I’m going to ask you to do something in regard to your adopted child’s anger that will likely seem crazy, but hang tight…it will make sense after you read the prescription for helping your child process misplaced anger and find healing from pre-adoption loss.
First, think about your reaction to your child’s outbursts, rages, and rejections. Do these scare you? Do you wonder if you’re doing something wrong as a mom? Do you feel helpless and hopeless about how to deal with it?
You’re not alone.
Let’s take a close look at the world of adoption literature for the last few decades and give accolades to Nancy Verrier for her best-seller, THE PRIMAL WOUND. If your adopted child is a teen or adult, he/she may carry the dog-eared book around for quick reference. Why? It’s a validation of not being crazy and proof that actual words can be wrapped around the deeper-than-death loss.
Ms. Verrier’s proposition states that if adoptees are validated concerning their loss, they will heal. That discovery came 20 years ago, yet the majority of adoptees who’ve read it are still stuck and unaware that healing from un-grieved adoption loss is a possibility.
Ms. Verrier took the adoption community a long way in the journey toward adoptee healing by teaching us the value of validation. She validated the wound, but there’s another validation that must follow on the heels of wound validation–the validation of adoptee anger.
Did you just gasp? Did you wonder if you misread what I just stated about validating your child’s anger? Did you look inside and question if you’d ever have the energy to withstand that additional pressure?
Those reactions are understandable. You may perceive I’m asking you to have an unexpected cream pie thrown in your face in addition to being rejected. No way.
Understand What Your Validation Says To Your Child
First, I’m asking you to understand what validation of your child’s anger means to him. For starters, it means this to many adoptees:
- You’ve heard my cry.
- You won’t leave me in my pain.
- You are for me.
- You’ve been traumatized…I am so sorry you had to experience that.
- You won’t abandon me in a crisis.
Let me add here that your child is likely confused about his/her anger, for it seemingly can’t be controlled. It explodes without invitation, like a bomb.
Your child may think that “they are their anger.” They may conclude, “I’m just an angry person.” Or, they may wonder if it’s a character defect passed down from unknown biological generations, or even a spiritual generational curse.
Validate “Flung” Anger
What I’m asking you to do is validate your child’s anger even when it’s flung directly at you. In order to accomplish this, you must be self-regulated, and a gifted adoption-competent therapist can help you develop that skill.
Back to your child’s healing…for healing to occur from Nancy Verrier’s famous primal wound, a scab must form, which gradually becomes like a crusty umbrella protecting the wound.
Let’s agree that the scab for the primal wound is anger–a God-given emotion to protect and warn us that something needs attention. Does this concept not clarify the next step after validation of the wound?
When your child is healing, the scab will itch, but don’t let it get pulled off. In other words, your child may want to short-circuit your healthy validation of anger by throwing more rejection or or slipping into relapse. If this happens, don’t give up.
Another function of the scab is to create such an atmosphere for new growth. The scabby umbrella makes new skin feel safe and nurtured. This occurs where the wound once was.
As you incorporate your knowledge of the healing process, you’ll also need to provide regulating statements for your child. By regulating, I mean that you’ll validate the flung anger but then help your child bridge emotionally from the past hurt to his present-day reality. It’s basically teaching “that was then, but this is now.”
Again, sessions with an adoption competent therapist will help tremendously. Check out Bryan Post from The POST INSTITUTE. postinstitute.com/tag/bryan–post.
Here is a list of Adoption Competent Therapists from the Center for Adoption Education and Support. I think the world of them. https://adoptionsupport.org/member-types/adoption-competent-professionals/
Keep in mind as you help your child regulate his/her emotions that usually the core emotion is fear. The majority of adoptees look at life through a lens of fear. Fear of abandonment. Fear of rejection. Fear of being invisible. Fear of being thrown away.
Now, I’d like you to buckle your seatbelts and read some anger statements that my research proved true of many adoptees.
- Hell, yes I’m angry. I have a right to be.
- It’s not my fault.
- My first mom kicked me to the side of the road and went on with life.
- You are a loser.
Next, let’s turn the angry accusations into validation and regulation.
Turn Angry Accusations into Validating and Regulating Statements
The old axiom that “practice makes perfect” applies here. I’ve concocted these examples to help you practice your validations and regulating statements:
- I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE ANGRY.
Yes, you certainly do have a right to be angry. You have experienced the greatest loss anyone ever could–the loss of your first parents in the parenting role. This all happened before I ever saw you and I want you to know that I understand and am here for you whenever you want to be angry about it.
2. IT’S NOT MY FAULT.
Of course, losing your first parents in the parenting role is not your fault. You had absolutely no “say” in the decision. You were an innocent child and your voice couldn’t even be heard. No wonder you’re angry about that. Remember though, that my voice for you will now will always be for the best possible outcome.
Moms, be sure to not tell your child that he/she was placed for adoption because the first mother loved her. Remember that your child, no matter how fancy the adoption ceremony and no matter the age of your child, sees the disappearance of the first mom as rejection, pure and simple.
To equate the first mother’s decision with love confuses your child about the possibility of even knowing what love is or how to receive it from others, including you.
3. MY FIRST MOM KICKED ME TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD AND WENT ON WITH LIFE.
I can’t imagine what that felt like for you. Do you actually see her kicking you to the roadside? Where is the road? What does it look like? And, how did you respond when you were kicked to the side? Did you scream? Did you curl up in a ball? I just can’t fathom what you felt then. Right now, though, there is no road or anyone that will kick you to the side of the road. In fact, I’m at the side of your road now and I’m you’re number one cheerleader. I will never, ever abandon you.
4. YOU ARE A LOSER.
I know that is what you’re seeing. You see me as the mom you didn’t want, for all your body wanted was to be close to the mom you lost. I can’t imagine how mixed up inside you must be that I’m now your mom. I want to assure you that as your mom, I am willing for you to think I’m a loser if that will help you let go of that confusion and anger. Know that I will always love you no matter what you call me.
Moms, please know that when your child calls you a loser, he/she is really saying, “I am a loser.” That hatred is basically toward self.
Put On Your Yellow Rain Slicker
The last topic here is a tool for your own self-regulation. It was shared with me on my FB page–What Parents Can Do When Adopted Kids Reject Their Love.
When your child flings rejecting, hateful, and angry statements at you, imagine putting on a yellow rain slicker–your yellow rain slicker.
When the hurtful remarks come like pelting rain, they will have no power to hurt you. They will roll off you, like raindrops.
And so, looking back over the decades of adoption literature, thank you, Ms. Verrier for validation of the adoptee wound, but moms and adopted kids are moving on now–toward creating new growth beneath the scab of anger.
We now know that the secret ingredient for reversing misplaced anger is validation of “flung anger.”
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