Baby Love Child banner

On so called ‘the primal wound’: “personal problems” vs. political solutions

These are two posts I originally wrote over on in response to a thread about Nancy Verrier’s books; “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” and “Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up”.

I’ve moved the two posts over here as they cover far more ground than merely Verrier’s posited ‘damage’ Bastards suffer. (Bear in mind, Verrier’s interest and stake in such is both on a professional level, and as a m-adopter- an adoptive mother.)

So, on to the two posts;


“Primal Wound” and other such ‘therapizations’ moves the experience of the Bastard out of the realm of the political (and seeking political recourse, funny about that!) and into the realm of the emotional.

Such posits we are enduring the spectrum of what Bastards endure NOT due to social experimentation at the hands of the State and an industry and the marketing of babies, and demands of said marketplace, but instead due to some mythic emotional break of essentialist notions of womanhood. (Womyn as allegedly ‘inherently maternal’ and to break such bonds as ‘inherently’ damaging.) (Speaking purely as a Radical Feminist myself, I reject such ‘essentialist’ arguments about Class Womyn as but another lie.)

Thus ‘remedies’ must be sought in the realm of the emotional- therapy, etc, and as such are seen as ‘inherently’ individual; individual problems, individual ‘solutions’, rather than as ‘Class Bastard’, a group or class of people whose identity history, narrative, physical location, etc. etc. etc. are State reassigned, manipulated, etc.

‘Wounds’ and therapy always throws the onus back upon us- when in reality, we were a group of people- often babies at the time, completely unable to defend ourselves, our history, and our own interests to whom this was done- by others. Those manipulations inflicted upon us when we were unable to speak on our own behalf, alone is often a source of deep anger (even had we wanted to consent, we couldn’t.) But these are far from ‘wounds’, they are realities of what was done with us, and our own powerlessness to act on our own behalf. Nothing can change that now, we’re speaking to matters of time and personal autonomy.

Yes, the cognitive dissonance of having to pretend we are ‘just the same as the non-adopted’ grinds at the individual Bastard- but one can either decide such is a ‘personal problem’ they need to find ‘personal solutions’ to, OR they can turn and recognize reality- that no, we are not the same as the non-adopted, the State certainly does not treat us as such, and efforts to maintain those illusions are shams. We do not have the same rights societally, and constantly working to maintain lies, false histories, false words and appellations, etc while demanded of us at all times, is simply not our responsibility.

(Such a realization can, actually be very freeing.)

When a Bastard rejects the ‘individual solutions’ and instead works politically and socially, demanding reality be acknowledged there are usually consequences hurled back at them, often designed to go at self image, and thus force the ‘acting badly’ Bastard back into a stance of self doubt, only to retreat back into ‘individual problem/ individual solution’ mode. Words are hurled at us, often by those close to us, or by those in relation to the medical profession; “bad girl”, “crazy”, suffering syndrome X (be that ‘primal wound’ or the ever fashionable ‘attachment disorder’ crap), ‘we adopted you, and if you don’t start behaving, we’ll just take you back.’ Ad nauseum. All of which are designed to put the Bastard attempting to ‘live out’ the reality of their own lives ‘out loud’ back in ‘their place’; a place wherein they question themselves, subsume their reality and acquiesce back into the lies.

Books like ‘primal wound’ are about maintaining some semblance of ‘the problem is with you’, ‘see, you exhibit symptoms X,Y, and Z!’ After all, there needed to be some ‘explanation’ for why we ‘act up’, right? So the one size fits all, ‘adoptees are emotionally damaged’ is a very easy line to sell to adopters- it maintains power systems, and continues to ‘blame the victim’. Worse, Bastards themselves bite down on it, so glad to ‘finally’ have some explanation for that dissonance they feel- ‘oh, of course! There’s an explanation, I’m broken! See, it’s not really my fault!’ Finally having an ‘explanation’, any explanation feels so much better than not understanding WHY they feel at odds with their own lives and the world around them that some become deeply enmeshed in their own ‘broken’ identity, and defend such fiercely anytime someone tries to tell them they’re ok, it’s the situation that’s insane.

Whereas as Bastard-centric ‘explanation’ of same ‘symptoms’ X, Y and Z would be far closer to Skinner- our own individual coping mechanisms to deal with a perfectly insane situation. We live behind walls of lies- and the system demands we ourselves maintain those lies at every turn, with our words, our actions, and our acquiescence. As for Bastards themselves, they do what they can to survive behind those walls, some perhaps more successfully than others.

