Part TWO: Social Morays, Community Cultures, and Stockholm Syndrome in the Adoptee and Foster Child

metamorphBy Cully Ray

(continued from yesterday)

The feelings of abandonment that are instilled in the adoptee or foster child are in constant conflict with his/her need to be loved by their parents (natural and adoptive), and the world around them is a constant reminder that they are different – somehow less than others – and they must be super vigilant to keep this a secret. As do Stockholm Syndrome victims, these Adoptees have great difficulty identifying and expressing their feelings, tragically some are unable to go on with their lives.

Some of the effects that are seen in adoptees and foster children who are objectified by their adoptive parents, foster care givers, and/or communities and peers are:

* Denial of actions by the adoptive parents or foster care givers that make the child feel inadequate or physically hurt.

* Co-dependency

* Substance abuse

* Minimizing their feelings – self-sacrifice

* Disassociation with the idea of natural family or parent-child relationships

* Failure to make realistic relationships in both personal and professional life

* Internalizing – blame and guilt for things they have/had no control over

* Over achieving – fear of not being “good enough”

* Anger/Rage/Overwhelming depression often triggered by birthdays or celebrations

* Suicide

I believe that Stockholm Syndrome is also evidenced in birth-mothers, in that when they have been the target/victim of parental/community abandonment (as well as abandonment by the father of their child) the need to be re-accepted by their family (parents) and the community that their parents live in is often overwhelming. The “re-accepting” means that these girls and young women remain in an environment that has stopped openly judging and/or shunning them but always threatens more of the same if they ever displease those in control again. In time, the birth-mother learns to bury herself and become what will make her “lovable and acceptable” by her parents and the community – she learns to live by “the rules” and shuns those who don’t.  Shunning is a social punishment designed to inflict mental pain upon people who have fallen into disfavor, and is a traumatic experience. The target/victim is continually reminded that they are an outcast by whispers just loud enough to catch their attention, then turning away or staring until the target turns away; back turning or proximity avoidance; and, the ever popular and effective – silent treatment. Shunning does not take a break, when you are shunned it will even be in a time of need.

I don’t think anyone can deny the powerful need to be loved and accepted. Some of us may have transferred who we need to be loved and accepted by from parents to friends, business associates, or strangers; and, some may find that humans all too often let us down so we prove we are lovable by having things – big house, fancy car, status and fame. Ultimately, the feelings of helplessness or separation or abandonment that can (they don’t always) happen in the adoption cycle damages the two people who really do matter most – the child and the mother, and when that damage is important enough it lasts a life time… or two… or more.

Maybe it’s time to read (again) BJ’s book “Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness” and check this link out – from Australia – http://www.aph.gov.au/SENATE/COMMITTEE/mentalhealth_ctte/submissions/sub420.pdf

Or this one – http://www.originsnsw.com/mentalhealth/id2.html

In September (2009), the New York Times published an article which explores just how much “love” (and its manipulation) plays a role in how and why we will do or say the things we do, and what sometimes can result ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/health/15mind.html?fta=y ).

 

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6 thoughts on “Part TWO: Social Morays, Community Cultures, and Stockholm Syndrome in the Adoptee and Foster Child

  1. The OriginsNSW paper states of the ’60’s and 70’s that it would “appear, however, that adoption workers either did not read their journals, or chose to ignore the evidence of problems in adoption.” I would suggest neither of those were true but that in some States the reasons for adoption persisted. Changing mores after that time, the pill, reduction of stigma about unmarried couples living together and giving birth to children etc, reduced the adoption rate and continue to do so with domestic adoption. A cheap jibe but one that is not correct.

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  2. Professional qualified SW’s cannot afford to ignore any evidence, they have to make cases which will stand up in court and their jobs depend on it. I’ve no idea how it works in America where it seems some who call themselves SW’s are anything but.

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  3. I wonder if adoptees are more prone to finding themselves in coercive relationships. I am an adopted child who relinquished my firstborn in the hope that I was doing the best for him at the time. (Also, I do not feel that viable alternatives were presented to me.) The more I have begun to learn since, the less and less certain I have become that this decision is ever a good decision except in the most extreme circumstances. Nobody gets out of this world without damage, that is for certain. However, adoptees are damaged at the most fundamental level…in the most formative foundational stage of life. It is a cycle that often repeats. I am fortunate to finally know both of my biological parents and, now, my son. However, for the past year or so I have been sadly witnessing my son’s involvement in a relationship where he feels trapped, controlled and manipulated. I do not know what, if anything, can be done. On the one hand, he is intelligent enough to stand back and recognize the pathology. Yet, on the other hand, he lapses into denial such as is described in the elements of the Stockholm Syndrome. The one thing I have tried, attempting to trade ideas with his adoptive father–whom he looks up to–has backfired badly. I certainly did not admit to this being one of the motive of the communication, nor did his father, yet our son suspects and is resentful. On the one hand I understand that as a mature adult he should be free to make and to be accountable for his own decisions–wise or unwise. Yet why are the people who try to help made to be the “bad” ones in such a situation? And what can one do? Simply idly witness the continuing damage and allow the victim to become further and further isolated from friends and family? The more power that is given away the harder it is to keep the little that remains.

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    1. Kim, I appreciate your care and concern. The only thing I might suggest is your son find adoptee-centric counseling. Being an adoptee is a lifelong journey with profound damage, for me at least.

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  4. Kim, just picking one thing from your long comment – “why are people who try to help made to be the ‘bad’ ones”. Those people in their caring are often the people who have unwittingly created the situation which has helped to cause the damage. It is rare that those who cause damage can fix it. Suggest your son seeks professional help where he can discuss what concerns him with someone who is neutral but will offer therapeutic assistance which hopefully will empower him to deal with his relationships. I also recommend complete honesty which may involve you in looking at your own motives.
    Anecdotal evidence certainly points to adoptees being in coercive relationships and it’s often a lifetime of work getting out of them and through them as many of us in the adoption community would testify. I hope you find help with all this and good wishes.

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