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by Benita R


As an adopted person, I have, from an experiential point of view, responded to what I consider to be the most personally significant quotes from the 16 researchers in the filed of Adoption quote in this newsletter.

The format of this paper consists of, firstly, a broad overview of the life situation from a mental health perspective - which I, as an adopted person, find myself in. That is followed, thereafter, by direct quotes form the research findings that I found personally significant, and details form my life and experience that support them.

Another feature of this paper is that I have taken advantage of the personal mode to express some original thoughts written in response to these research findings: one poem and three prose analogies that I hope sum up the quintessential and often verbally indefinable state of mind that I ascribe to having been adopted.


The Personal Response of an Adopted Person to the Research on the Affects of Adoption


Quoted in ORIGINS NSW. Inc. newsletter – Issue No. 25 – Feb. 2002


The fact that I am an adopted person has haunted me every day of my life since I was first told, at 4yrs old, and, again, at the age of 7yrs. I write as a 50 year “adopted baby,” having been adopted at 16 days old in 1952. My adoptive parents were: loving, compassionate and entirely devoted to the welfare of the family in general.  I loved all members of the entire family, and consider my adopted father the best man ever to have been born, and my mother, nearly a saint.  And although, in those respects, I was “luckier” than even the general population of non-adopted people, the truth of the first sentence remains unchanged.


Why?  Should I not “be grateful?”  “Put it all behind me?”  The answer may lie somewhere in the film “Artificial Intelligence.”  In that film the android babies must be picked up in the arms of the one that would be their mother.  A certain sequence of words and actions must occur, and then, they will bond with that one.  If the mother must, for some reason, cut the tie, then the android must be destroyed, for they will never bond again.


My natural mother picked me up in her arms and was allowed to nurse me for a while.  She remembered my navy blue eyes staring up into hers, before they took me away.  Maybe that has something to do with it; maybe that is why I had a strong urge to go back to Sydney and to find her again; or maybe it is to do with the following facts that I have discovered in the course of my journey.


As for “gratitude” and “putting the past behind me” I reply in the way I have always replied: I did not ask to be born, I have often wished that I never had, and it is impossible to put behind you what amounts to a gaping feeling of emptiness – of void.  I have often contemplated suicide, yet have only recently had counselling on Adoption, and, until recently I just thought that, in fact,  I would not know where to go for good counselling  as it is a specialist area.  As I am the sole income earner in my family I believed that I could not afford to pay for professional help or to  see a psychiatrist. To all extents and purposes I would “present” as a competent professional person; a high school teacher of Students with Learning Difficulties in a difficult area of Sydney.  Yet, I still do not care to be alive.  I suppose that the fact that I am alive has enabled life to go on in some mysterious way.  That is all I can say, except that I am grateful that life, as I am alive, has been as relatively easy for me and my families as it has.


The rest of this paper will have the following format. First I would like to make some comments on hypersensitivity in general, secondly, I will quote from the  research papers the sections that I consider to be relevant to my life, and, after each , I will make comments that support these choices.


Firstly, on hypersensitivity in general.  I cannot speak for other adoptees, but I will state that I consider that having been an adopted baby has contributed to my hypersensitivity.

My adopted brother teased me relentlessly, and this did not lay a good foundation for my confidence and self-esteem.  However, I do believe that being adopted also inclined me towards being a more vulnerable person than perhaps (I have no way of knowing) I might have been. 


But, I am hypersensitive – to the extreme, and constantly hyper-alert to nuances of rejection coming from others.  I take everything personally, even humour, if I suspect that it is directed against me.  I may be mildly paranoid in this way.


I have been told that I “imagine” slights, which certainly may be so, but may not.


