Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Talking to Mother and Fading Away

After the shock of meeting my first mother for the first time ten months ago, I called her.

It was a pleasant conversation. She always seems very happy to hear from me.

I'm now mostly over the intense feelings of grief (and anger) I finally allowed myself to have over being given up for adoption by a 37-year old woman who'd already raised three children.

So now I'm a bit more detached. In a good way. That emotional detachment allows me to be a better observer of the dynamics of our relationship. Mostly, she does the talking. Sometimes, she (unintentionally) says things I find hurtful. For example, she likes to recount with pride her determination to give me up for a better life, against family pressure to keep me. It's the language of martrys. Except she seems to forget I didn't get a "better life," just a different "bad" one as I was placed into an extremely dysfunctional, emtionally neglectful home. In our most recent chat, she said she'd always wanted girls (not boys) because girls are so cute. Obviously, being a girl wasn't incentive enough for her to keep me.

So for the last year or so, I've been saying I don't feel "safe" around my mother. I just don't.

I get very nervous when I think of talking to her. I get all cold and clammy, as if it's possible I might just pass out. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I'll wake up and the first thing that pops into my head is, "I can't believe she gave me up!"

And here's what I just noticed. When I was talking to her, I felt like I was fading away. Like my voice was getting weaker and that if I held up my hand, I might to able to see right through it. Suddenly, I wasn't myself. She'd ask me a question and I wouldn't have an answer. All I could do was listen, passively. It was like she existed, fully, and I did, but weakly. Just hanging in there. When I am in contact with her, I am diminished.

This is a sensation that I have, in the past, blamed on her being self-centered. It's sort of like the feeling I get around my full blown narcissistic adoptive father. But it's worse. Much worse. It's a horrible, terrible feeling...that I might just disappear.

Before I called her, I blogged about this and Anonymous Bob left a comment telling me about psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi's paper entitled, "The Unwelcome Child and His Death Instinct (or Drive)" and suddenly, the lights went off.

Is THIS what is behind the sensation that I am there-but-not-there when I am with my first mother? That I am reliving not being wanted? That after 47 years, I can feel what I felt in utero? That I can only respond to her, not as an adult, but as an unborn baby incapable of speech or thought or opinion?

I am NOT looking for sympathy. I am trying to understand not only this feeling, but my lifelong struggle with not feeling fully a part of this world. I'm trying to understand my past struggle with psychosomatic ailments. I'm trying to understand my lack of sustained motivation and inability to meet long-term personal goals. Why I'm terrified of rejection. Why if when I do encounter rejection, it feels like annihilation.

Many of these "issues" can be attributed to being raised (or trained) by narcissistic parents. But they could have started with something else. (And made worse) With not being wanted.

Today, I'm going to the library to see if I can track down Ferenczi's paper.

More later.

Labels:

24 Comments:

Anonymous Hopewaits said...

I will not give sympathy but will empathize with your problems in life that I believe are directly connected to the adoption issue.They are the same issues/problems that I have,by the way.
I believe that words are containers of power and their are lots of examples but I will suggest that the words that your mother speaks to you now are producing a powerful emotional response that was ingrained before birth.

If we are upset and play peaceful music, it will calm us....if we think on painful memories,it will produce an actual physical response.
Why would a mother's thoughts,words not produce a response in a child in vitro?
I believe that it would and that we are still "hearing" that voice and responding in the only way we know................
Did not mean to blog on and on but it just "flowed"....

8:33 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hopewaits, blog on all you want! The more you all talk, the more I learn. While I wouldn't wish these "issues" on anyone, it is comforting to know that I'm not alone in this. That this experience is the logical outcome of being an unwanted child. I hadn't though of a baby, in vitro, listening to her mother. You're right. We weren't hearing "I love you." We were listening to plans being made to give us away.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nina,

In case you haven't been to the library yet I just wanted to say I re-found the book with this essay by Ferenczi. It's called: "Final Contributions to the Problems and Methods of Psychoanalysis" and here is the link to it on Karnac Books:

http://www.karnacbooks.com/product.php?PID=2264

-A-Bob

1:20 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the info., which I will use if the library research center goofs up my request for a copy of the paper. I'm really looking forward to reading it! (in a sick way-adoptee humor!)

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again, it's amazing that you've been writing about this topic because I have to say I believe this 100%. I'm not sure what started it, but a few years back I realized that my sense of self-hatred and incredible fear of rejection, resulting in people-pleasing, etc., might be because I was unwanted as an unborn baby and somehow knew it. I'm interested to hear more about the paper. You are most definitely not alone in this!!
-Anne

5:51 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Anne,

As awful a realization as this is, it's better that we understand it. Maybe if we do, we can somehow figure how to bypass the hurdles or minimize the impact!

I had to order the paper thru our library research center as it's pretty obscure and it may take up to 4 weeks, so please check back.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Celera said...

Reunion was a long time ago, now, for me, and although I didn't experience it quite the way you are, I did go through a long, sort of sporadic grieving process. I didn't really think about it that way at the time.

The feeling of not being fully part of the world -- as if I'm living the wrong life -- that has been a constant for me too.

I'm learning a lot from your blog, Nina!

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dittos on what everyone says here - and I cannot tell you what a boon it is for you to write out these posts, because you put in words so eloquently what I know I am thinking, but have yet to find a way to express. God knows Ive tried talking to others about it - even my priest, who I view as a kind of grandfather/mentor - but no one seems to quite get it.

I need to find that article too.

Anyway, this dovetails with what Ive often wondered about my singing. I found out my nmother was a singer, and I seem to have inherited a voice from her, but music has been 'cut out' of me, somehow. Like a switch has been cut off, and I cant 'get' how people have such emotional responses to music, when it feels 'inaccessible' to me...and people say to me 'oh you should sing more' and I keep thinking "I can't - there's nothing there." Maybe I dont want to sing because it reminds me of my mother singing, and I am brokenhearted about it? Id like to put a name on that broken bit and it sounds like this article might help.

I used to get SO ANGRY at people who sang off key...especially my mother. She loved to sing, but I wouldnt let her growing up. I always complained. I know it hurt her, but it bothered me intensely because she couldnt sing on key. Maybe that is why...

Sharon Ferguson
True of Voice

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nina - wanted to let you know I expanded on my reply in my own blog

http://2btrueofvoice.wordpress.com/

...had to riff on it...is RIFE (LOL) with mistakes and incomplete thoughts, but I wanted to share.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Awesome post Nina!

5:53 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thanks for leaving such lovely, supportive comments!

Sharon...I hope you find out what is stopping you from singing. I have trouble finishing long-term projects such as a novel. It's funny. Both signing and writing are all about voice and expression and how can we express ourselves if we don't feel authentic?

11:10 AM  
Blogger Suz said...

wow. nina. powerful stuff. for me as a mom, as usual, you slay me and really make me think.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Suz,

Sometimes I wonder if one of the significant differences amongst adoptees has to do with our mother's original feelings toward us. There were those mothers who would have liked to have kept their babies, but were forced to relinquish. Then then were others, like mine, who emotionally cut themselves off immediately...as did my mother. Those are two vastly different environments in which to develop for nine months.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Agreed I just said the same thing on your latest post without having read this comment response.

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