I'm going to do a seven part series on the blog and the Original Origins podcast discussing each of the "Seven Core Issues in Adoption". In this article, I'm going to be focusing on loss.
The "Seven Core Issues in Adoption" framework, developed by adoption expert and therapist Sharon Kaplan Roszia, highlights the key psychological and emotional challenges that adoptees and their families may encounter. These core issues provide a framework for understanding the complexities of adoption and guide individuals in navigating their adoption journey. The seven core issues are as follows:
Loss: Adoption involves multiple layers of loss, including the loss of biological family, cultural heritage, and genetic connections. Adoptees may experience grief and a sense of loss throughout their lives, requiring support and understanding to process these emotions effectively.
Rejection: Adoptees may struggle with feelings of rejection, stemming from the fact that they were placed for adoption. Even if adoption was the best decision for their well-being, the knowledge of being "given up" can lead to internalized feelings of unworthiness and questioning of their value.
Identity: Adoptees often grapple with questions of identity formation. They may seek to understand their genetic background, cultural heritage, and personal identity within the context of their adoptive family. The search for identity can be a lifelong process involving exploration, self-reflection, and integration of various aspects of their identity.
Intimacy: Adoption can impact an individual's ability to form and maintain healthy, trusting relationships. Adoptees may struggle with attachment, vulnerability, and fear of abandonment due to early life experiences. Nurturing secure and supportive relationships is crucial to addressing these challenges.
Control: Adoption involves a loss of control, as adoptees have no say in the decision-making process that led to their adoption. This lack of control can manifest in issues related to autonomy, trust, and the need for stability. Adoptees may struggle with a fear of being abandoned or losing control over their lives.
Guilt and Shame: Adoptees may experience feelings of guilt and shame related to their adoption. They may feel guilty for having questions or curiosity about their birth family, or they may carry a sense of shame about being different from their adoptive family. Addressing these emotions is vital for healing and self-acceptance.
Intergenerational Issues: Adoption can have a ripple effect on future generations within the adoptive family. Adoptees may struggle with their role in the family and their connection to biological and adoptive relatives. Understanding and navigating intergenerational dynamics can help address complex family relationships and foster healthy connections.
Not all adoptees will experience these core issues in the same way or to the same degree. Each individual's adoption experience is unique, and the seven core issues serve as a guide to better understand and support adoptees and their families as they navigate their adoption journey and address the challenges that arise.
Adoptees can experience rejection in various ways, and their individual experiences may vary depending on their unique circumstances and the context of their adoption.
Rejection can be a complex and multifaceted emotional experience for adoptees, as it often involves feelings of loss, identity, and belonging. Here are some common ways adoptees may experience rejection:
Abandonment and Early Trauma: Some adoptees may have experienced abandonment or early trauma before their adoption, which can create a sense of rejection from their birth parents or caregivers. This early experience can leave a lasting impact on their emotional well-being.
Rejection by Birth Parents: The knowledge that their birth parents made the decision to place them for adoption can evoke feelings of rejection, even if the decision was made out of love and with the best intentions for the child's well-being. Adoptees may grapple with questions about why they were given up for adoption and whether they were not wanted.
Identity Struggles: Adoptees may experience a sense of rejection related to their identity, particularly if they lack information about their biological heritage, cultural background, or medical history. This feeling of not fully knowing where they come from can lead to a sense of disconnection and rejection from their roots.
Feeling Different: Growing up in a family that is biologically different can sometimes lead to feelings of being an outsider or not fully belonging, even if the adoptive family provides a loving and supportive environment.
Search for Biological Family: The desire to search for and connect with their birth family can sometimes be motivated by a need to address feelings of rejection or a longing to understand their origins better.
Reunion Challenges: If an adoptee decides to reunite with their birth family, the reunion itself can be emotionally challenging. Expectations may not match reality, and unresolved feelings of rejection or abandonment may resurface during the process.
Rejection by Society: Adoptees might face stigmatization or insensitive remarks from others, either due to their adoption status or because of their different racial or ethnic background from their adoptive family.
Emotional Impact: Rejection can trigger intense and complex emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, shame, and confusion. Adoptees may struggle to understand why they were rejected or feel a sense of unworthiness due to the experience.
Self-Esteem and Self-Worth: Experiencing rejection, particularly if it occurred early in life, can negatively impact an adoptee's self-esteem and self-worth. They may internalize the rejection and feel unlovable or undeserving of love and care.
Attachment Patterns: Rejection can shape an adoptee's attachment style, leading to the development of insecure attachment patterns, as mentioned earlier. These patterns can affect how they relate to others throughout their lives.
