Working with The Emotions

Todays blog piece comes from Tweeter @ivavnuk who felt compelled to write something after reading our post by Colby Pearce last week.

I’ve just read the excellent Colby Pearce article (read here) where clearly the experience he has in writing is shining through with it being so well crafted, but it is an excellent insight too.

Its something I had wondered in reading adopters and prospective adopters accounts through Twitter. There are people who clearly meet that balance but there are people who seem wide of it.

My experience of childhood trauma is that the affects of abuse run deep and are very likely to be carried into adulthood, and being able to take a place in society isn’t helped by having your ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ emphasised. For clarity ‘failings’, ‘weaknesses’, and ‘abnormalities’ were how I as a ‘worthless’ child viewed my issues – and not a view I am ascribing to anyone else.

Was it Jackson Brown who sang, ‘don’t point out my failings – I know them too well’ ? Certainly a child with critically low self esteem is ripe ground for taking support that they are worthless and full of problems.

Yet there seems a prevalent mindset, perhaps borne of trying so hard to understand a child’s issues’ ?, where those issues are taken to be that child’s defining feature. A new behaviour is noted and seems almost too readily ascribed to their trauma. Like Woody Allen mistaking a leak through his shirt pocket from his pen as being a malignant melanoma – it may just be an ink stain.

It may even be a melanoma – but not malignant. Some effects of trauma can be carried into adulthood and not be defining or over encumbering.

mahakala-6armedIn fact they can be empowering. Nietche said that we start life as a camel, and the role of a camel is to have burdens put upon it. The camel then goes into the desert where it is transformed into a lion – the bigger the burden, the more powerful the lion. The rest of his transformative analogy is beyond the scope of this waffle – but the point is that your wounds become the source of your wisdom. Accessing that starts with knowing that you are not solely defined by those wounds, or at least seeing value in them. Another of Nietche’s phrases was ‘Careful you cast out your devil – it may be your best part’.

I’ve read where people talk with frustration of the root of their child’s behaviour being mistaken by others for normal development rather than trauma. Normalising it is the phrase.

Yet there is a balance there in not making your child feel they are abnormal and there is merit in others seeing them as normal.

It reminds me of the story about a mental health institute patient who was convinced he was a spy and awaiting some important mission – a stream of doctors had tried to convince him he wasn’t and encountered deep conflict over it, the patient becoming more distressed and the doctors more certain he needed to be contained. Then one day a maverick therapist snuck into his room and said ‘Look, I’ve not long before they find me – I know who you are. Whats important is that you tell no one you’re a spy, just take your place in society, and if we need you – I will return, have you got that ?’ The chaps is said to have agreed, been validated, and took his place in society and lived happily ever after.

The goal is to have a happy life amongst other people.

Trauma I’m familiar with seems to have the greatest impact at an emotional level. Understanding and labelling that seems of secondary importance, perhaps even of only mild interest or even no importance. Great big emotions sweep you away regardless of what your conscious mind might understand. What does help is coming to understand that you are the space in which those emotions play out and not those emotions or thoughts they are manifesting through. ‘You are not angry – you feel angry’ is an empowering change of view – it creates space so that choices about what to do start to arise.

I’m new to parenting – but I”m not knew to being burdened in early years. When I read twitter I have no adoptive parenting expertise – but I can read it through the eyes of my childhood.

Some of it surprises me.

I had no idea parenting was a competitive sport to some until I entered the arena. I heard a comedienne on the radio say “before I had children I didn’t know what was important – now they are here I know that the only important thing is that they are better at everything they do than my brothers children”. This even seems to extend to trauma – I’ve read exchanges that seem to be competing with how hard it is to endure their adopted child’s behaviour.

That’s a similar worrying view to the prospective adopters you see, whose agenda or desperation for having a family seems so prevalent that it must outweigh their ability to put a child first. Surely the most basic component of being a good parent is being able to put someone else first and to not see a situation in terms of yourself ?

The Buddhists say: ‘We all drink from the same stream of consciousness – don’t piss in the stream’

If you have an opinion on something you’ve read here, or somewhere else, and feel you’d like to have your say please contact us or here

5 thoughts on “Working with The Emotions

  1. Pickles Mummy

    What a beautifully written piece. I don’t need or want to add anything to it because it says it all so well and I agree wholeheartedly. You have an insight that is so valuable, thank you for sharing.

