In the blog below are excerpts from article by Sara Easterly in Severance Magazine on understanding how the effects of adoption trauma can look so good they get missed.
When I told her that I had promoted her piece, Sara wrote back – “may I ask you to more clearly distinguish my writing from yours? I’m not comfortable with the way our writing has been merged together without my words and thoughts in quotations.” I found it an awkward and complicated practice to pick out and put in quotes those words. Even so, I have done my best to honor her request, which means that to the best of my ability to identify them, her words are now in quotes. What her words made me think of in my own experiences with two adoptee parents are not.
If you find this now just too difficult to read, you can instead simply read her original piece – linked above in the words “Severance Magazine”. There is much more there than I chose to highlight in my own blog here. I regret that somehow something she considered very important appears to have been lost in my own effort to see my family’s lived experience within what she was describing.
“A common mistake adoptive parents make when hearing adult adoptees speak about adoption trauma is discounting their experiences because ‘times have changed’ or their adoptee hasn’t voiced similar feelings. Some parents will straight-up ask their adopted children if they feel the same way and then rest easy when their children deny having similar feelings. Differing details of adoption stories can be used as evidence of irrelevance. Adoptee voices that land as ‘angry’ are often quickly written off as ‘examples of a bad adoption’.”
The truth is that “real and proven trauma” is “inherent in adoption.” “Adoptees are unintentionally groomed to be people-pleasers.” I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced that quality being passed down to the children in my own double the adoptee parents family.
An adoptee will “strive to measure up, doing and saying whatever is needed, to keep” their “adoptive mothers” lovingly “close” to them. I know that my own mother never felt like she lived up to her adoptive mother’s expectations. The people pleasing is “simply a matter of survival.”
Who knew ? My own “perfectionism” probably comes out of my parents’ own adoption trauma. It may seem like a positive trait that adoptees are often “natural leaders”. Yet it arises out of a sense that “nobody is” actually “looking out” for them due to that separation from their natural mother. I was once diagnosed as compartmentalizing, however, that too may have been passed down. Adoptees spend “a lifetime diminishing” their “feelings and disregarding” their own “deep pain”.
“Adoption trauma” “hides itself from the adoptees themselves.” I saw that in my own parents. No wonder I grew up thinking adoption was the most natural thing in the world. Infant adoptees experience of their greatest loss (both of my parents were adopted before the age of 1) is “preverbal, before” they “learned words for loneliness, isolation, abandonment, and hopelessness.”
Since “developmentally, most children won’t” “have the capacity to reflect upon” their own “adoption loss until much later in life”, the term in the adoption community is “living in the fog.” This mental perspective also passes down to the children, as I have personally experienced. It is “a state of denial or numbness” because adoptees are unable “to closely examine the effects of” their own “adoption”(s). Waking up often comes in sharing experiences with other adoptees. For myself as the child of two adoptee parents, I came out of the fog by being exposed to the experiences of adoptees. My mom had to hide her own feelings about adoption from my adoptee dad because he preferred not to look too closely at his own.
It is true that “some” woke adult adoptees are “angry”. “Society hasn’t made room for” their “voices” in the story of adoption, even though they are its “central players”. “Some” adoptees “have been let down by the people closest to” them. “Some” “haven’t felt seen or known”. “Some” “have been mistreated”. Some have attempted or succeeded at suicide only wanting “to stop the pain”. It is long past time “to shed light on adoption’s darkest manifestations”.
Every “adoptee” is “different”. “Each story is unique”. From my own experience, “listening to adoptee voices”, especially a diverse “array of them”, “is of the utmost importance” to developing a more accurate perspective on the practice of adoption.