I know that I am clairsentient, clairaudient and psychic.  There is no doubt.  I have predictive dreams and I pick up people’s concealed feelings before their words make it clear.  This is an ability, but it can be immensely draining for me; as sometimes it is just my imaginings.  The predictive dreams, however, are not.  I write them in a log book, and then see them come about in the days that follow.  I have had the dead relatives of people with whom I have been doing psychic work speak to me – before I had any idea that the person I was working with had even sustained such a loss. I would describe the person I was seeing, and they would tell me who it was.


I had dreams that perfectly matched the lives of my natural family before I met them or knew anything of them.  I think that the longing for knowingness, in itself, developed these abilities.


I had a Christian upbringing – going to church every Sunday.  Perhaps the Christian message of Compassion inclined me towards being a compulsive empathic in my younger years. 


However, I convey these words to you, knowing that some may well be skeptical, and others even perhaps a little frightened.  To you I must say that I  neither require you to believe or disbelieve these words.  But I do need you to know that there is no cause for fear in these abilities.  They belong to every human being, and perhaps to animals, we do not exactly know - as they are positive abilities when used positively – like anything - - and people of all religions have experienced them. 


Now I wish to go through the research, and present, to you, my reactions to the extracts that I chose as being of greatest meaning for my particular case.


1. Clothier (1943) … “trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child.”


 I was embarrassed to be big, blue-eyed and blonde, in a family of slim, black-haired people.  I knew that I was nothing like them physically and in important aspects of my temperament.  I felt fat, while they were elegant, and clumsy, while they were  of the standard of ballroom dancers.  They loved sport, which I hated, and practical activities, which I loathed.


But it goes far, far beyond these superficial matters – as important as they were, to me, as a suffering child.  It is best expressed, for me, in this poem which I wrote recently, as a response to these research findings.  It is how I have always felt:





Suggestions of how…

Life could have been

Projected … photons

To fill in …

This empty void…

Left by the wrenching away

Of my sacral centre …

A gaping hole

Where an abdomen,

Or, centre of power

Should be…

Nurturing me

And Thee …



Through our own

Timeline, pipeline…






Clothier (1943)  “the ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother.”


Perhaps this is why I am so chronically self-obsessed. (Guilty about this, I work with disadvantaged people, and try to be compassionate and helpful to others, as an act of compensation.  However, I find it very demanding, and am probably nearly burnt-out. Part of my ego is inflated, the other part of me is immensely insecure and self-doubting. I have suffered from depression and hypersensitivity alternating with being puffed up with my own importance all of my life.)  Yet it is probably also why I can stand here, today, alive, to tell you my story.  The suicide attempt I made in 1976 after my adopted father’s death was very thorough – rolling his car on a mountain road having fallen asleep at the wheel after taking  the remaining contents  of his bottle of  valium.  How I survived, unscathed, is a miracle.  I was told, later, that apparently the car had been written off.


Clothier (1943) “the child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after  birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother and child relationship, the roots of which lie deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological are merged.  Both for the child and the natural mother, that period is part of the biological sequence, and it is doubted whether the relationship of the child to its post partum mother, in its subtler effects, can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers.  But those subtle effects  lie so deeply buried in the personality that, in the light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them.”


In early childhood my adopted mother irritated me.  I made the usual childish attempt to ‘run away from home’ but did not.  She made clothes for me which I did not like; she put bobby-pins in my hair. Later, rollers, which I did not like.  She over-fed me; and wanted me to be interested in sewing, which I despised.  I would only help her when asked to.  I loved her, but I did reject her in her “essence”; except for those parts of her which were loving, tender, and infinitely kind to me.  I actually felt very different to her always; and although I remember missing my father, I never remember missing her, until her illness led to my chronic grieving for her.


