It’s a really disconcerting feeling when all that you thought you were – who you think you are – turns out to be some kind of construct you built to keep yourself safe after experiencing a trauma in childhood (or in my case babyhood).
In her books about adoption* – ones that I railed against at first and denied had anything to do with my own experience whatsoever – Nancy Newton Verrier describes adoption and being separated from the birth mother as “a trauma, the ultimate loss and rejection, and an experience which has life-long consequences for both mother and child”.
Over the past few months, after 39 years of ignoring it ever really happened to me, I’ve finally been shining a light into the dark, dusty corners of my own adoption, an experience I’ve never explored because – I now know in hindsight – I was in massive denial about…
Denial that I was affected by it in any way whatsoever. Denial that it was a big deal in my life. Denial that it ever really happened to me since it was a part of my (hi)story but not something I’ve ever connected with.
But it has become abundantly clear that I am hugely affected by it and have been my entire life, that it was/is a big deal, that it did happen to me and only by connecting with it fully can I heal from it.
And as I connect with my own experience more deeply, I can feel how true this might be. It’s been a painful healing journey so far and I’m barely halfway through but I’ve started, so I’ll finish!
Here’s what I’ve learned so far…
Many of the things I thought that made me me are only really things that I do and ways I behave to protect myself from experiencing more traumatic experiences of perceived rejection, abandonment, and separation.
“I’m a control freak” – because I’m constantly attempting to control the uncontrollable after experiencing such an early trauma in my life over which I had no control.
“I like to (read: almost obsessively) plan/strategise (read: attempt to control/know) my future” – because as a newborn baby I had no way of knowing what was happening or about to happen to me.
“I like to know what’s happening” (but not in a ‘normal’ sense, more in the sense of always knowing where my people are and what they’re up to at all times) – because it’s my way of reassuring myself (or that newborn baby) that I won’t be abandoned again and that I know where they are (she is), aka separation anxiety.
“I’m not a touchy feely person and I don’t let people in easily. Because boundaries” – but really it’s because I’m terrified of rejection, of people ‘seeing’ me and of being rejected/abandoned when they do.
So when the way I am, or thought I was, turns out to be a mix of very common constructs for people who’ve been adopted or suffered early childhood trauma, it begs the question: So who the fuck am I then?!
It’s not a surprise that this latest incarnation of my business and work focuses on offerings around rediscovering/knowing yourself.
And how ironic and clearly not coincidental that it aligns with the start of my own journey to discover my ‘authentic self’ beyond the constructs that have been the me I’ve known so far. Life clearly does begin at 40!