Reflecting the Shadow

“Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
I am now
In a world where I have to
Hide my heart
And what I believe in
But somehow
I will show the world
What’s inside my heart
And be loved for who I am”
Christina Aguilera, Reflection

Genetic mirroring in adoption is a topic you often read about. It is noted as one of the many losses adoptees suffer. Loss of those that look, talk, think, feel, speak, act like they do.  Those of us that grew up with our natural families frequently say “I have the same eyes as my mother, I look like my father”. 

Adoptees cannot say that.  Many adoptees try very hard to act like their adoptive family. In an attempt to fit in they will bend themselves backwards to think, act, behave like the people who are not related to them behave. They will deny their true self and take on a false self.

In my personal experience, I can tell you my personality is more my fathers than my mothers. My looks are more my mothers side of the family. I look more Irish than Polish yet my body structure tends to be the Eastern European Polish side. Thick legs for farming and wide hips for birthing babies. I like to be barefoot and my Polish grandmother used to love that. “That’s the Polish farm girl” in you she would tell me. I prefer comfort food to gourmet. I am quite content with pierogies and kielbasa. Stew? Wonderful. Crusty bread? Fabu. Lots of carbs? Good goddess, I am in heaven. Again, the farm girl side of the family.

I have short thick fingers – again, the Polish farmers. Yet, I have fair freckled skin and hair with massive red highlights (when not colored). That’s the Irish. I struggle with stupidity and ignorance in others (that’s my Dad).  My love of words and word games? Dad.

Until I found her my daughter did not have the ability to say any of this. Her eyes? They came from me (and they are gorgeous just like mine!).  Her body structure defies both her father and I. His family is also Polish and a bit lovingly plump. Her talents? While one could suggest she got those from her adoptive family (or they encouraged them), I can tell you they are identical to the gifts and talents her father and I share.   Her bad skin? That’s me. Her thick hair? That’s my mom.  Her nose? That’s a mixture of her father and I.

When I entered reunion I approached mirroring from the adoptee side. What she would see of herself in me/us. It did not occur to me how powerful it would be to see myself in her.

She is my only daughter. I am raising sons.  It was powerful beyond words for me to see a girl, a female, someone like me.  There was never anyone like me growing up. While I had the comfort of looking like my tribe, acting like them, I was still different. I did not fit into my family even if we did share the same eyes and hair. I felt incredibly odd, isolated and unwanted.

To see my daughter online, to view her photos, to read her words, blew me away.  Finally, there is someone like me. Someone who MIGHT relate to me, someone who MIGHT like the things I like, someone who I MIGHT be able to talk to and she MIGHT respond in a language I understand.

Along with the positive mirroring, came some ugly reflections as well.  I see in my daughter, in her responses, reactions, approaches, some not so nice things. Maybe not nice is the wrong word. Emotionally unhealthy is a better one. I see similar, often destructive, coping mechanisms in play and I don’t like them.

Why don’t I like them? Why does the way she chooses to handle her stressors bug me?


They force me to look at the negative parts of myself. Hence, the reflection. Seeing those negative traits in my daughter is like looking at what Jung would call my Shadow.

“It is everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. These are dark rejected aspects of our being as well as light, so there is positive undeveloped potential in the Shadow that we don’t know about because anything that is unconscious, we don’t know about.

The Shadow is an archetype. And what an archetype simply means is that it is typical in consciousness for everyone. Everyone has a Shadow. This is not something that one or two people have. We all have a Shadow and a confrontation with the Shadow is essential for self awareness. We cannot learn about ourselves if we do not learn about our Shadow so therefore we are going to attract it through the mirrors of other people.”

I consider my daughter to be difficult to approach, distant. I find she operates in the intellectual realm and avoids feelings. Rather than confront difficult things she deals with them with logic and reason or avoids them altogether. She can be rude and cold.

Guess what?

So can I.

I am quite confident that all the negative things I could say about my daughter people who love me would say I am the same way.

And I don’t like that.

I don’t want to be thought of as rude, distant, cold and difficult to connect with. I am not. (But I am). I don’t like that. I really don’t want to be bristly and difficult to approach. (But I often am).

I know that those appearances are rooted in social anxiety, fear and such but others dont. The only see a bitchy girl. Much like what I see with my daughter.

It is utterly fascinating to me that my daughter, even though she is most likely completely unaware of it, is helping me and teaching me. She is showing me the parts of herself (myself) that I don’t like. But raising my awareness to them, by my embracing of them, I am able to be a better person.  My Shadow is being reflected back to me. I don’t turn it away. I welcome it in. I serve it tea and cookies.

I will thank her someday for treating me so. While it has been hard and hurtful, its clearly been helpful as well.

Kinda like making lemonade from lemons.

1 Thought.

  1. This is just completely right on, Suz. Candidly, I’ve never gotten the “nature-nurture” thing, and get even less why some a-parents will defend “nurture” to their last breath.
    Maybe it’s the fact that our children are Korean and we’re not that makes it so completely obvious that whatever they bring to life, they bring from their first families. No question that R and I have nurtured their talents – but any parent who loves their child would do that. We can take no credit except perhaps dedication.
    I also have to say a) you are so right about your eyes, they are amazing, and b) I disagree completely about “bristly and difficult to approach.”

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