I was nearly always moody.  I cried frequently, although it was often mystifying to me as to why.  My brother – their natural child- was jealous of me, and taunted me, even though he was fond of me in his own way, and used to make projects out of wood for me and for my dolls.  But I cried out of a sense of loss, and of vast emptiness that had no name.  I was often completely inconsolable.  I suffered from childhood depression.  Even my immune system was depressed.  I had lactose intolerance and intolerances to many wind-borne allergens ( dust, grasses, mould,  feathers).  Later, in 1998, I was to discover that I had antibodies in my blood to 21 different foods. (Blood test:  Immuno 1 and Bloodprint IgG Food Sensitivity Assay performed in  Immuno laboratories Inc.Fort Lauderdale, Florida .)  Another name for it could have been: grief.  I was stressed – at one stage my hair started to drop out – I thought it was because my brother tormented me.


Clothier (1943) “For some children, and in some stages of development, the severing of a budding social relationship can cause irreparable harm.  The child’s willingness to sacrifice instinctive gratifications and infantile pleasures for the sake of a love relationship has proved a bitter disillusionment, and he may be reluctant to give himself into a love relationship again.”


Although Clothier mentions this in the context of a child adopted at a later age I relate perfectly to this. As a child I was frequently taunted by school children for my weight, but, more than that.  I had a very formal reserve, I did not smile much, and I felt clumsy about joining in with the others.  I felt different.  They called me names, and hurled at me that I was “snobbish.”  I could not relax and flow freely and spontaneously to them.   I felt alternating rage and grief, and my self-esteem was often very low. I often hated them, or actually felt afraid of them  due to their ability to verbally wound me.


I cannot easily, or naturally communicate verbally in a way that is acceptable to most people.  I either talk too much about myself, or of having been adopted, or become impatient with them and cease to listen properly to them


From the age of 16 my greatest suffering has been through relationships with the men in my life.  I cannot relax and trust them.  Relationships are combative, and were usually short.  (Although I have managed, since the birth of our daughter, to be in the same relationship for 20 years, recently.) I believe that my physical sexual, and social development was psychosomatically delayed by the guilt I felt, at puberty, for having any kind of natural sexual stirrings.  As an adopted person I felt that there may be something potentially  immoral about me  feeling anything sexual.


Clothier (1943) “many children use persistent wetting and soiling as a method of expressing their antagonism to a mother with whom they have not experienced an early, satisfying love relationship.”


My own daughter wet the bed until she was 4 or 5.  I tried my best to bond with her, and I certainly never even mentioned her wetting to her, but financial pressures had sent me back to work, unfortunately, when she was 9 months old.


Clothier (1943) “Brisley (1939) suggests that a “pressure to be good is … a contributing factor to the insecurity and feeling of aloneness which seems characteristic of the illegitimate child.”


Recently, while telling an astute friend my adoption woes, he said “You’re telling me that you do not belong in this Universe.  You have to find a way to make yourself belong, and only you can do that.”  I do not think that truer words about me have ever been spoken in my entire life.


I would agree with Brisley.  (Especially for a well-behaved, which I was, bank manager’s daughter, who moved towns 8 times throughout her childhood.)  However, it is only a contributing factor.  The real, fundamental problem is the wrenching out of the soil of your own physico – mental orientation in this Universe.


It is almost like a daisy seed might feel, which, having been given birth to by the daisies in its own natural, fertile, nurturing field, is, instead of growing up with all of its other daisy friends, suddenly transported to a lifeless, barren place, where it may be too hot for it to germinate and grow, and, in fact, there would be no point anyway.


Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” tells it best.  But, how many of us can, in fact, become swans again?  The truth is, once uprooted you can never go back, and animals, like swans and mother wolves in the Romulus and Remus myth, unlike humans, are more accepting.


Basically, if your root-system has not spread out and merged naturally, connecting with the thousands of other filaments from your other daisy buddies and friends, then, quite frankly, “you ain’t in the picture.” (See Rupert Sheldrake’s book “A New Science of Life – the Hypothesis of Formative Causation” (1981)   – in which he postulated “morphogenetic fields.”  I have personal proof of the existence of these.)


