Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Adoption & Anger

At her blog, adoptee and author Sherrie Eldridge talks about transferred anger -- what she sees as a common tendency of adoptees to take out their anger at birth parents on adoptive parents.  She recounts a conversation with a 7-year-old adoptee about her anger, and comments:

At seven years old, I didn't think that she would be able to understand "misplaced anger"--that her anger was really toward her birth mother who mysteriously disappeared from her life. Of course, we adults know that causes a trauma, a huge hurt. The scab over the trauma is anger, so look out adoptive moms. You may be the tareget of your child's anger, but the driving force is the loss of the birth mother/father. You're a convenient target because the Birth Mother likely isn't present.
And then at this post, she asks how adoptees perceive their own anger:

Do many adoptees feel ashamed of the intensity of their anger, like the seven-year-old girl described in the previous post?

Speaking for myself, I remember as a teen having shouting matches with my Mom continuously. I looked at my non-adopted friends and didn't see them struggling with such a problem. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I control my anger? Why the rage?
I've blogged before about Zoe's shame at her anger toward her birth parents.  She's already gotten the societal message that anger -- especially anger from women & girls -- is socially unacceptable. We use "angry" as an adjective to dismiss adoptees whose legitimate feelings we'd rather ignore.  Is it any wonder that that supressed anger has to erupt somewhere? As I said in that previous post:
[A]doptees have reason to be angry, and it is unrelated to how good or bad their adoptive parents parented. It has to do with loss of control, loss of identity, loss of culture, loss of heritage, loss of language, loss of first families, loss, loss, loss. And you can gain, gain, gain -- a permanent family, a different culture, a different language, a different heritage, more material goods than you can shake a stick at! -- and still feel loss. And it is perfectly OK to feel that loss.
Only by recognizing and naming the emotion of anger can we help our children learn healthy ways to express that anger.


suz said...

I welcome the day that adoptees learn to blame the society they were born into, the social constructs, the laws of the land, instead of their birth parents.

It makes me incredibly sad, as a birth mother, to see some adoptees dancing with the anger devil in relation to their birth parents. Sure, maybe some are deserved, there likely are very abusive abandoners out there, I just dont know them.

The majority of mothers I know were guilty of nothing but being abandoned themselves (by parents, society, church), of being poor, of getting pregnant in a society that deems that unacceptable.

Very sad that some adoptees continue their own abandonment even after reunion due to to inability to see that there mothers always loved them.

Before anyone thinks I am suggesting all adoptees are like this, let me tell you that I know some truly amazing, twenty something adoptees, that have grappled with these topics and have not allowed anger to take over their reunion. I wish the same strength to all.

Von said...

Have heard of only one or two 'abusive abandonners' but many more abusive adopters.Hear also sometimes of adoptees who's anger is so undealt with that they are abusive.There is much for adoptees to be angry about, anger is healthy it's how you deal with it that can be unhealtthy.

YoonSeon said...

Hmmm... I've mentioned anger quite a lot on my blog, but this post has inspired a new post in me. I might respond to your post via a post of my own, if that's OK.

malinda said...


I agree, the anger isn't justified, but that doesn't make it less real. Maya is angry at my father for leaving her -- not like he had a choice to not die! As a child, I was angry when my dad was deployed overseas -- how dare he leave me just because the military ordered him away!

malinda said...

YoonSeon, I look forward to reading your perspective! The more conversation the better, I always say . . .

The Improper Adoptee said...

Adoptees have legitimate feelings? I thought all our feeling were illegitimate.....!
Malinda, some Adoptees DO have anger at their Adoptive Mothers because some Adoptees were abused by them. There ARE abusive Adoptive Mothers out there. I think that is a fact that should not be ignored. Adoptees in this situation then, have layers of justified anger and feelings that are harder to work through .

Anonymous said...

I always find it interesting that it's okay for people to have feelings as long as it follows the party line of whatever camp; i.e. birth parents who think adoptees are justified in their anger toward adoptive parents, but not birth parents, and adoptive parents who think adoptees are justified in their anger toward birthparents, but not adoptive parents. Why can't adoptees just be allowed to have their feelings, whatever they are? Their feelings are justified just because they exist.

Bukimom said...

I've been mulling about this whole being angry idea for a couple of days. It seems to me that it is human nature to find things to be angry about, whether it's being adopted or having a crappy childhood or being let down by anyone we counted on to love us unconditionally.

While all these angry feelings are certainly justified, I think we have to ask whether they are really constructive. Being angry consumes a lot of energy and can lead to all sorts of health problems, seriously detracting from the quality of one's life. And, it can cause us to become so focused on the wrongs done to us that we don't see the wrongs we ourselves are doing and have done to others.

I think we can make a much bigger difference in working towards positive change in this world when we learn to personally forgive those who have wronged us and take responsibility for our own lives and choices that we have made and will make. It is only when we have made peace with our past that we can have a voice that gets heard. And since I do think that adoptees should be heard, I think helping our a-kids develop this type of mature thinking should be one of our important goals as parents.

Mei Ling said...

@ Bukimom:

"While all these angry feelings are certainly justified, I think we have to ask whether they are really constructive."

I can completely understand this. But I think as long as the anger doesn't ruin our lives or prevent us from functioning normally that it's okay to feel that way. It's not like anyone stays angry 100%, right?

"Being angry consumes a lot of energy and can lead to all sorts of health problems, seriously detracting from the quality of one's life."

