I consider it a great privilege to be able to explore my black bag of shadow material (ala Robert Bly) with an experienced professional who has a lifetime of working with the ‘adoption triad’ and who is herself an adoptee. Like my sister and me, my therapist “Kay” (as I refer to her in this blog) was not told until later in life that she was adopted, which I learned in this week’s session. She said she actually considered this a gift. Unlike adoptees who know throughout childhood and inevitably cook up fantasies about their exalted biological parents, waiting at the curb for their real mom to whisk them to safety after every skirmish with their adoptive mom, this gets circumvented when you are not told until, say, forty. For me personally, it seems much more like a double-edged sword.
Never is this more apparent to me than when we attend to my favorite coping mechanism: shutting down when a hurtful zing sails in. Recently I have been more conscious and have managed to stay present to some degree. Instead of immediately going to “thinking” and relying on intellect to solve “the problem”, I am beginning to sit with my feelings. No need for reaction or even action; in fact things go better without that. It’s trite in this age of Eastern philosophical influences to say “Breathe and Stay Present”, but there is a reason the phrase is so often echoed. The view is much clearer from there.
I felt as if another epiphany was burbling up. I imagined my shoulders hunched over in a protective posture when confronted with negativity. I could see the mechanism as if viewing myself on a movie screen. Body in shamed demeanor, wondering what I said or did that was wrong, needing space and time to ‘think about what just happened’ and to weigh whether it was them or whether it really was me who crossed a line, impulsively grabbing the escape route from feeling my feelings and being present with them. For the first time I got it in my body: I’ve done this since I was a child.
I realize many children have their intuitive feelings invalidated by secret-wielding adults who tell them “No that’s wrong” when in fact it is right. Nor do I believe my adoptive parents’ denial of our adopted status was the only killing field of intuition from my childhood. One teacher in particular, the principal of the private parochial school we attended until high school, ruled her minions with an iron will. And she appointed me the official class snitch. I often found myself in her office facing the unsavory choice of telling her which boys were popping the girls’ bra straps at recess or who brought The Woodstock Story Book to school in exchange for release from the solitary confinement she threatened.
So it is that we must undo the sins of our ‘role models’ in order to clear the path.