  2. Sarah

    Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this. Brave post. I enjoyed Colby Pearce piece a lot too.
    I will add a few thoughts, though I sympathise with Pickles Mummy’s sentiment.
    One of the things I love about being a parent the most, is putting my son’s needs first. That’s what I longed for in parenthood. It is great not to have to think about me! And yes the competitiveness, and the cliqueness of parenthood … Not something I enjoy. But hey, it can be avoided. Most of the time.
    As for the trauma, then that too I find difficult. Quite rightly it is important, but are we as adoptive parents gravitating towards looking and talking about it too much? So much of the literature on adoption is focused on trauma, again rightly so – but there are times I miss the positive happy everyday stories.
    As an adoptive parent I do often wonder a lot about how best to ‘normalise’ it all (horrible word). How best to integrate adoption into our lives without it overshadowing them. I imagine it will be a pendulum, and that I will get it wrong at times, but I hope to get it right as often and much as I can.
    Onwards and up… thanks again.

  3. Mrs Family of 5

    ‎But what if it’s not an ink stain? What if ignoring it, dismissing it and assuming it’s nothing significant means it’s never gets addressed and therefore grows and grows and grows and consumes and encompasses. 

    What if identifying that teeny mark as soon as it appeared could have changed the future?! 

    There are a lot of ‘what if’ questions in adoptive parenting, it’s hard to decipher the fient signals our children give us, there are no answers and no one other than a child who generally is unable to communicate on an emotional level knows, and actually sometimes they don’t even know. 

    I’m not sure putting my head in the clouds and assuming everything is ‘fine’ would be of any benefit to my emotionally silenced children. I need to help them find their voices to build a stronger and happier future, the future they deserve. But in order to do that, I need to try and understand. I would never however do anything to make my children feel they are not normal or that there is something wrong with them?! In fact I tell my children every day how funny and clever and beautiful they are. 

    I want them to know I hear them and I see them and I’m on their side because up until their adoption, the adults in their lives were not on their side.

  4. honeymummy

    An interesting and well written piece and where I accept and understand (and agree in some ways) with what has been written, I cannot help feel at the same time that I need to say something for the parents who may have voiced their frustrations or concerns about their child/children’s behaviour and the possible links to their early trauma. Obviously I cannot speak for others, but I can say from personal experience that there was a time when I found it very difficult to separate what was normal from what was related to their experiences, and yes I was guilty of labelling the behaviours and found it very hard to see beyond this to the child behind them – I was taking everything very personally and experiencing ‘Blocked Care’ and, so I was unable to be the mother my children needed me to be. Once I began to look at what was driving my children’s behaviour I felt more equipped to support and “help my boys on”.

    My boys needs are always my first priority and finding the right balance is one of the most difficult things I have to do every day – are they acting up just because they are trying to avoid something they don’t like, or are they overwhelmed by a situation or emotions they can’t handle?

    When our boys joined our family our eldest, especially, already had a strong but extremely negative view of who he was, but this was not because he had been treated like he was ‘abnormal’ or ‘weak’ by his carers. He came to them with this view because of what he and his little brother had experienced while living with their birth family and no matter how much positive attention and focus we give them on what great boys they are, accepting this is often too much for them to bare (not that it stops us telling them).

    I do not define my boys by their past trauma, nor do I make excuses for them (and trust me they have on more than one occasion tried to get themselves out of hot water by using it as an excuse). I have learnt acceptance for the days that it doesn’t go right, but it would be irresponsible for me not to hold their past experiences in mind when managing situations or day to day parenting of them.

    I don’t know what their future will be like but I hope that by accepting my boys for who they are in each moment (Candy Floss to Hot Madras), I will be able to help them develop a secure basis for building their self-esteem and allowing emotional growth as they grow up. I believe I did far more damage when I was unable to hold this in mind (and so did the professionals).

    I am sorry I am not explaining myself very well and I am definitely not trying to say you are wrong in your thinking.
    I think what I am trying to say is: “I can see both sides of the coin”. Yes it is hard for people (prospective adopters, onlookers) to constantly see comments about adoptive parent’s concerns and frustrations that our child’s trauma could be causing them and it coming across as this is the way they define their children, but on the flip side, it is unrealistic for them to bury their heads in the sand.

    How or who would that help?


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