For some Bastards, as adults, the ongoing demand that they continue to call f-adopters, “father” or “dad”, or their m-adopters “mother” or “mom” can be an act of self maiming. A lie every time they do so, going deeply against their conscience, yet to not do so would bear even worse consequences. (Upon their adopters deaths they feel a horrible sense of ‘relief’ at not having to maintain the lie anymore, only to be followed with deep guilt over that- and so back into therapy, self blaming, they go- unable to come to terms with the fact that maybe it’s ok to feel relief at the end of decades of having to maintain lies, no that doesn’t mean you hated your adopters, it means adoption itself creates some really ugly paradoxes in relation to the lies.)

Trust me, there’s not an agency, an organization such as NCFA, nor many an adoptive parent who wouldn’t rather see Bastards try to cope with the insane situation via therapy rather than through gathering, ‘consciousness raising’ (i.e. listening to one another, our truths, finding points of action, and trying to find ways forward out of this mess) and working at tearing down the EXTERNAL TO US culture of lies, politically. Why? Because they all stand to lose a great deal. Whether that be their own actions coming to light, or loss of fabricated identity that things like the amended birth certificates carefully allow people to maintain (womyn who have never given birth, in some cases are INCAPABLE of giving birth, being issued state forged papers claiming they did, as but one example. Womyn can be deeply entrenched in maintaining the fiction of themselves as ‘mothers’, doubly so in a culture that tells womyn that if they are not mothers they are ‘failed womyn’.)

No, like Marley, I firmly reject the therapy model- not without having my own brush with such- which fortunately came to a rather firm ‘close’ upon stumbling across a copy of Christina Crawford’s “Mommie Dearest”. It was upon reading such I came to realize that no, some of us Bastards aren’t ‘crazy’, (we’re just pathologized that way.) There absolutely ARE objective situations in the real world that Bastards get thrust into that are simply far beyond anything that could ever be misconstrued as ‘our fault’. (And again, I’m back on how due to the time/age issue we simply were completely denied any ability to express our own desires let alone protect ourselves/our interests.)

(Christina Crawford herself, and her history, being a Georgia Tann baby, and her own adoption work, such as appearing at the Bastard Nation conference some years ago, is well worth the look and a topic unto herself for yet more posts.)

The ‘solutions’ to such aren’t to try to personally adjust to/cope with the incredibly messed up situation, the ‘solution’ is to do what we need to to survive (often getting out) and then look at how we were put there in the first place- who did this to us, how they benefited, how the SYSTEMS in adoption work, and how to prevent disasters inherent to adoption secrets and lies etc. in the future for other people, other generations of Class Bastard. Including, by the way, emergent identity erasure methodologies. All of which means working politically, in relation to Class Bastard, and not viewing such a merely one’s ‘personal issues’.

Am I alluding only to horrible messed up abusive adoptions?

No, I’m speaking to adoption itself- and the ways societally we are told to maim ourselves, and reject our own realities usually in order to buttress lies others are deeply invested in. Lies the State perpetuates.

That is why even ‘reunion’ is merely a personal solution to what is a Class problem- without the restoration of our real reality, and full rights by the State, connecting with another person is not inherent threat (although some piecing the history back together can at times, be) to the broader structures of lies. Reconnection does nothing to deal with the issue of State confiscation of genuine identity. Your OBC can be just as locked in a vault regardless of whether you’re ‘in reunion’ or not.

If the ‘problem’ is posited as a severance of a maternal linkage, than the ‘solution’ offered is ‘restoration of said alleged link’ coupled with what may be lifelong therapy to adjust the individual, this effectively sidetracks Bastards.

On the other hand, if the (genuine) problem is posited as State confiscation of identity, familial reassignment (yes at a time in life when our own consent is often impossible), and the lifelong expectation that we (in gratitude) must do everything we personally can not only to maintain said lies, but tread ever carefully as to not ever, with so much as a linguistic slip, ever acknowledge that our reality is anything other than what the State has told us it now must be, that is far more than an individual problem. Some Bastards will indeed, go (what gets mistaken for) “crazy” trying to adapt, others, though, will point out the depths of the BS, the completely inhumane demands being foisted off upon us, and will fight back in a rejection of the lies.