In my case I have invested 27 years of “gardening” with my biological family to trace back my stalks, my stem, my roots, my filaments to have them intermingle with theirs.  And, just recently, at my natural mother’s 72rd. birthday, we passed around her 6 month old grand-daughter, my little niece, around the table.  My own daughter played with her with a pink bunny from her own childhood that she was giving her little cousin.  The baby loved the game, and sat up for the first time!  The biological force-field was strong, that night, for, later, as I was sitting next to my  natural mother and holding my little niece I said to her several times “Yes, that’s my Mummy!” (pointing) .  My mother observed “Oh!  Look!  She almost spoke!  She’s trying to speak!”  (She was trying to say “yes.”)  My mother babysits her every day.  She is as happy as a lark, doing that. She has told me that since losing me as a baby she has only ever wanted to work with babies.


It does take time for “the mingling of the fields”.  It can be very synchronistic (strangely co-incidental), however.  Multiple examples of this have occurred over the years.  Not least was the birthday present my mother was given by her son – a Frank Sinatra C.D. – exactly the same one that my  18 year old daughter had requested that I order for her a month and a half before! Grandmother and granddaughter agreed about how much they loved Frank Sinatra’s voice.


(Schechter ) (1960)…” (relationships) … of the same quality with strangers as his parents, namely, superficial and dominated by a driving need to have his impulses satisfied immediately.”


(Schechter)  “ Toussieng (1958)…(adolescence is harder)…” because it is harder for adoptive adolescents to accept their rebellion against the adoptive parents, to give them up as love objects.”


I was undoubtedly aware of the fact that I was an indulged child.  I was aware that I was in danger of becoming a ‘spoiled child’ but as I did not want to be, I just kept a close eye on myself.  However I have always had a driving need to have my impulses satisfied immediately, and have quite a temper, or rage (internal, mainly) , if thwarted – still.


Yet during the time I “lived in my father’s house” (as I have always expressed it) I was self-controlled and well-behaved.   However, when I could rebel – when I left the country town and went up to Sydney University in the early 1970’s– I did. I was interested in Marxism, sexual experimentation, free-dressing, freedom to express myself in general, and other healthy experimentation!


Notably, many of the men with whom I have been in relationship commented on how quickly I confided very personal details about myself to them.  They experienced this as close confidentiality established remarkably quickly, but it did not mean much at all to me.


(Schechter)    “Benedek (1938) presents an important concept regarding the development of confidence based on mother-child relationship.  This is the area so sensitive in these adopted children and which can be found to underlie so many of their disturbances.”


Yes.  I have little confidence, and I am ambivalent about authority.  One part of me is: strong, compassionate, independent; but the other part is a frightened 4 yr. old, (the age I was when I was first told that I was adopted.)  That is very hard for me, as my job is to work as a high school Support Teacher of Students with Learning Difficulties with the most disadvantaged students in a lower-socio-economic area, and a frightened 4 yr. old is not normally employed to do so! It reactivates my fears from being a school child, myself.  Yet, it is interesting that I identified with “the dispossessed” of this society.


Toussieng  (1962) points out that on reaching adulthood some children become obsessed with finding their real mother because they had revealed a feeling of never having been really attached to their adoptive family…the child is trying to identify…may acquire shaky and defective introjects…”


I was obsessed from adolescence onwards, and finally found my natural mother at aged 23, in 1975.


I certainly felt shaky and my self-confidence and self-esteem were very low, although my adoptive mother had tried hard and had done everything she could for us, not giving up even though she contracted Multiple Sclerosis when I was 7 years old.  She did not give up and have to go to a nursing home until after I had left home and gone to University.


Her contraction of M.S. when I was 7 (she died in 1997) was something I blamed myself for.  I felt uneasy, as a 7 year old.  I felt that if I’d been less depressed and moody, and more like her – slim and practical and energetic, (my adoptive brother teased me about my weight) then she may not have been so stressed. (Although, in that year they’d had fires, droughts, floods, moves, and my brother and I had both come down with measles simultaneously just before.  I remember all of this with crystal clarity, even though I was only 7.)


