sisters. She is triggered by her younger sister’s happiness in being here and how we are one big happy family but she doesn’t feel a part of that.

An interesting suggestion was this one – Therapeutic Boxing. This is a style of depth psychotherapy using boxing skills to bring subconscious and unconscious material to the conscious mind, an unconventional style of mindfulness to look beneath the surface of behaviors. Also contact sports to help channel the anger into a positive. Some recommendations included kickboxing and Krav Maga (an Israeli martial art developed for the defense forces, it is derived from a combination of techniques used in aikido, judo, karate, boxing, savate and wrestling. It is known for its focus on real-world situations and its extreme efficiency) and rugby.

With adoptees – it is a given to seek out an adoption trauma informed therapist. Managing how an adoptee navigates trauma is a life-long road with peaks and valleys. Another type – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – a type of talk therapy for people who experience emotions very intensely. Evidence suggests that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders and suicidal ideation, as well as for changing behavioral patterns such as self-harm and substance use. There is also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – a structured, goal-oriented type of talk therapy. There are also rage rooms, also known as smash rooms or anger rooms, where people can vent their rage by destroying objects. Results according to experts appear mixed. One suggested that her oldest (age 10) loves to break large blocks of ice. There’s a lot of sensory input with that activity and it works wonders! One had a high school art teacher that always had old clay projects she could smash into the dumpster. She found that a very satisfying and helpful release. Another suggests group therapy because having other people who can relate makes some feel less alone with their situation. There are so many forms, yet another is Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). Some target difficulties in attachment and some difficulties in intersubjectivity, finding it hard to give and take in relationships.

There are activities one can apply to develop coping skills and emotional regulation skills. Some examples include – Relaxation techniques: deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle technique. Also taking a quiet bath in the dark, being alone but intentional about where and how one spends that time, eliminating all other distractions. Exercise; dancing, talking a walk, lifting weights. Talking with someone you trust. Engaging in art; drawing, coloring, painting, photography, playing a musical instrument.  Journal, then later burn it into ashes. Also, scream into a pillow. 

For the time being validate her anger. Acknowledge that you couldn’t even imagine what she is going through and apologize to her. Tell her that she’s welcome to be a part of that family bond, whenever she’s ready, and to take her time. And tell her until then, you can be a friend – if she let’s you. Some adoptees find only adulthood brings the freedom they need to cease being so angry.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

I came across the letters DBT in an adoption discussion group and as I had no idea what it stood for, I do what I often do in such cases, google it. It started with this comment by an adoptive parent –

“I just had it click in a deeper way yesterday that I put a lot of thought and effort and will into trying to heal my kids. As if I’m a savior. As if I can. But in DBT, it talks about creating a change ready environment for your kids. By the way, if you can find a child DBT therapist, do it! Its expensive and it involves individual and parent and group sessions, and its work and learning, but its SUPER effective. All kinds of stuff prove its effective. Back to my point, if I’m trying to create a change ready environment, a calm and consistent environment where mean words can roll off my back, and I’m working on me setting the example that self care is important and I’m working on me so that I can hold all the pain they send my way, that’s where I make the most beneficial impact for all of the family and that’s where I love my kids the best.”

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat borderline personality disorder. There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioral patterns such as self-harm and substance abuse. Many of these issues are aspects experienced by adoptees due to the trauma of separation from their original mothers.

One woman commented – “DBT absolutely SAVED MY LIFE. The skills helped me stop with SI and I then went on to lose 140 pounds.” I had to google SI too. Introverted sensing (or Si for short) is one of the most misunderstood cognitive functions in the personality community. Introverted sensing is a perceiving (information-gathering) function. It focuses on the subjective, internal world of personal experience and compares and contrasts new experiences to past experiences and memories. Si-users tend to notice patterns repeating themselves and are quick to spot changes or inconsistencies in their environment. They trust personal experience and subjectively explore the impact of current events, choices, and consequences.

So back to DBT . . . .

Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others. DBT can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders and substance use disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

DBT incorporates a philosophical process called dialectics. Dialectics is based on the concept that everything is composed of opposites and that change occurs when there is a “dialogue” between opposing forces. The process makes three basic assumptions:

All things are interconnected.
Change is constant and inevitable.
Opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation.

Mindfulness skills help you slow down and focus on using healthy coping skills when you are in the midst of emotional pain. The strategy can also help you stay calm and avoid engaging in automatic negative thought patterns and impulsive behavior. BTW, I am a BIG believer in mindfulness.

Distress tolerance techniques help prepare you for intense emotions and empower you to cope with them with a more positive long-term outlook. There are 4 techniques – distraction, improving the moment, self-soothing and thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress.

