There’s an unspoken question I sense at times when I tell people I’m exploring my adoption:
“Why would you want to do that? Isn’t it better to leave the past in the past? Why drudge up stuff from the past, especially if it’s not really affecting you*?“
One of the most useful things to me about having a therapist is seeing her reaction to some of the stuff I tell her and have her reflect back to me how ‘not typical’ some of those things might be…
Me: Oh yes, when we were 4 and 5, we used to fly all the way to HK on our own.
My therapist: 😱
Me: But isn’t that just normal?
My therapist: So you’d be happy to take Samson (4) and Mali (8) to the airport, send them off with someone you didn’t know knowing they’d be on a 15+ hour flight with a stop in the middle, accompanied by said stranger looking after them, for 2-3 weeks away without you?
Her perspective and that reaction is not an uncommon one in my sessions which in itself is useful feedback!
* And the part about my adoption not affecting me? That’s utter BS (despite that being my line too for the past 40-odd years too!), as I’ve shared previously. I still have strong triggers, experience unfamiliar flashbacks and feel painful emotions that have been deeply buried for far too long.
So for me – and for anyone who embarks on a journey of self discovery – the question about why I’m exploring something that’s so painful is about finding the truth…
It’s about figuring out who we are beneath the constructs we use to keep ourselves ‘safe’ – the tools and devices we use to keep us from feeling the emotions of what’s really going on beneath our defence mechanisms. It’s about finding out where our current ‘self’ comes from and why that self behaves as it does, especially when we behave in ways we don’t like.
And after 18+ months on this journey and half a year in therapy so far, this is what I’ve discovered about the truth…
There Are Always Multiple Versions of ‘The Truth’
Oh. That was quite a revelation to me when my therapist first posed that nugget!
While I’m aware from my NLP training that “the map isn’t the territory” because everyone has their own maps and one event will be experienced by everyone there in a totally different way and recalled or recounted in their own personal way, it had never really occurred to me that this also holds true about ‘the truth’. DUH.
So when it comes to my experiences – I’ve always believed that if I ever get to meet my birth mother, I’ll finally come away with ‘the truth’ (which may match up with what I’ve always believed, or it may not).
The truth I’ve always believed – which I think is a societal truth about adoption in general – is that if my birth mother could have kept me, then she would have done.
It’s so much easier to believe that truth than to look into or question the nuances of such a general statement…What does “could have” mean?
[I’ve since found out (I think) that my birth mother was offered financial support to keep me if she’d wanted to which doesn’t quite match up with my belief and sends me off down a whole other narrative altogether!]
I have also always believed the narrative that I’m fortunate to have been adopted into a Western family with all the benefits and advantages that that brings. That is one truth. And yet it is also true that as a baby I was abandoned by, rejected by and separated from the woman who gave birth to me. That is another truth.
And it could also true that she could have been acting in what she thought were my best interests. And it could also be true that she could have been acting purely selfishly and in her best interests only.
I may not ever know which of the narratives is her truth, but the actual truth is…they could equally all be true at the same time.
What’s Your Truth?
So when we’re in the process of self discovery and we’re seeking ‘the truth’ of a situation or experience, the truth may not be quite what it seems…
Is the truth you’ve always believed the only one? Could there be another truth? If so, what does that mean for your truth?
The key, as I’m told by my therapist, is being able to hold all of those truths at the same time; to integrate them, to recognise and acknowledge that there are multiples truths and numerous narratives that can be used.
And to be able to move forward to wherever we want to go, it’s important that we know that it’s our choice to pick the truth and the narrative that works best for us with the knowledge that it may not be another’s truth. And that’s ok.