When this happens individually, it’s viewed as bad behavior, when it’s done collectively as Class Bastard, it’s bastards behaving badly- ‘ungrateful little urchins!’


And Two-

Just to be clear, I’m not saying adoption doesn’t come with it’s own set of emotional aspects, but what I am saying is that much of such are a by-product of adoption, the institution itself, and rather than unending cycles of self blaming, shame, etc, it’s can be important to realize that such are often coping mechanisms in relation to what we were put through.

Further, it’s important to realize that these may not be merely individual responses, but are commonalities shared by many Bastards. Talking with other Bastards (in places such as this) can awaken the realization that we are not alone, and not experiencing such in isolation, that such are in fact common, and arguably even ‘normal’ responses to the situation.

That said, yeah, I’ve had more than a decade of time to explicitly entangle myself into the guts of some of all this, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have other Bastards around (one in particular, she knows who she is) who have helped me pull some of the BS out and figure out what’s core here. The bottom line is, we’ve been through an experience (and CONTINUE to experience such) that is very different than non-adopted people. And our coping mechanisms are at times as complicated and diverse as we are. That said, we often find we have more in common and habits in common than we may think at first. Outsiders may attribute that to ‘syndromes’, I attribute it to a shared experiencing of unreality.

I’m glad some folks found my post useful, I was a little afraid I was talking past people, to say nothing of the fact that it’s very stream of consciousness writing.

5 Responses to “On so called ‘the primal wound’: “personal problems” vs. political solutions”

  1. Ron Morgan Says:

    Thanks for these snippets, babylovechild. The Primal Wound Theory, at the time it was written, deployed a coherent narrative to explain the alienation and angst experienced by adoptees in direct opposition to the industry approved message that adoptive as-if families were just like “normal” families, and needn’t examine themselves as non-normative. The problem, of course, is that the PWT places the onus of change squarely on the adult adoptee; the “cure” for the Primal Wound is therapy, which Verrier outlined in “Coming Home.” What I’ve found fascinating is the number of adoptees who embrace the PWT or admit to its resonance in their lives, but who strenuously balk at the “cure.” It’s somewhat paradoxical, accepting, on the one hand, a therapeutic diagnosis as a map of personal existential reality, and on the other, forcefully rejecting the means of “healing” oneself. These adoptees embrace the diagnosis but show no interest in the prescription. Perhaps it’s a vestigial Romanticism, akin to Bubi du Montparnasse acquiring TB as an act of negative capability…
    As you know, I work with a number of Late Discovery Adoptees. One would think that the population of LDAs would be a fertile field in which to objectively scrutinize the PWT. After all, if the PW is so primal, and creates a lifelong wound, then LDAs would suffer Primal Wound syndrome in equal numbers to other adoptees. It’s my experience, though, that few LDAs embrace the PWT. Perhaps this is because LDAs, although life-long adoptees, have not had life long narratives of self and personality development based on explicit discourses of loss and difference. Who knows?

  2. Ron Morgan Says:

    Well, it just goes to show that one shouldn’t post haphazardly after downing a post-work pint of Guinness. I mangled my metaphor; it’s Bubu de Montparnasse, and syphilis rather than TB… My apologies to Francophones and litterateuristas.

  3. Baby Love Child » ASAC adds an addenda to the description of the racist misogynistic objectifying anti-abortion maternity camp propaganda video that it screened Says:

    […] of what had just happened, I was accused of being “wounded” and “hurt.” The same old tactics always used to shut down and derail  Bastard political […]

  4. Baby Love Child » On the passing of B.J. Lifton Says:

    […] On so called ‘the primal wound’: “personal problems” vs. political solutions […]

  5. Rudy Owens Says:

    FYI, love this post. You may not agree with me, but I think you are embracing the approach of public health, and I love that (focus on the systems that make things bad, not the patient–think big, and thus make big changes). And your post brings to mind my intellectual hero these days, Viktor Frankl. He did not tolerate whining. He said in his great book, Man’s Search for Meaning: “In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” The less time people spend in that space of navel gazing (the Verrier way) and thinking just of their own issues, the more time they can focus on larger things that promote change. Focussing on solutions is clearly a way to find meaning and improve outcomes for many people. Cheers.

Leave a Reply