The Primal Wound

I am reading a book called “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child.”

It is the first piece of literature I have ever read on adoption.  That fact alone seems kind of odd to me but I just think the subject is too close to home and that’s why I’ve stayed away from it.  I mean, even while watching Kungfu Panda 3 last night with my housemates they were all laughing and I was shouting inside my mind, “But the goose is your real father! Don’t leave him Panda!!” Ah ~ I clearly still have a lot more processing to do 🙂

And this book has shown that to me every step of the way.  At first I would get so angry while reading it. So angry. And I would have to keep putting it down, telling myself that I should probably stop reading it.  I had a strong reaction to the author, her viewpoints on biological parents vs. adoptive parents, and I was uncomfortable with the feeling that labels were being put on me.

Then, I dug a little deeper.   I could clearly see that some of my “stuff” was being stimulated.  I went inside with some guidance and tried to face it head on.  What I discovered was quite profound.

I felt my primal wound.  It is the weakening – extreme weakening – of the Self that happened from the energetic severance of my mother at birth.  I  realized that this is a shadow I have lived with all of my life, and that I have spent a lot of energy trying to fight with that shadow. It was extremely healing and liberating to simply stop the fight.  I was able to embrace it in that moment and I felt an integration with myself that is hard to describe, but it felt like a healing and recovery of my own root.

In addition to the wound, I discovered a protective armor that I formed at the age of one day old. An armor that said to the world, “Well, it looks like I’m on my own.  If my mother doesn’t want me then I’ll just have to mother myself.”  And this protective shell has been with me ever since.  It gives me strength and it also strangles me.  It created a survival mode over-drive inside of me that has caused many hindrances to living my life.

I was happy to meet this armor as well.  Upon meeting it, it now has less control over me. My mentor always used to tell me, “To know yourself is to heal yourself”.  I could really feel it in the last few weeks.

After that, reading the book became easier.  I still felt anger coming up but it was very specific anger towards Kate – an anger that seems to live in my bones. But when I would calmly direct my attention to it then it would start to lift, like dust clearing, and suddenly I would find myself shifting from anger to compassion in my heart.

Now, I am enjoying the book quite a bit. I am finding that there are some things I resonate strongly with, which give me good insight and understanding into myself – kind of like putting the picture together.  Then, there are also things I don’t resonate with at all.  And that’s ok.  There is a calmness about my attitude now, which I am grateful for, although I know it is still a very sensitive topic for me.

I am trying to decide if I recommend this book for other adoptees.  Honestly, it has been a lot of work for me and I don’t know if it would actually be helpful for others who may not be interested in doing that work, so I can’t say that I do for now.  However, I definitely recommend it for adoptive parents or anyone in a relationship with an adopted person.  You may have many aha moments!

Healing, although painful, is joyful for me.  I believe that healing myself is healing the world. As I begin to write my own book I feel like I am stepping into another whole level of that process.  And I can only pray that if the book is ever published someday that it would bring much hope to my fellow adoptees who suffer from this same primal wound.

16 Thoughts.

  1. I haven’t read this particular book yet, but, as you know, the subject of adoption is close to my heart. And I see how torn my kids are. They don’t really have this angst and dividing of emotions between their birth father and their adoptive father. They haven’t seen their birth father in almost nine years and the man was horrifically abusive, so they remain curious about him but have no desire to see him. To them, their adoptive father *is* their father. But when it comes to the subject of mother – that is a whole different matter.

    I still take them a couple times a year to see their birth mother. They love her, need her, want her, but seeing her tears them in two. They are very open that they love her more than me, and I’m okay with that. They sometimes refer to her as their “real mom.” I am far less okay with that because it makes me sound “fake” or somehow less. (In fact, when my youngest son was 4-years-old, he used to call his birth mom his “real mom” and call me his “fake mom.” You have to admit, that’s kind of funny.) We’ve had lots of discussions about what it means to be a mom and what kinds of moms there are, how just because I didn’t give birth to them doesn’t make me any less a “real” mom. A mom loves her children and protects her children and takes care of her children, and by that definition I am a real mom.

