Adoptees Fear the Not Knowing, While Adoptive Parents Fear The Knowing

Having been on the adoption speaking circuit for a few years now, I've noticed a distinct pattern; adoptees often attempt to correlate their struggle toward a complete sense of self and personal identity development with the absence of information about their roots. Adoptive parents speak to me about fearing that their child may find out very difficult, potentially damaging information. In short - adoptees feel worse not knowing their truth, while adoptive parents are seeking to protect their hearts, by disallowing them to know their truth. Why is that? Is it because the truth may be too hard to bear? Perhaps the insecurity lies in a fear of attempting to have conversations about whatever the "it" is that is found out? What's the remedy?

@@I tend to side with Othello's Desdemona Problem: Fearing the worst is worse than knowing the worst.@@ 

This weekend, I spoke in Washington D.C. at a conference for adoptive parents and adoptees, I was surprised by the number of people who told me that their children (adoptees) did not come to the conference out of the fear of being triggered. Others expressed concern that showing a photo of my birthmother and I may be too triggering to those who have not yet found their birthparents. The result, however, was kids and teenage adoptees, who haven't found their birthparents (but want to), felt inspired and hopeful when seeing my photo. They were triggered, of course, but made a decision to delve into the discomfort for the sake of wholeness. A "trigger" implies weapons, weapons imply aim, aim implies combat, and combat implies engagement (loosely rephrased from Anne Lammott). These adoptees are engaged in the process of finding themselves. They are engaged in living. Let's not allow the fear of being triggered hold us back from living. 

Having worked with adoptive kiddos, I've seen how they've become more capable of enjoying a fuller sense of self once being allowed to assimilate the difficult truths into their beings. One 9 year old enjoys being able to point out the prison where his birthfather resides. He's able to picture where his birth dad is during important days ("I wonder if he gets gifts in prison" -he asked on Christmas day), I've spoken with an adoptee who was conceived via incest and processed the feelings around being conceived in a way that society vehemently detests. Through this conversation there was a sense of peace in knowing this, versus having to continue in the land of fantasy and question marks. 

We cannot deny the human universality in a fear the unknown. I challenge adoptive parents to rise up to meet that fear, and trace the origins of their personal insecurities, separating it from that of their child (the adoptee).  But, if each individual snowflake can be held accountable for an avalanche, then adoptive parents should know that their fears may be contributing factors of a stagnant adoptee identity.

Even though us adoptees may know hundreds of people better than our absent birthfamily members, there must be an awareness that @@this phantom relationship may be one of the most formative of our lives. @@