Therapist Thoughts

From Carissa Woodwyk about the long term issues adult  adoptees face (originally posted on Facebook)……

i think today is the end of “national adoption month,” right? well, i might just have a final “thought” from a conversation today (but you know that i will have many more thoughts because i always have thoughts, right?)

think about the ADULT adoptees you know – maybe it’s a personal friend or family member or someone you follow on social media. i’m gonna guess that MOST (not every) would say, if they could articulate it, that they long so deeply to feel loved. like totally and utterly loved. and i wonder, if for many, that means feeling KNOWN and WANTED and ENOUGH by and for others. (and by “known” i mean have what’s INSIDE them be known, not having someone know what they’re “doing” or “act like.” those are two very different things.)

and today, i was struck with this in a different way than before…

the very FIRST thing parents do when a woman is pregnant is TOUCH – he and/or she TOUCH the tummy, the baby bump, that shelters and covers the life growing inside – a lot. we rub and push on and massage and hold and tuck our knees up close to the place that is nurturing the sweet baby.

and then, when the baby is born, our immediate instinct is to hold that baby – skin on skin, as tightly and sweetly and tenderly as possible. we look into her/his eyes and something about the touch and feel and smell of that life makes our hearts melt and soar all at the same time.

i wonder what it’s like for that little baby to experience all of that. i’m gonna guess that babies love that, need that, crave that.

and then i wonder what it was like for me NOT to experience all of that. i wonder what it was like for ALL the babies who did NOT and do NOT experience all of that.

when you’re lying in a crib in a room full of babies, there’s no touch.

when you’re in an institution with dozens or hundreds of other children, there’s not as much touch.

if in the beginning, touch = love, then what does that do to our understanding of love?

and then…

(totally transitioning here)

when you’re raised in a “conservative” christian home by “conservative” christian parents who are taught by a “conservative” christian theology and were surrounded by a “conservative” christian culture, i’m guessing that many children would say, “i KNOW my parents love me,” but if you followed that with the question of, “HOW did you know they loved you”? i think they would have a hard time answering. i’m guessing that (maybe) punishment instead of discipline was often used, that shame instead of connection/correction was used, that the focus was on behavior and not the heart, that holy was preached more often than wholeness.

but, i’m just guessing.

i’m guessing because almost EVERY SINGLE adult i meet with who grew up in a “christian” home, describes their upbringing in very similar ways.

YES, they were raised in homes where their parent(s) – for the most part – PROVIDED and PROTECTED and maybe even PLAYED with them as children. but were they known? did they FEEL known? did they not only KNOW, but also believe that they were LOVABLE – no matter what they said or did? did they feel NEEDED? did they feel WANTED?

and now add the impact of the MISSING layer (for some) – the layer where the very first way parents/caretakers show their LOVE to a child is by touching them, holding them – a lot.

oh, my heart. sometimes my heart can’t handle all of that – for myself, for others. i think that’s one of the reasons why i get tears when i speak in front of adoption groups – i feel all the weight of those babies and the impact of what they didn’t receive, in the beginning. and, that is NOT to dismiss what they DID receive. i know so many of you quickly respond to me with, “but my baby had a great caretaker in the orphanage or foster home!” yes! celebrate that. hold that. AND, hold the impact of what didn’t happen. #bothand

i guess when i read adult adoptees’ posts and blogs, it doesn’t surprise me how much they are emoting online, in public. sometimes i wonder if they’re desperate to feel heard, to feel known. to feel loved. and i get why.

i guess when i hear adult adopted clients tell me that they don’t believe or struggle believing that they are lovable and don’t always deserve love and that they still swim in shame and fear and guilt, it doesn’t surprise me. i get it.

when they tell me that they don’t feel loved and that they’re not good at loving, it doesn’t surprise me. i get it.

and then when they tell me how difficult it is to have lasting relationships – that they have this realization that no one’s doing a perfect job loving them which leads to the feeling of being desperate for love and to know they’re lovable which leads them to demanding others to love them perfectly which leads to distance and disconnection which leads to loneliness.

which can lead to desperation.

and then we have the choice…to flee or to feel.

and if we flee, we’re gonna find something or someone to make us feel good. our brains and body can’t hold all of that.

but if we feel and own our story and allow our story to be true, it can lead us back to LIFE. we may actually find ourselves for the first time.

and then healing.

and transformation.

and then lots and lots of practice.

which leads to HOPE – a word that means that tomorrow can be better than today.

which leads to the truth that the degree to which we know and believe that we are lovable is directly related to the degree to which we have the ability to love others well.

and as WE change, our relationships will change.

which leads to a better tomorrow.

hmmm…i bet you don’t have to be an adopted to person to get all of this.

advent = HOPE

much much grace.

and even more HOPE this advent season.