    But I understand their feelings for her and how powerful those are. I understand that they will never stop wanting her and wishing that everything had worked out so that they could live with her. I’ve told them that this is how God made us, to have a bond with our birth parents and to love them and to want to be a family, and that this is the way it’s supposed to be. You’re not supposed to have to leave your birth parents and it is wrong when that happens and it hurts.

    I’ve also tried to help them to understand that loving lots of people is okay, that loving two mothers is okay. That loving someone and being angry with them is okay, too, because let’s face it, they love their birth mom more than anyone in the whole world and yet she hurt them by not protecting them.

    There are so many emotions mixed up with adoption, isn’t there? For adoptive parents, it’s a beautiful story, a story of love. But for adopted children, it’s a story that began with a terrible thing – a separation from one’s birth family – but a story that ends with love.

    But I think they are beginning to figure things out, to find their comfort zone, and to accept *all* of their family – birth and adoptive. A few days ago I printed out their genealogy (genealogy is my favorite hobby and I’ve been working on theirs for about 5 years now) – a nice, thick, 170-page book with photos and timelines for each person in their family – their birth mother’s side, their birth father’s side, and their adoptive family. It’s such a lovely way to give them all of their family in a tangible way, a way that they can hold in their hands, a way to give them a sense of something bigger than themselves.

    It’s funny because I thought they would focus on their birth family. And I suspect they thought they would too. In fact, when I first gave it to them, they opened it right up to their birth family and started reading about all their relatives. But what they ended up being most interested in is their adoptive family, I suspect because it’s the family they are being raised in and know the best. I actually only stuck the adoptive family section in there because, as I told them, “family is family,” and I thought they should be able to see each member of their adoptive family, too, and learn about us. But it’s so nice to see that this book has given them such a sense of belonging to their *entire* family, which is all I’ve ever wanted for them – to have a balanced view of family, not thinking one side is better than the other, but being able to love and accept everyone.

    Anyway, I’m getting off the subject a little bit. What I really meant to say in all this is that mixed emotions are okay, pain is okay, and love is okay – all of it. And I also meant to say thank you because every time you broach this subject of adoption it helps to give me more insight into my children so that I can be more understanding, and I deeply, deeply appreciate that you are so open.

    On a completely different subject, I am so proud of you for starting you book. I think that’s just wonderful.

    • Thank you for sharing Kathy. I think you are amazing. Your story with your children is so very different from my experience of being adopted! I think that book which I mentioned might be very useful for you. As I read it I feel it seems to be most useful for adoptive parent which makes sense since the author has an adopted daughter. I too am very interested in the question “what is the definition of the word mother, after all?” I believe there is more than one meaning which is perhaps one of the things that makes adoption such a complicated and emotional subject as you say – although there are many more than just that one. I appreciate so much that the conversation on adoption is useful to you. I wish you the best with your family!

  2. Thank you Danielle for sharing your further explorations on adoption. I have heard of the book and was told by an adoptee that it was quite controversial. But it sounds like you are discovering what is truth for you. I also think that your situation is further complicated by your adopted mothers illness and how that affected you. Also by Kate’s notoriety and strong personality.
    To universalize the experience a little, I think there are various kinds of primal wounds. In exploration of my own issues similar to yours, I was told that I was born 2 months premature and placed in an incubator in hospital for 2 1/2months. The only physical contact was the medical staff doing what they needed to do. Parents were not allowed in the room at that time. My father came every day after work and talked to me through the glass. So on some primal level I felt abandoned, unwanted, etc. When I was finally allowed to go home at 2 1/2 months, I would cry and stiffen whenever my mother held me. I only wanted to be held by my father. Interesting, heh. So I do believe that these early experiences leave a mark on our souls. When I was three and my brother was born, my mother came up the stairs empty handed, my aunt was holding my brother. I started sobbing and screamed at my mother “You don’t love my brother”. I was inconsolable. My mother told me later that she was leaving her arms free to hug me first. So the imprint of the past sticks no matter what the present reality is trying to communicate. At 3 I was already blinded and resisted seeing what my mother wanted me to know. Have you asked the question from what is the primal wound still blinding you? I think I see partially now:)). But I was stunned by the power of the primal wound.