I also remember the shock of being told, for the second time, that I was adopted, that year, and it has stayed with me all of my life.  A psychologist I told this to recently believes that I am suffering from Post-traumatic stress syndrome.


Humphrey & Ounsted (1963)..”an appeal for more individual attention.”


At present in my new (horrors!) school, I am creating quite a fuss to get my own “negotiated role statement” which I have wanted understanding of since 1985.  However, ordinary classroom teachers are not usually given one.  S.T.L.Ds are different, and do have a policy statement, but it is, in my opinion, outdated.  Also, in general, I would consider that this is a true statement about me.


Schechter et. al (1963) “Lemon (1959) referred to the difficulty that the adopted individual has in dealing with communication concerning his adoptive status…They went on to say that  these patients perceived their adoptive parents as inadequate, especially with the setting of limits and viewed their natural parents as their adequate set of parents.”


Yes, I have always thought, since meeting her, that if I’d been raised by my natural mother then she would have known, instinctively, how to set realistic limits for me and how to “tame” and “discipline” my nature.  I feel that this would have, in the long run, been better for me as far as that goes,  as she would have understood my real nature more so ( even though I was lovingly treated by my adoptive parents and given the advantages, such as piano and voice lessons,  that I actually needed the most. I suppose you could say that I got away with more by growing up with them; even though I know that they thought me well-behaved.)


I still, however, do not think that growing up with her would have been better for me over-all.  I think that this could have been very bad for me.


Schechter et. Al (1963) “Livermore J. B (1961) …”the adoptees have specific problems in identification, since the adoptive mother constantly reactivates primitive unconscious fears that her own insides have been destroyed.  ..the non-relative adopted child may be more prone to emotional difficulties.”


I agree and disagree with this. As regards Livermore’s term “identification.”  I think that the aptly named Liver-more may find the following prose-piece fascinating.  At least, I would like to think so, as I wrote it.


On Identification


Livermore has got it wrong. It’s wider than the family.  It’s a deep, racial thing…almost down to where you belong on the Earth’s surface…your magnetic orientation.  It’s gone.


You feel as if you could spin off the face of the Earth – happily, for then you could be “picked up again” on the next orbit of the sun- perhaps by the right person – or, in the right place – whosoever and wherever that is.


Kemp (1971) “states that some children may be more vulnerable to abuse than others.  Among them are the hyperactive, the precocious, the premature, the stepchild and the adopted.”


I would say that I have been abused by people all of my life in one way or another.  My first sexual encounter only just stopped short of abuse, I was sexually abused under threat of violence by another man one year after that, and I submitted to sex a year later for fear of being abused by another man if I did not . I conceived through that, and had an abortion, in 1973, rather than have to endure the pain of never knowing where a child of mine might be living, as I would have had to put it up for adoption.


I (and other teachers) am regularly verbally abused by the students in these socio-economically depressed areas where I work. I constantly fear being the passive recipient of the next blast; yet I am aware of how my own tendency to rage and anger – certainly if it is ever expressed – creates it even more.  In reality there is nothing a teacher can do to prevent this from ever happening.


Dr. Triseliotis (1974)..2nd adoptee: I feel there is something about adoption that gives you a feeling of insecurity as regards just exactly who you are.


4th adoptee:   I never really felt I belonged.  I feel empty and I find it difficult to make friends or be close to people.  I have been hovering on the edge of a breakdown.”


Yes, I agree.  I, too, have been “hovering on the edge of a breakdown” most of my life.


And:  “one of the main anxieties of adoptees is the fear of being different and somewhat set apart from the rest.


The adopted child has to gradually accept the loss of his natural parents and “the rejection” this implied.  Yet he has to accommodate a preferably positive image of the original set of parents and their genealogy in his developing self.