I want to focus specifically on the effect that rejection can have on attachment. Rejection can have a significant impact on attachment patterns in individuals, particularly during their early developmental years. Attachment refers to the emotional bond formed between a child and their primary caregiver, which lays the foundation for how they relate to others throughout their lives. Rejection, whether experienced in the context of adoption or other circumstances, can influence attachment in the following ways:
Insecure Attachment Styles: Rejection or inconsistent caregiving during early childhood can lead to the development of insecure attachment styles. These attachment styles include:
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment: Individuals with this style may constantly seek reassurance and approval from others, fearing rejection and abandonment. They may have difficulty trusting others and may be overly dependent on their relationships.
Avoidant Attachment: People with this attachment style tend to avoid emotional closeness and vulnerability, often because they fear rejection or believe they can't rely on others for support. They may struggle to express their emotions and maintain emotional distance in relationships.
Disorganized Attachment: This style can result from traumatic experiences, including extreme rejection or abuse. Individuals with disorganized attachment may display contradictory behaviors, switching between seeking comfort and pushing others away, as they struggle to find a consistent and safe way to relate to caregivers or others.
Some things that may affect a child’s ability to attach to their caregiver if they have experienced rejection are:
Emotional Regulation Challenges: Rejection during early development can lead to difficulties in regulating emotions. Children who experience rejection may struggle to manage their feelings effectively, leading to emotional outbursts, withdrawal, or the inability to express their needs.
Fear of Abandonment: Individuals who have experienced rejection may develop a fear of abandonment, making it challenging to form healthy, secure attachments in their adult relationships. They might be overly sensitive to signs of rejection or withdrawal from their partners.
Self-Esteem and Identity Issues: Rejection can impact a person's self-esteem and self-worth, affecting how they perceive themselves and others. Adoptees who experience rejection may grapple with questions about their value and identity, which can influence their attachment patterns.
Distrust of Others: Rejection can lead to a general sense of distrust towards others, making it difficult for individuals to open up and be vulnerable in their relationships. This can create barriers to forming deep emotional connections with others.
Repeating Patterns: Individuals who experienced rejection in early relationships may unconsciously seek out similar dynamics in their adult relationships. This can lead to a cycle of reenacting familiar patterns of rejection and insecurity.
While rejection can impact attachment, it is not a deterministic factor. With self-awareness, support, and therapeutic intervention, individuals can work towards developing more secure attachment styles and healthier relationships. Early interventions, such as nurturing and responsive caregiving, can also help mitigate the effects of rejection and promote secure attachment in children. Professional counseling and therapy can be valuable resources for individuals who are struggling with the impact of rejection on their attachment patterns and overall well-being.
Therapy and counseling can be beneficial for adoptees struggling with the impact of abandonment on their relationships. Professional support can help them explore and process their emotions related to abandonment, develop coping strategies, and work towards forming healthier and more fulfilling relationships in the future. Additionally, supportive and understanding relationships with friends, family, and partners can play a vital role in helping adoptees heal and grow in their ability to form meaningful connections.
Here are some ways family members and professionals can offer support:
Unconditional Love and Acceptance: Adoptive families can show unconditional love and acceptance to the adoptee, reassuring them that they are valued and cherished members of the family. This helps build a secure foundation for the adoptee's emotional well-being.
Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication within the family. Adoptees should feel comfortable expressing their feelings and concerns about rejection without fear of judgment.
Validate Their Emotions: Acknowledge and validate the adoptee's emotions, including their fear of rejection. Let them know that it's natural to have these feelings and that their emotions are valid.
Empower Their Identity Exploration: Support adoptees in their exploration of their identity and cultural background. Help them learn about their birth heritage, if possible, and celebrate their unique identity.
Educate about Adoption: Family members and professionals can educate the adoptee about adoption, explaining that their adoption was not a rejection of them as individuals but a complex decision made with love and concern for their well-being.
Build Trust through Consistency: Be consistent in providing care, love, and support. Consistency helps build trust and a sense of safety, reducing the fear of being rejected again.
Therapeutic Support: Engage in family therapy or individual therapy, as needed. Professional counselors or therapists experienced in adoption-related issues can help the adoptee and family members address specific concerns and emotions related to fear of rejection.
Encourage Healthy Relationships: Model and encourage healthy relationships within the family and in the adoptee's social circles. Show them what secure and trusting relationships look like.
Recognize and Address Triggers: Be aware of situations or experiences that may trigger the adoptee's fear of rejection. If possible, help them avoid or cope with such triggers.
Supportive School Environment: If the adoptee is in school, ensure that educators and school staff are informed about adoption-related issues and are supportive of the adoptee's emotional needs.
Seek Out Adoption Support Groups: Connect with adoption support groups or networks where adoptees can interact with others who share similar experiences. This can provide a sense of belonging and validation.
Promote Self-Esteem and Resilience: Encourage the adoptee's talents and interests, and celebrate their achievements. Building self-esteem and resilience can help them cope with feelings of fear and vulnerability.