Adoption, Ancestry & The Shadow Self.
I should preface this article by saying that I was adopted in the early sixties at a time when very young babies were given to new families because the mother was unmarried and unsupported. Today older children are adopted or fostered for a wide variety of reasons. I write not from a position of regretting my adoption, but rather one of curiosity.
Though impossible to answer, this is a consideration of the question as to whether one’s choices and achievements would be significantly different if one had stayed with the birth mother (here, I do not include children removed from horrendous circumstances, but those adopted in the 50s to 70s). This is a question about the part of identity based on access to and contact with blood lineage and ancestry.
It is a question about how much the attitudes and beliefs of one’s bloodline remain in one’s DNA or energy field; about genetic memory and whether severance from bloodline and subsequent placement with non-biological parents makes it harder to access or align one’s natural preferences, habits and tendencies. Adoptees need to be able to know and understand their nature and who they are, not just hear a debate as to whether nature triumphs over nurture. For adoptees the question is, ‘What is natural to me?’ And I have no doubt that many adoptees achieve authentic actualisation within their adoptive families, just as some in their birth families do not.
What has CST got to do with all this? A craniosacral therapist will ask about family medical history. Many adoptees do not have access to this information. With CST, as with other energetic healing therapies, ancestry is accessible if the system deems it appropriate and is ready for healing or resolution. For the adoptee the separation is a cut not just from the mother and all she represents, but from the ancestry of the family the child comes from. A severance from two family histories, two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews etc (just as the birth mother relinquishes part of the next generation of her family). It is also a severance from two families’ ways of doing things which must, for better or for worse, have been established for reasons based on their histories and temperaments. Granted it may also be severance from a nightmare; but if genes are the vehicle for ancestry then the vision may not change merely because the host family has.
All this means that an adopted person navigates a changed path with a different compass provided by the adoptive parents. But they may also retain an inner inherited compass which may be at odds with the new one. The inner compass or ancestral habits may override the new taught ways of being and cause chaos and misunderstanding. The fact that there is no one in the family with whom to identify the behaviour – ‘That’s just like Uncle Bert!’ a reaction which both explains and accepts the behaviour (however annoying) – highlights the alien status of the child. This ‘not of my tribe’ reaction is understandable as the adoptive parent has no relative through which to understand and identify challenging behaviours.
I believe it is a reaction based on fear of the unknown, part of a primal reaction to ‘difference’ or to ‘other’. The child is part of another tribe, perhaps. It’s interesting to note the proliferation of ‘wicked’ step-parents in fairy tales and folklore – here the scenario is reversed and the ‘outsider’ parent is billed as evil and a threat to the lives of the established family. This ‘other’ status is perhaps a primal response and needs to be understood and navigated with particular care when it comes to families.
The notion of ‘likeness’ is profound here and is certainly not confined to the issue of adoption. Many non-adoptees have told me they cannot see the likenesses in their family (though there is powerful validation in the fact that others can). But I believe they do ‘see’ the likeness, but on a much less visible and obvious level. Each family also has a scent which is not ‘smelt’ in the usual surface sense – it is more of an experienced scent felt near the olfactory bulb and near enough to the ethmoid and third eye to be connected to them. I remember sensing this scent/smell when I first met my half-sister as we hugged – that sense of belonging (even to a ‘stranger’) was immensely powerful. ‘I belong’ means ‘I survive’ on the most primal of levels.
Craniosacrally, the ethmoid is the obvious and most potent structure with which to work when ancestry is relevant. This is not surprising if we consider that the ethmoid and coccyx form the two ends of the developing embryo, providing connections with the mother and planet earth itself. This place of seeing not just ourselves but our connections with others, determines how we view ourselves in the world and so is vital for our health and development. It is inbuilt orientation – for better or worse. The compass is set early, perhaps. Feelings of displacement can relate as much to inner as outer geography. This means that children adopted and transported from one country to another have yet another dimension to deal with – geography in its literal sense.
And, of course, this is not just relevant to adoptees. If we view the ethmoid as a compass which either allows or inhibits intuition and insight, then it has two purposes here. One is the level of insight inherent in that individual and the other is the ancestral information which may be accessed from treating the area around the ethmoid.
Adoptees reunited with their biological families find they have traits and talents in common. Some of these can perhaps best be understood in the familial/ancestral context from which they came. This is not to say they are not welcomed in adoptive families, but it can be harder when it is something unusual which may need a hereditary context in which to welcome and nurture it. It is not a case of ‘bad blood’ rather, ‘different blood’ or ‘displaced blood’.
It is work which needs understanding from the beginning of the adoptive process, which for most parents is Plan B, or even Plan C if we count IVF, and therefore comes in the wake of huge disappointment; quite a formidable context in which to be placed after a separation from one’s birth mother. We are placing together a couple facing the pain of childlessness, with a grief-stricken baby/child separated from its grief-stricken mother. How can we best make that work?
It is not a case of getting stuck in the past, but of synthesising the authentic ancestral parts of the self with all the adoptive family has to offer, and then functioning at full potential in the present. Most people care where they come from, who they look like; they see and seek likenesses, they look up long-lost relatives, do family trees. They watch Who Do You Think You Are? (a TV genealogy programme) and see people who weren’t adopted profoundly affected by ancestral connections.
It would seem that deep in our psyche we share the sentiment: ‘I know my own and my own know me.’ (John 10:14)