What Has MisPlaced Anger Told You?

What Adoptees and Foster Kids Need to Know About Anger

Never did I imagine writing a book about adoptee anger, for it was such an integral part of me, like tea is to water.

As a baby, I certainly wasn’t aware of it, but my adoptive mom (Retha) was.

All she knew was that my stiffened body refused her warm touch and whenever she tried feeding me formula, I arched and cried bloody murder.

Looking back after all these decades, I believe Retha translated my behavior as, “I knew I couldn’t do this. I might have done alright with a normal baby, but a special needs baby? I don’t have what it takes to be her mother.”

In the only way my newborn self could communicate, I was saying, “I’m hurting so incredibly bad. Don’t touch me, or I’ll die. I can’t take any more pain. And, besides, you are a stranger to me. I want my first mom.”

So,Retha thought this was normal and so did I.

Can you see why our relationship was challenging?

Of course you can.

Thus, the confusing, fear-based, loss-based mother/child relationship began.

The Mother/Child Dance Begins

It was like a dance. Retha led with fear and I responded with anger.”

Mom was not in touch with who she really was, her authentic self. Oh, the real her would peek through the clouds once in a while, but for the most part, she was operating out of fear and inadequacy.

How I wish someone would have told her that she was providentially chosen to be my mom and that she’d be given all resources to meet my needs.

However, even if someone would have told her that, she wouldn’t have been able to receive it.

And for my part in the dance, I believed that this raucous anger was a part of me. I never questioned it, but just tried to conquer it with self-help books and prayers.

Neither worked.

Two Kinds of Anger

What I didn’t know is that for the adoptee, there are two kinds of anger—real, God-given anger for when we’re in danger. It’s the proverbial red light on the dashboard, alerting us to the fact that something needs attention.

The other kind of anger is mis-placed anger, which runs rampant in adoptee and foster kid hearts.

It’s based on lies we’ve come to believe and never question…after all, it’s just part of us, right?

No, not right.

Misplaced adoptee anger is our enemy.

But, we don’t know it’s our enemy, nor do we question the beliefs it’s built on. We just accept it with all it’s lies.

It’s not the real us, fellow adoptees.

Misplaced anger stunts growth, cripples with fear, and binds with bone-chilling shame.

For adoptees, it communicates:

    • Your life is a mistake, you know? Don’t tell anyone this.
    • Your birth mother didn’t care squat about you.
    • Your adoptive parents don’t know much and never “get it.”

For Rethas:

    • God never wanted you to be a mother. That’s why you couldn’t have “your own” kids.
    • There’s no way on God’s green earth that you’ve be able to successfully parent this child.
    • Screw it. I’m so hurt that it’s not worth keeping on loving this angry child.

How I wish someone would have taught me about this earlier, for I’m now in my 70s and just learning it.

What a difference it would have made to both mom and me. But, it is what it is.

The Source of Misplaced Anger

This portion is so critical to our understanding of healthy anger and misplaced anger that I’m going to share what I’ve learned about how to be free from it’s effects.

What I’m going to share is the spiritual dimension to all relationships.

Fellow adoptee, on the day you were born, your attending physician and nurse and bio mom weren’t the only ones in the room.

The enemy of your soul was also there and was whispering lies that you wouldn’t be able to recognize as lies.

That enemy was saying this about you. “I’m going to kill her, one way or another. I know the impact she could have on her world and I don’t want her to ever succeed at that.”

It was then that Jesus said, “This child is mine. I will never abandon or forsake her. My blood flows through her veins.”

And so, both moms and kids have a common enemy—the arch enemy…Satan.

If this is off your radar screen, will you please just set this piece of information aside…it’s okay.

And, so Retha and I began the mother/daughter dance on the wrong foot and for subsequent decades, danced to the drum beat of misplaced anger.

7 responses to “What Adoptees and Foster Kids Need to Know About Anger”

  1. 20bet Avatar

    Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

  2. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Thank you, Karen. It’s not a popular topic, but one I feel called to talk about.

  3. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    These are brilliant descriptors, Shefalie. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  4. Karen Skoglund Iverson Avatar
    Karen Skoglund Iverson

    Sherrie, you speak truth that my thirsty soul needs to hear. Thank you..

  5. Shefali Avatar

    Well…..it’s like knowing you are angry about something….but you can’t quite get to the bottom of it…..or who it’s really with….or how to express it….as it seems so deep…..even primal at times…..and yet in order to face it…..to heal from it……to stop it from ruining your days anymore..and others……..it gathers momentum…..so I get annoyed first….irritated…….frustrated……at minor things……with people……with not getting what I believe I should have…….from life, from others…..and so I direct it on those I am trying to be close to…..have a relationship with……and yes mothers……and I take it out on them……I displace my anger onto them, with them….am over the top at something they do or not do or day……as a mother……and make it more than it warrants……because I can’t get to the person who my anger and frustration needs to know about……with the right person…..and maybe I don’t even know them or where they are or will ever do as with adoptees……fostered kids…….shunted around……or just displaced themselves to other careers instead of the one who brought you into world etc etc………

    All the time…..there is a river of anger flowing deep within…..but displacement is when/or I have a go at someone or something that my original anger is not about but they get it…….more than warrants the actual situation…….after all if it’s in context of adoption/fostering………that person, family has displaced our own…….not our fault, or theirs but they are the targets of our unresolved anger and frustrations…….because they are not the person, people we really need to talk too……that sort of thing……sounds simplistic…..but it isn,t…….displace…..equals being removed from its/their original role or position……..

    A bit like if/when we find birth siblings and realise we are the first born child ……we displace the role/ position of the child who always grew up thinking they were the first born…….


  6. Sherrie Eldridge, Adoption Author Avatar

    Can you tell us more, Shefalie?

  7. Shefali Avatar

    For me I think it’s more like displaced anger, than misplaced anger……..

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