Children who are adopted into a different culture will still need to identify with aspects of their original heritage.”


I studied History at school, as a substitute for a lack of personal history.  I was very proud of the fact that my adopted father’s father had been a popular mayor of Leichhardt during The Great Depression and had given away a lot of free milk to struggling families.  I was obsessed with details of my adopted family’s history.


Later, when I learnt about my natural family’s history, I became just as obsessed with finding out everything I could about that.  I currently feel that I belong on the surface of this globe somewhere between Denmark, Scandinavia  and England – the  rival contenders for my  natural patrimony.


Olshaker (1975)..” He goes on to say that some adoptive parents may feel that their child’s parents were immoral for having a child out of wedlock.  These sentiments create difficulties for the parents when the child has questions regarding sexual matters.”


Yes.  As referred to, before, I do not think that there was any genuinely accepted place for my developing sexuality at all, although my adoptive parents did not forbid me, or anything like that, from having a boyfriend.  I certainly, however, would never have had sex with him, in 1968 or 1969 “while living in my father’s house.”  It would have been unthinkable for me (but certainly not for my boyfriend!)  My mother was more tolerant to the idea of my having a boyfriend than was my father, who told me “never to hold hands with him in public again.”


Rickarby & Eagan (1980)..”the adopted adolescent who is struggling to cope in a family beset by marital conflict or mental illness.”

In my case I was struggling to cope with not mental illness in my family, but the physical illness of all adult members.  This was particularly frightening to me because they were my only anchor point in the world.

Silverman (1985) ..”There can be unhappiness, separation problems, difficulty knowing and learning…it interferes with the child’s sense of security, the modulation of and channeling of the child’s aggression, the development and resolution of the Oedipus complex, …and identity formation.”


Yes, I am “spatially challenged” both environmentally and with Mathematics.


In addition, I do believe that the fact that I have a poor memory for my past – remembering only bad things – reflects the post-traumatic shock of being told, at the age of 7, that I was adopted.  At the time, I went into an ice-cold bubble that has never left me.


I tried to commit suicide when my father died 3 weeks after I told him that I had looked up my natural mother.  I blamed myself, even though this was his third heart-attack over an 8 year period.



Silverman discusses the adoptive person’s fear that their natural mother died giving birth to them which may, in some way, make them feel like a murderer.

“the baby gains life by taking the life of the mother…”


In my case I felt terribly guilty that Mum got M.S.  Frank, my adoptive father, seemed to blame the measles of Ian (my adoptive brother) and I.  (Who got them first?  Ian did, and carried them home from school, and then I got them.  But I got them much worse than him.. ”everywhere.” (I contracted measles somewhere between the ages of 4 and 6.)  Dad was told by a doctor that “the measles virus may have sparked off the multiple sclerosis.”  He told me that when I was 10 to 12 years old; and I felt dreadfully guilty thereafter for being “the woodpecker in the nest,” – the alarming person who  may have caused her adoptive mother to get multiple sclerosis.


Wilson: Green: Soth: (1986) …”impulsivity or unpredictability in areas that are potentially self damaging, a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships with idealization, devaluation and manipulation, inappropriate intense anger.


Identity disturbance was manifested by uncertainty about several issues relating to identity, intolerance of being alone, affective instability, physically self damaging acts, and chronic feelings of boredom and emptiness.  It is theorized that this disorder arose because of deficits in early parenting experiences which did not enable the child to develop a core identity, so they didn’t feel part of a fused dyad, which explains their fear of abandonment and intolerance of being alone.”


I am still scared of the dark and feel very unstable with any threat of rejection or of abandonment.  I agree with all of the directly quoted statements.


I have a great fear of abandonment.  When I read Nancy Verrier’s “The Primal Wound” I cried from cover to cover.  This fear of abandonment and of rejection is central to my life and relationship issues.  I project “mum” or “daddy” onto men (preferably high-status men/ highly intelligent men, mainly.)