Emotion regulation lets you navigate powerful feelings in a more effective way. The skills you learn will help you to identify, name, and change your emotions. When you are able to recognize and cope with intense negative emotions (for example, anger), it reduces your emotional vulnerability and helps you have more positive emotional experiences.

Interpersonal effectiveness helps you to become more assertive in a relationship (for example, expressing your needs and be able to say “no”) while still keeping a relationship positive and healthy. You will learn to listen and communicate more effectively, deal with challenging people, and respect yourself and others.

Feelings Of Rejection

Feelings of rejection may be one of the most common impacts for any person who was adopted. Today’s story breaks my heart . . .

It’s never going to stop. These feelings of rejection are going to be part of my life forever. I have worked so hard in therapy these past 5 years to learn all the coping skills and most of the time they have worked.

Today, not so much. I am sitting here with tears running down my face for the stupidest reasons. The irrational thoughts of rejection in my head triggered by conversations that anyone else would consider completely normal, logical and with no ill intent. I can type that, I can say it out loud, but my brain cannot stop these feelings of being rejected. It’s a freight train out of control.

This is the life adoption created for me and no amount of therapy or positive reunion or being the administer of a group that allows me to speak freely is going to change the fact that a simple statement telling me not to come to my adoptive brother’s on Christmas Eve in the middle of Covid but learning that all my nieces and nephews and my adoptive mother will be there, set’s off a chain reaction of feeling personal rejection.

We are in a pandemic, my adoptive mom goes there weekly anyway, my nieces and nephews are their children. It makes logical sense they would/could be there. Yet the second my adoptive mom told me she was going there and I told her we were not asked to come, I instantly had to put on my sunglasses and hide my eyes. Hide the tears that were forming quickly.

I desperately want to avoid being irrational, but the chain reaction starts. My husband’s phone dings and I wonder who is texting him. I have no reason to be concerned, yet I can’t help it in this moment. My adoptive mom mentions my out of state niece sent a big batch of cookies to my adoptive brother. I sit and wonder why him and not me.

Cookies…..text messages…..keeping distance during a pandemic…..anyone would consider all that innocuous. I should too. There are real issues going on in this world. There are people that don’t have family, there are people that are struggling. I try hard to get it in check, to move past it. Then I walk my adoptive mom to the door and she says “Don’t worry so much about things. You worry too much” and the tears start up again.

I’ve been told this all my life and I want to scream back at her and say do you think I WANT to be like this? To let these inconsequential things set me off at 55 years old, stupid shit that should be irrelevant? I don’t, because in this moment, my brain cannot make my mouth do that. The risk is too great. I just weakly smile and walk away.

They will never understand. Not my adoptive family, not my natural family. They will never understand that I CANNOT control this. Our brains are not wired like everyone else’s and this is the result. Me…..crying over a gathering during covid, cookies and text messages…..SIGH….tell me again how much adoption rocks. I could not hate myself more right now, for not being able to avoid this spiral over nonsense.

How Confusing And Upsetting

In a private group I belong to, this story was shared –

“I’m at a loss. We have a Foster Son age 2 and a Foster Son age 5. The 5 year old will not listen at all. We ask him to do something and he acts out or does the opposite. We have had them for a week and I have cried every night I am so stressed. I have thought of everything. I reward him for being good and it doesn’t help. I need help please.”

~ desperate Foster Parent

One of the responses was this – Seriously? You’ve had them a week and you’re upset that they are having a hard time adjusting? If you don’t have the decency to understand that these kids go through absolute hell when they are removed and placed into your home you shouldn’t be allowed to foster. Who certifies these people/trains them? Who ever it is needs to be fired.

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of children in the US foster care system?  Some recent data indicates that 690,548 children spent time in the foster care system during 2017.  Many children in the foster system demonstrate post-traumatic stress like symptoms.  This affects their development, coping skills, emotional regulation, relationships and attachments.

When the child has had some time to process the situation, learning meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques may be a method of learning to calm their own self, under their own control.  A lack of control over their circumstances is one aspect of their acting out behavior.

Learning to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones can help the child develop a more healthy sense of self.  These children need a safe play area and a nurturing environment.  Over time, the children will need to learn to recognize triggers in order to gain control over their emotional states.  Foster parents need discernment to ignore minor behaviors. By improving this parent-child relationship, the child may feel more supported in their everyday life.

Nothing a foster parent can do beyond patience, love, acceptance and an attempt to understand from the child’s perspective will work miracles overnight.  The trauma suffered will be deep and unfortunately, to some degree, last a lifetime.