    Kathy, I have the upmost respect and admiration of how you are with your adopted children and your non defensive posture with them. What you are providing them with is the utmost gift. I always enjoy reading your comments as you have such a different experience than mine. Kudos to you.

    • Primal wounds – I love that expression. That just perfectly describes so many pains in people’s lives.

      Your experience is really fascinating. It reminds me of my younger brother, who had a hole in his heart when he was born and had to go to ICU and wasn’t supposed to survive, but somehow did, and how stubborn and unreasonable he can be even to this day. It makes me wonder if the two are connected – this near death experience and his stubborn will to survive. It might explain a lot about him as a person. It makes me think of my kids, too, and how they have all been through so much traumatic “primal experiences” and how this has shaped them. Tell me, if you don’t mind, were you ever able to work through this as an adult or does it still affect you to this day?

    • Thank you for your sharing Charlene. Yes I believe that many children who were separated from their mothers at birth or within the first year of life due to illness or other circumstances develop similar issues to varying degrees. I have not framed the question to myself in such a way but I think I can answer “yes” I have been exploring many of the affects and how they have colored my perception of myself, others and the world.

  3. Thanks for your response and for asking Kathy. Yes it is fascinating. I am happy to report that yes I think I have pretty much worked it through. It has lost its hold on me. When I would recognize the wound arising I would respond to it with compassion and love. I had to realize that I could not look for it outside of myself. It was only something I could give myself. I do however believe that we are left with the scar of the primal wound for the rest of our lives. But hopefully we become wounded healers.

  4. Danielle, Charlene and Kathy,

    As you know to a degree, I was adopted. Like Charlene, I too spent who knows how long in a hospital NICU incubator separated from my birthparents with tubes and IV’s sticking out of me. I also spent a fair amount of time in the hospital because of Meningitis and Pneumonia. As a result of that and the treatment of myself and my siblings by my birthfather because he did not know how to take care of premature twins and couldn’t handle when we cried, I did not trust my adoptive father. I ony wanted to be near my adoptibe mother. Even to this day, I don’t have as good a relationship with my father. Other personal things that I have mentioned prior have made me not have as good a relationship with my mother Also, because of the abuse my siblings and I suffered, resulting in the adoption, my twin and I were sent to our new home with an outfit that whenever we would wear it, we would emit a stress-sweat and a potent odor. That outfit that we both had been brought home with was the only outfit we came with that had to be thrown out. So my life has been full of adoption- related drama. I am sorry I haven’t even emailed Danielle or commented here in the past couple months. I’ve been dealing with a lot of things.

    • It’s nice to hear from you Taya. Thank you for your sharing. I am sorry for all of the suffering and hardships in your life. I hope that you are well and I am sending love ~~~

      • I still have the MRI appointment coming up (semi-urgent) to check the status of my shunt to see if it’s clear now or not, or if I will need surgery, then a yearly MRI after that. I suppose another part of my primal wound is how much I hate hospitals and doctors. I had to be flown from PEI to Halifax for anything related to my shunt from birth until 2 and a half and as a result of my foster parents having to leave me there and fly back. After adoption when I would have a CAT scan or anything, the doctors had to try to sedate me because I would get so scared and upset. But the sedatives never worked because I suppose the adrenaline of being so afraid kept me alert. You are right that the sickly children separated from family early on do develop other issues.

        • Dear Taya,

          I’m sorry for the obstacles that are still in your life and for the pain and sorrow old wounds are still causing you.
          The painful yet powerful result is that there is more strength, power and force of life in you that you realize yourself. You are something far beyond a sparkle of life, you are a force of nature.
          Please look at yourself that way, without denying the hurt and sorrow.
          Sending you love and sparkles across the globe.
          Love ~ Yvonne

        • Good morning, Taya. What’s the latest with the shunt? Are you going to have to get surgery or are you good to go?

