Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Adoptee Identity: Shape Shifting

Some adoptees will know what I'm talking about. The complex art of shape shifting. The not-so-conscious attempts we make to fit places where we don't feel comfortable and even in places where we do. Maybe trying to laugh like somebody, walk like someone else and adjusting our mood to match theirs. Others lead. We watch and follow.

And then, there is the search for the birth family and some sort of reunion...talking on the phone, pictures exchanged, perhaps a meeting. And suddenly, it's not so easy to shape shift anymore because that belongs to the shadow world. Reunion - good, bad, ambivalent - forces us into the bright light of reality. We are, after all, connected and we complete the picture and see where we fit in. And where we don't.

My nose is like hers but my chin is totally different. My temperament is like her - resilient - but my laugh is not. When confronted with the first photograph of a birth relative (especially the mother!), it's like experiencing an inner seismic shake...precipitating an identity crisis. This is who I WAS...but this is who I am NOW. We must incorporate all our new knowledge of our heritage in a process that is as painful and necessary as cleaning and updating a computer hard drive.

For those of us adoptees with children, we have some experience in seeing bits and pieces of ourselves in our offspring. But we have no experience with it the other way round: where we came from. And when we finally do, it's jarring in the extreme.

Every day, I take out that unflatting picture of my birth mother from a drawer (I can't bear to leave it out yet) and hold it up next to my face and stare into the mirror. And then I take a deep breath and start taking inventory. This is like her and this is not. And so on. Then, I go on a long walk, and focus on our behaviors. This is what she does and this is what I do. This takes lots of practice. Especially if your adoptive parents were self-centered and you found yourself merging with them in order to survive. The instinct is to merge yet again but, after doing hard time in therapy, why go back to that dark and limiting place?

This incorporation of new information is tough...but the good news is...I can finally see someone authentic beginning to emerge. Someone who knows who she is and who she is not. And that takes data. Not just nicely edited data spoonfed by others in control, but all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. All in favor of Adoption With Full Disclosure to Adoptees? Here, here!!!


Blogger Joy said...

It's funny, I am at the point when they are different, I think What?
(they being bio family)

6:08 PM  

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