Their experience of me, in return, is that I am “too much”, or “emotionally too demanding” or “I am overly dependant” – beyond their capacity to deal with.  I may come across as “being like a child” or “throwing tantrums”, “making harsh judgements” and “verbally abusive” when the relationship(s) get into trouble.


As for aggression.  It is mainly, in my case, channeled inwards, as depression.  I do have a very strong “inner critic”.  I rebel against authority or being told what to do.  I can erupt, volcanically; verbally explosive and defiant.  I have, more so in the past, been very angry about  political and social injustice.


Kirshner. D. & Nagel. I. (1988)  ..”Typically, the child seeks out children or adults often of a lower economic class.”


Yes, as an adolescent.  But we were all well behaved.  It was a “low havingness’ thing on my part.  I “was unworthy” of “getting the best friends”  I felt.




“Provocative, disruptive behaviour is directed toward authority figures, notably teachers and parents….There is a typically shallow quality to the attachment formed by the child, and a general lack of meaningful relationships.  The child reports feeling “different” and “empty.”…”tension and denial surrounding the issue of adoption.”


I really was a well-behaved Bank Manager’s daughter.  But, inwardly I started to boil when I was in my late teens and early twenties and living away from home, where it was safe and not disloyal to do so.  I became a teacher, but am very critical of some.  I do relate to feeling “different” and “empty.” Certainly Mum and Dad never wanted to talk about the adoption, but would answer any specific question I asked of them to the best of their ability.




“he feels an ominous pressure against voicing his feelings and curiosity.  He senses that his adoptive parents would feel his interest in his birth parents was disloyalty.”


Very true, and, self-explanatory.  For example, even if my birth mother had knocked on our door I would have been horrified and forced to reject her on the surface – only out of loyalty to “mum and dad.”  However, I was driven to look her up.


But, when I did, I told my father and he died on New Years Eve, 1976.  I was so overwhelmed with grief that I seriously tried to commit suicide.


I think it carried over to my silence, in general.  The “life of my mind” is far richer than I do communicate to people.  It was as if – although I could express my grief and rage in tears, and sobs – I could not verbally express my genuine thoughts or express my ideas.  I think it was because I was so different to most of the members of my adoptive family.  I was closest to dad.  I still feel that he was the best man I have ever met.  (Actually, objectively, most, if not all of the people who knew him did think that he was a wonderful man.)


***Andersen, R. (1988)  This is the tragedy, that adoptees more often than not do not feel justified in living life as it is, but have to come out with socially acceptable excuses to justify their interests, needs and lives.”


I agree very much with this. I think that to “live life as it is” you have to be an integral part of it.  And you should have got that from growing up in your natural family. Of course everybody wants to know  where they came from, and why should they not?  Everybody gains a lot from being part of a warm, comfortable, familial web of genuine interconnectedness.  Adopted people never can.

It is never genuine, as you cannot, quite simply, ever go back.



***(issues surrounding identity)  “ with the living of life from their own original position.”


I still, at the age of 50, feel that I have not mastered that.  I still feel “invalid,” or, as if I “get it wrong.” I would like to be an artist, a musician, an actress or a writer – still!  In fact, I am/ have been active, publically, in all of those areas.  I often feel I “got it wrong” and “should have” not become a teacher, but an artist/actress/writer/journalist.




“One one level, adoptees search so they might see, touch and talk to their biological mother – the search is an effort to make contact with one’s biological family.  On a different level (the bottom line), it is something more than this.  I think that the search is most fundamentally, an expression of the wish to undo the trauma of separation.


Adoptees either hope (unrealistically, but not necessarily unexpectedly) to relive the life that was lost at the time of the separation, or hope (more realistically) to heal the wound caused by the separation, and therefore provide a more solid base for their lives.”


                                                EXACTLY  !!!


