The Primal Wound – Nancy Verrier // Book Notes

Hello Friends,

It’s time for another book review. However, this one is a little different. In my reading this past week I found it hard to complete an in-depth review of the book The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. During my reading, I found that it was one of the first books I’d read on adoption that didn’t follow a linear narrative in its storytelling. The Primal Wound instead discusses the psychological and physical symptoms that adoption can have on the adopted triad, (birth mother, adoptee, and adoptive parents) and focuses primarily on helping to heal the hurt adoptee.

Due to the focus on the adoptee psyche, in my next three reviews I feel it’s better for me to explain the layout of the book and then publish some of the notes that I have about each part. I felt that The Primal Wound is a text that I’ll re-read a few times in the next year or so before I have a better way to articulate how much the book has influenced me. A book review right now doesn’t feel like I’d be giving the text its full justice. Until I’m ready to write the full review, here are some of my notes and some of the insights that I’ve had after reading the book for the first time.

The book is split into four parts and has sixteen chapters. One of the patterns throughout the book is a summary at the end of each chapter. Though this, Verrier gives the reader a clearer and concise understanding into the information that was shared in the section. This also allows readers who are processing new information (an emotionally difficult task at times) a roadblock to stop and collect their thoughts.

Below are some of the notes that I have for Part One: The Wound, the first section of The Primal Wound.

Chapter 1: Adoption As an Experience

  • There is a major lack of counseling for adoptive parents before adopting, or, for adoptees post-adoption. We need more communication, support, and professional help in the adoption journey.
  • The adopted child and biological mother have a unique physical and psychological bond. This bond starts out in utero for about nine months, but extends even further post-birth. When babies are taken away from their mothers this unique bond is broken and cannot be repaired. Adoptive parents (even with the best of intentions) cannot heal this brokenness, this is an adopted child’s first loss.
  • Even non-adopted babies who are separated from their mothers (war, sickness, time spent in ICU) suffer from this broken bond. They too have trouble thriving after being separated from their biological mothers at birth.
  • We shouldn’t deny adoptees’ feelings around the trauma resulting from the separation of their biological families. It is a real issue within the adoption community and we need to recognize this in order to help everyone in the adoption triad.

Chapter 2: The Connection with the Birthmother

  • Babies need their biological mothers. It is PROGRAMMED into their being. Mother and child are biologically linked and when they are separated many issues arise for both parties.
  • Both mother and child grieve and mourn their separation. However, it’s harder for the adopted child to grieve their loss because often times they are unaware of their grief, or, are told that their grief is invalid.

Chapter 3: The Loss of the Mother and The Sense of Self

  • Biological mothers help their babies have a sense of “self” after being born. The mother’s presence helps to develop the baby’s ego. The ego building occurs post-birth for the first nine to ten months of a child’s life. Though adoptive parents may try to do their best to further the sense of ego and self in their adoptive child, it is not the same as having biological mother to do so. A sense of ego fosters a sense of connection that the child needs from their biological parents.
  • When the formation of ego (directly through the biological mother) is lost through adoption, adoptees may feel like they never are able to trust.
  • Adoptees go through a “search of self” throughout their lives in order to repair the bonds that have been broken through their adoption and separation.
  • Often times, there is a sense of a “False Self” that an adoptee, as they grow older has. It stems from realizing that they were “given away” as children and thus, must have been “bad babies” for any parent to do so. The adoptee sometimes chooses to act in a pleasing way (no bad behavior, no disruptions, not showing their true feelings and emotions) leading the adoptive parents to believe that the child is thriving when instead there is a lot of internal turmoil around their adoption and how they trust.
  • The false self helps adoptees protect themselves against the idea of being given away or abandoned again.
  • Adoptees often times loose the sense of being “carefree” and “spontaneous” since they feel as if they must be “on guard” at all times. The trauma, and vigilance against it come from the adoptee’s early birth trauma of being abandoned by their birth mother and also loosing ones sense of an ego.

Chapter 4: Loss and the Mourning Process

  • Loosing one’s mother predisposes adoptees to “emotional disturbances” throughout their lifetime.
  • Adoptees are more prone to depression, anxiety, and oppositional disorders… because of how adoptees “attempt to deal with [the loss]” of a birth mother.
  • Adoptees often experience “chronic somatic or physical disorders” as a result of trauma from their adoption. The most common symptom is stomach aches. There’s a close relationship between “gastrointestinal function and emotional states,” that adoptees are prone too. When adoptees are trying to process (or, are unknowingly processing ) trauma, their bodies are working overtime to help them relieve some of the mental stress. This often results in allergies, food intolerances, and constant stomach aches in order to help an adoptee’s body and brain feel better though, the trauma is still there.

Reading the first part of the book gave me major insight into some of my emotional patterns, thought process and ways that I communicate as an adoptee. I’d encourage every adoptee, adoptive parent, and birth mother to read this book. As I continue this series I hope to publish more notes from The Primal Wound and continue to learn more about myself. An adoptive journey is one that will take a lifeitme, but I’m ready to continue exploring.

Until next time,


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