The Primal Wound – Nancy Verrier // Book Notes Pt. 2

Hello again,

I’m back with more notes on The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. Like I explained in this post, the next few blog posts aren’t full book reviews on the text but, a collection of interesting notes that I took down while reading the book. The book is a great resource for adoptees and I’d encourage everyone to read it. I found that by taking notes of what was new and relevant to me I was able to mentally and emotionally able to process some of the new information on adoption instead of worrying about giving a complete review.

The notes in this section are from my reading of Part Two in the book…

Part Two:

Chapter 5: Love, Trust, and the Adoptive Mother

  • Adoptive parents are at a disadvantage in comparison to an adoptive child’s biological parents.
  • 1. Adoptive parents haven’t had a 40-week period of gestation to physically signal the arrival of a new baby. 2. Neither parent may know that the baby they’re adopting has suffered an emotional trauma or, that the baby they adopt may be grieving from the loss their mother. 3. Most adoptive parents have not processed their feelings around infertility and loss before adopting a child. 4. Those who already have biological children and then are choosing to adopt may not have assessed the ethical/social reasons why they’re adopting a child.
  • The “Splitting” phenomenon – when an adopted child assigns “good” and “bad” traits to each set of families that they have in their life. They do not see the complications to either party. Either the adoptive parents or birth parents are “good” or “bad,” there is no mix.
  • Sometimes there is hostility that the adoptee has against their birth mother is projected onto the adoptive mother. The adoptive mother may feel confused about the child’s actions and, when they react “negatively” towards the adoptive child their behavior gives the child a “real” reason to be angry at their mother.
  • Sometimes adoptive children are told over and over again that they are “special” making them feel that if they don’t succeed in being special they will be a failure. Worry about failure stems from the fear that they will be given away or rejected by their family if they don’t live up to their adoptive family’s standards.
  • Adoptees also feel that they “owe” their families for adopting them, which prompts forced and pressured “good” behavior. Adoptees fear acting out or showing their “real” selves out of fear that their adoptive family will not accept or care for them if they act out or show real emotion.
  • Fathers in adoptive families are often “absent or emotionally distant, placing most of the responsibility for the child’s emotional wellbeing on the mother.” The relationship that the adopted child has with the adopted father in comparison to the adoptive mother is often straight forward since there’s less of the “intense, ambivalent energy” that mother and child have.

Chapter 6: Abandonment and Loss

  • Why are there no rituals for the loss of oneself and the loss of a birth mother? We need to give adoptees permission to feel their losses so that they can succeed and flourish in life.
  • Many adoptees can have PTSD and other emotional disorders from the loss of their birth mother. It is a traumatic event and we need to recognize it.
  • Additionally, if adoptees experience loss/death in their lives after their first loss (loosing their birth mother) it can be a catalyst in behavioral patterns, emotional issues, and other triggers that cause the adoptee to feel insecure and afraid and insecure.
  • “Being separated from their birth mothers and handed over to strangers in the adoption process is the only trauma where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful. They are not grateful; they are grieving, and the original abandonment and loss are the sources of many other issues for the adoptee,” (pg 80).

Chapter 7: Issues of Rejection, Trust, Intimacy, and Loyalty

  • The fear of being abandoned is an issue that can follow adoptees for all of their lives. If adoptees are not given validation and acceptance to process their early abandonment they are sometimes unable to receive care and support from others later in life.
  • The fear of abandonment can manifest in…. – Fear of rejection – “Bad-baby syndrome” – Adoptees believe that if they had been a “good baby,” they would have never been given away. – Isolating themselves and only seeking friendship from those who are at “the bottom of the list,” people who are also not socially thriving. – Testing out: pushing for relational rejection from others even though it’s the last thing an adoptee wants. -Rejection issues in the workplace – being unable to take criticism well. Also being afraid of success or of one’s own talent. – Distrusting the feminine: not having close friendships/relationships with other women out of fear of being rejected (stemming from the loss of being rejected by one’s birth mother).

Chapter 8: Issues of Guild and Shame, Power and Control, Identity

  • Adoptees often feel shame out of a sense of “incompleteness” around the issues in their adoption and separation from their birth mother.
  • We need to acknowledge that adoptees are “victims of manipulation of the gravest kind: the severing of their tie to the birth mother and biological roots,” (pg 96). Being a victim is a reality for adoptees.
  • Adolescence is very hard for adoptees. Biological and physical changes are even more difficult when adoptees realize they are being raised by someone who has no idea of their family history, someone who has no biological “connection” to them.

Whew, that’s a lot of information to process. I hope that all of my notes find you well. Please remember to take time and space for yourself to process the information.

Until next time,


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