Kaplan, S, Silverstein. D.  (1991)

“Rejection: people may conclude they suffered losses because they were unworthy of having whatever was lost.  As a result they feel they were rejected….

Intimacy: people who are confused about their identity have difficulty getting close to anyone, Kaplan says.  And people who have had significant loss in their lives may fear getting close to others because of the risk of experiencing loss again.”


I’m terribly sorry to say that that is exactly correct.


Verrier, N  (1991)  The Primal Wound


Being with the natural mother – whom you experienced when in the womb –“this security provides the child with a sense of rightness and wholeness of self.”


I feel quite sure that that is so.  Not growing up with her feels a lot like a man who is standing up in a row boat that is set adrift on the waves.  To stay upright maybe you have to predict the next wave.  The waves are a natural thing – they have their own determinance, and the boat and the man are moved by them.  But the man’s own determinance is completely different to that of the waves surrounding him.  Those waves are his environment that he must depend on… responding to them is what will “keep his boat afloat,” and yet, they are not “his” waves, they are not “of him.”


So, life becomes an ungainly, wobbling attempt to respond to an external – never internal – set of causative factors imposed on one from outside.  There is, therefore, not that “internal merger” with life that, I suppose, may be a genuine source of happiness for people who grew up in a natural way.  Growing up completely merged there is much less reason for inner + outer conflict.  You are part of a morphogenetic, or biological whole.  As an adopted child it all seems “a wrong fit.”  Something you must submit to – for, somehow you are not right; but it is artificial.


I once wrote my adopted father a poem for his birthday.  The “both of you” refers to my adopted mother as well:


If you wonder, sometimes, how I feel for you

I’ll tell you.  My love is slow to act,

Like a dancer, who loves the beat,

But, having 2 left feet

Is slow to speak as custom needs.

But my love for both of you

Is always there.

It is as eloquent and permanent

As silence.



I would like to finish on that note.






Benita Rainer.

B. Ed.




*Please note that  it is not possible for me to fully document these sources, as I have relied on the original source of all  but the last of these authors.  The original source (1)  is:


1.      Origins N.S.W. Inc – Supporting people Separated by Adoption- Newsletter – Issue No. 25 – Feb. 2002  Head Office : P.O. Box 33, Dulwich Hill, N.S.W. 2203  p.h: 0295608808


2.      Clothier,F. MD. 1943   Psychology of the Adopted Child.


3.      Schechter, M.D. Fantasies and Behaviour of the Adopted Child  Beverly Hills California, 1960.


4.      Toussieng , P.W. M.D.(1962) Disabilities in Adopted Children and Adoptive Parents


5.      Humphrey,  M .  &     Ounsted, C.    (1963)  Adopted Children Disabilities


6.      Schechter, M., Carlson, P.V, Simmons, J.Q. and Work, H.H. (1963) Fantasy of Adopted Children and Adoptive Parents


7.      Kemp  (1971)   Abuse


8.      Dr. Triseliotis (1974)  Identity


9.      Olshaker  (1975)  Abandonment


10.  Rickarby , G.A.  & Eagan, P.   (1980)  Adopted Adolescents


11.  Silverman , M.A.   (1985)  Adoptive Anxiety, Rage and Guilt


12.  Wilson: Gree: Soth: (1986)  Borderline personality Disorder in Adoptees


13.  Kirshner, D. & Nagel, I  (1988) Antisocial Behaviour in Adoptees.  Adopted Child Syndrome


14.  Andersen, R. S.   1988) Why do Adoptees Search?


15.  Kaplan, S.  &   Silverstein, D.  (1991)  Seven Core Issues of Adoption


16.  Verrier, N.  (1991)  The Primal Wound 


17.  Sheldrake, R. (1981)   A New Science of Life  J.P. Archer, Inc., Los Angeles.




Papers presented at the 1st National Conference on the Mental Health Aspects of Persons Affected by Family Separation

An Origins SPSA Initative


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