I discovered five ways that the adoptee community helped me understand my own situation better. Here is another way they have helped me.
They have addressed, head-on, the concept of the “angry adoptee.” They don’t side step it, they don’t pathologize it. They own it and place it into the wider context of profound loss of their first families.
Many people don’t like this. It is far easier to write off the angry adoptee as having a mental disturbance. Some people refuse to confront the cultural narrative that “adoption is always beautiful.” We have unwittingly embraced a false idea to prop up that cultural narrative. Let me use an analogy to explain.
It is as if we think of children like gears in a car… first gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family by refusing to help them stay together), push the lever into second gear (insert adoptive family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”
Adoptees are saying, “No!” And I get that, because I think something similar happens to kids of divorce. First gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family through divorce), push the lever into second gear (insert step-family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”
Kids of divorce are pathologized for being angry. Why? Because the kids are supposed to be fine after divorce. That is what all the experts say. And if the kids are not fine, nobody stops to think, “Gee, maybe the divorce itself had something to do with this.”
Most people view divorce as a one-time shock to the children, a shock that subsides as time goes on. Superficially this makes sense, but having lived through it I can tell you that it’s not true. For me, the pain slowly grows as time goes on. Why might this be? I have two related concepts to explain this:
- As our parents’ two worlds drift further and further apart, our ontology becomes more and more split apart. After all, we come from our parents. Their oneness, their unity, is a sign of our ontological wholeness.
- The separation and divorce initiated a liminal space from which we never emerged. We went from being full-fledged members of our own families, to being permanently caught between our parents’ two separate worlds. We never again become full fledged members in their reconstituted families. This is because they have rejected each other, which means they have rejected 1/2 of of who we are.
I’ll be wring more about these largely unexplored concepts. I believe they are instrumental to understanding the negative outcomes these kids experience.