Who’s In Charge of Adoptee Self-Esteem?
This is a guest post from the Jewel Among Jewels News archives. (Winter 1999). Our guest is dear friend and colleague, Ronald J. Nydam, Ph.D. He has worked specifically with adoptees during his career.
Adoptees are empowered when they learn to confront very frightening emotions–such as the fear of being rejected by the birth mother–and they find they are still alive after it.
One man, whose birthmother not only refused to meet him, but dismissed him on the telephone, expected to fall apart at any moment. She said to him, “If you want answers, see a psychiatrist; if you want a companion, get a dog.”
In the past, he would have turned to alcohol or drugs.
Now, he was amazed at his own resilience, and realized that he had been made strong by confronting the challenges of the search itself.
“For me, the healing in search is to finally relinquish relinquishment; that is, to really accept the decision of the birthparent to carry out their plan for adoption.”
If the original relinquishment is not relinquished, the adoptee is chronically hanging on to the primal connection in such a way that she is never free to be fully adult.
This means grieving deeply for some; but beyond grieving, it allows for the reformation and re-ordering of the self of the adoptee. The searching adult must except whatever he finds when reunion is possible.
Accepting reality, no matter what it is, is the healing piece.
If the search activity yields no reunion, the partial reunion that occurs is accepting this painful reality– specifically the part of your self that was rejected long ago.
In this sense, the rejected adoptee must deal with what all adoptees face–– someone saying “No”– only, in the case of rejection, it is the open full-blown message staring the adoptee in the face.
Doing (not just dealing with) rejection means the active process of first-hand experience with a rejection via birth parents (or a birth child) in which the adoptee faces and manages and accepts the closed door as a reality that can be lived with.
So, all news is good news, even if it is if it is bad news because it is real news… and real news makes people real.
Doing rejection successfully means opening the door to a full life as an adult who can do do self-acceptance and intimacy in spite of a birthparent’s negative opinion.
Our self-esteem can never be something that someone else is in charge of.
Our self-esteem belongs to us.