  5. It’s so wonderful and at the same time frustrating and confronting. The lessons we need to learn in life keep coming back to us. Until we face the emotions, pain and fears and deal with them.
    I just realized that I tend to flee and run when my emotions, my pains and my fears get too close to the truth, get too intense and too confronting. I keep myself busy with pointless stuff and thoughts, in pointless activities. I flee in thinking about the far away future, and what could be. It is almost as if I’m daydreaming about a life that could be, but not is. It is as being as far way from reality and the “here and now” as can be. I also tend to have less contact with the people close to me, because they know me well enough to confront me with my behavior. Strangely I feel discomfort, and uneasiness. So when I move away from my emotions, my pain and fears, I don’t feel better (which was what I was trying to accomplish). When I flee and run, a wall rises between me and the outside world. The things the people I love say, irritate me. And the only thought in my mind is: “Mind your own business”. I withdraw from them. Mainly because their worries and their emotions are too much to handle at that moment. The most confusing part is that I know it is all out of love what they say and do.

    I think I have been ignoring my pain and sadness too long. And now it is pushing itself to the surface. The reason I want to flee and run is that I am afraid that the pain, the sadness and the emotions involved will be too intense and overwhelming. I don’t know how to control it. (And deep down I know there is no such thing as controlling. emotions. The harder you suppress them, the harder they will come out eventually.)
    But now I realize these emotions, pain and fears are there, and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t have to “do” something with them. Just let them be, allow them. And acknowledge that it’s there.
    And then there is less discomfort, less frustration and less uneasiness. The emotions, pain and fears are less intense and overwhelming, because I give them the right to be.

    Recently I “found” a long lost friend again. And I realized that the people you need in your life will come at the moment when you are ready. Sometimes I think that we all have to learn lessons which other people teach us, as we teach lessons to others. They can be long lost friends, people you used to know or absolute strangers until that moment.
    It warms my heart to realize that there are always people around who will walk with you a part of your (and their) path of life. I still have to learn not to diminish my own emotions, pain and fear in comparison with others, not to make them less important. There will always be people around me with (in my perspective) greater pains and fears, as there will be people with (from my perspective) lesser pains and fears. And learn not to judge everything around me.
    This long lost friend gave me some very useful words. And at that moment I realized again why I liked him in the first place, long ago.
    ~ You know it and you see it, but you don’t acknowledge it. And acknowledgement gives you the chance to take the next step
    ~ The hard thing is to really allow yourself something that makes the discomfort go away
    ~ Knowing is the beginning of the solution
    ~ To allow yourself to admit to let go

    And now is the time to finally let go of my attachment to control. It doesn’t give me the feeling of safety I need. It takes a lot of energy that is useless and I can find that (feeling of) safety in other places.And when the time comes, I will face the emotions, the pain and the fear. I will face that wound I know is there, when the time is right. No need to force it.

    And don’t forget to open my heart.
    ~ Yvonne
    Thank you all for reminding me to keep opening up my heart, by sharing your fears, pains en emotions.

    (I started a reply earlier, then accidentally touched the back button…. Everything I wrote was gone. Happened 2 times. So there were better words, words that said exactly what was in my mind. It almost felt as if those words weren’t meant to be shared.. I feel sad now because I was feeling truly relieved, peaceful. And my words said exactly that. After I started typing again, the feeling was gone..)

    • Thank you for sharing your heart Yvonne! I hope that it brought some relief, even though it was not the first time around….I am very glad to see that you are observing yourself and facing difficult things. I hope you know that is a big success in and of itself. To look at yourself and feel yourself honestly – that’s healing! Repeat repeat repeat…you are doing great. I am sending lots of love to you!!!

  6. Dear Danielle,

    Although adoption is not a part of my personal story, this post really resonates with me. I have always believed that family is not defined by biology. Yes, there are people we are biologically connected to, but I think that *real* family is made up of those people who accept and love us unconditionally. I have several examples of people I know, strangers even, becoming a part of my family because we seem to connect on a deeper feeling level. Although it is generally the people we share genes with who are “family,” I think that what is most essential to remember is that loving others and letting ourselves be loved is most important. Nature is life. The fact that such strong relationships can blossom between people we don’t share genes with speaks to beauty and sacredness of nature, I think.


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