Anger is a reaction to something. Even if you know *why* you're angry about something, either it keeps happening because you have no control over it (example in a sec), or you know why it happens but you don't want to confront it, or you just don't want to do anything about it.

My anger about my adoption is the result of choices people made *for me*. I cannot communicate with my flesh-and-blood parents. I did not have a say. (Mandarin)

However, I have been studying the language in classes for about 4-5 years now, own a dictionary, a few phrasebooks and some audio CDs. Plus I write blog entries in my "second language" so that I *don't* forget what I have learned from myself, exchange students, and seeing casual dialogue written online.

That doesn't mean it's easier to communicate and it doesn't mean communication will suddenly become surmountable before my parents die. You could say that since I'm trying my best, there is no reason to feel angry because I'm doing what I can and sometimes that IS the best there is.

But my anger is still justified by my limits - DESPITE my attempts, DESPITE classes, DESPITE language exchanges, and so on. I never said I wasn't trying, and I don't complain and do nothing about it. But that doesn't mean I can't feel angry or sad about it, right?

Non-adoption scenario:

My brother is married with his wife X. X is a mother by biology, not by physical/emotional care. She does not take care of her kids, so my brother is single-parenting and he gets all the stress and flak for stuff he doesn't "do right."

My mom will take EVERY excuse to get into a rage about X. X is not a good person. X does not try to be a good person. But because X is my brother's wife, my mom has to be "decent" towards her, right?

My mom is angry, justifiably angry, by X's position in my brother's life. This is a cycle that has been going on for OVER 10 years. She will not speak to X about it because my brother defends X. X will not admit she is neglectful towards her own children. If you confront X, she will make up some excuse.

I have asked several times, "Why do you not TALK about this and get this family HELP?"

Because although Mom's anger is justified at X about not being a mother, taking steps forward to "cease" this vicious cycle would END her relationship with her own son.

So sometimes people do stay within their anger for justifiable reasons, even if it's not "productive", as you have noted.

suz said...

Melinda - Completely agree that the anger is valid - even if misplaced. I would never suggest it wasnt or that an adoptee (or first mother) shouldnt be angry.

I have often been told that the root of anger is fear. Not so sure I agree but I find it interesting to contemplate.

I also agree with OP about how non-constructive anger is. I found it isolated me from others and that made me angrier. I had to start to deal with my anger - on my own - and not blame others for it - to really start to make progress. I was choosing how I felt - others were not making me that way.

Claudia said...

really interestng. I look forward to reading YoonSeon's perspective.

Anonymous said...

I wish countries would ban abortion and adoption. The purpose Of that is that couples would use birth control and none of this would happen. I am a 13 almost 14 year old adoptee, and I am catholic. I believe that using birth control is a way better and more civilized alternative opposed to killing an unborn up to 8 1/2 month old baby or to let an adopted child suffer and feel pain, abandonment, loss, and rejection. I have a nice but strict family, and I am in a "closed" adoption; I don't even know my parents' names. From what I know, my birth mom was in high school and decided to have a one night stand. She made poor choices but forced me to suffer the consequences. I often feel anger and sadness, but I love to dance and am very serious about it. I pour my heart into it: dance is my safe haven, where all emotions are transferred into passion and energy. That helps but when I'm not dancing, I get upset at semiserious things, I try to control my " temper ", because I know Kyle all my pain and sadness. I have no one to relate to and dont know how to deal with this. If I ever met my birthparents, I'd have a few choice words for them. You all probably this is immature, but I hope that maybe they're together now and trying to have a baby, and now she's infertile. I know that's mean but it's how I feel. I wish they could know what I have to go through every day and what it feels like. Im Asian but my a.p. are Italian and Irish (dad) and Russian and German (mom). So I look nothing like my mom, but could pass for being a biological child to my dad when he gets more tan. I know that many probably think I'm selfish and don't know what im talking about. Or, better yet, can't see the " big picture " or comprehend everything. But I am wise beyond my years and all adoptees almost have a degree in adoption. So thank you to those who read this and please help me.

was a skinny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
was a skinny said...

Old post but I'm contributing anyway.

My son has always shown a lot of anger toward me, the adoptive mom, and not my husband. It really didn't make sense when he was a younger child, I used to refer to him as male-centered, and tried not to be hurt by it. As a teen, his anger and trust and control issues have skyrocketed. When he's angry, he says very hurtful things like I'm the mean one, and I've never loved him. I originally thought he was trying to push my buttons, but it's obviously deeper than that, because sometimes he says very revealing things about his feelings about his adoption scenario. Sometimes it feels like he could be saying the things he says directly to his birth mom, not me, and he'll often express some anger/fear that we'll just up and leave too. I am exhausted. My husband has his own anger issues from his family situation, and I don't know how much longer I can handle being the recipient of so much repressed (and unrepressed) rage.

To the birth mom who spoke earlier, please don't ask the adoptive moms not to exoress these experiences. They are very real, and the dynamic is very damaging to the adoptive families.

Scott LaVergne said...

Who cut out the natural family? Who did not make steps to keep them involved? Why does an amother have to be the mother? What would it take to let a natural mother back into a child's life and be what she was designed to be?

These questions deserve answers for a child's best interest. Focusing on a families's interests is dismissive of mother/child. It's the separation of mother/child that causes the trauma/ anger. Its putting a natural mother second place that undermines a child.
If a child is separated because of financial situation that is simply tragic. If an afamily takes advantage of that with out helping that's tragic too.
So misplaced anger? or recognizing that as a society, the unnaturalness that is inherently adoption is the trauma needs aknoweldged and better compassion & empathy evoked.