Dancing in the Dark

"Shadow work is often defined as the process of uncovering, exploring, and working with our shadow selves for personal growth and spiritual development. By understanding, accepting and integrating all of our "selves," both the positive and the negative, we allow our wholeness [holiness] to unfold. We are able to embrace, love and honor the uniqueness in ourselves, as well as in all humanity."

A few days ago I read Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson.. I couldn’t help but ponder adoptees, adoptive parents and even natural parents when reading this book.  I thought so much about the few adoptive moms I respect.  I may have hit on why I like them so much.

When I met with Margie a few weeks back, we discussed something that always runs around in my head. Why can some adoptive moms GET IT and some don’t. Why do some really act in the best interest of their child and others act in the best interest of themselves? Is it education? Age? Life experience? How well they were counseled on the adoption process? How well they accepted their own infertility? 

There is an adoptive mom that I adore because she is brutally honest. She admitted to me, verbally, face to face, that she definitely adopted for herself first and the child second. What brought her to adoption was not some altruistic desire to help a child. She was adopting to help herself – and the child was the way she could do that. The vessel through which she could feel whole, complete and happy. Helping the child was secondary to helping herself.

Hallelujah.  She got it. I could have hugged her. Actually I did.

What this adoptive mom has done is embraced her shadow. She looked into the dark side of herself, her selfish, needy, side and embraced it. She brought it out in the open and said “Yeah, so what?”.  By doing that, she has made it less powerful, less intimidating, less dark. She admitted she was human and not seated at the right hand of God like some adopters think they are.

I did this myself. My dark side? Hiding in my dark side was my truth. My truth that I never wanted to surrender my daughter, that it was a terrible decision, harmful to her and to me. My truth that I was ignorant, naïve and lacked self esteem. My truth that I did what every mother tries to avoid at all costs, I hurt my child. I did not help her by giving her away. I hurt her. No amount of ponies and pools and college educations will ever negate the fact that I gave my child away. I was weak. I stifled my own voice and strangers took my newborn baby to a strange land. I abandoned her. No matter the reasons, the cause, I did it.

That took me years to face. It was much easier to drink the koolaid, believe that I did a good thing, the right thing, the best thing.  Hiding in the dark, poking me, was the truth. For many years. Clearly, even here in my blog, I am still struggling with it. Still battling myself and my decisions and my faults and weaknesses and yes, my human-ness.

I recently suggested to Margie that the adoptive parents who cannot get out of their own way are the adoptive parents who never handled their own pain. How can they be expected to look into the pained face of their adoptive child if they cannot look into their own pained face?  How can they look at, embrace, acknowledge the horror that they profited from? How can they look at a mother who lost her child and truly see her pain if they cannot see or acknowledge their own?  They will forever use the child – even the adult child – as a shield for that pain. Even if never spoken, the child, the adult, will know this.

Enter upon reunion and that child shield becomes a bit translucent. Suddenly, years after the fact, the adoptive parent may be faced with their own infertility, their own pain, yet again. Don’t remind them that their child was not born to them. Don’t remind them that the child has other family and parents for that will remind them of their own grief and that is not acceptable.

Deny it. Push it away by pushing away the child or the child’s need for the natural family. What you have been running from for years is now running straight at you. Full speed ahead.

Do you embrace that? Do you welcome in the pain and dark shadows and serve it tea and cookies or do you continue living in denial?

I am doing my personal best at welcoming it.   I believe Carl Jung when he says “What we do not face directly will return to us as fate.”

4 Thoughts.

  1. my shadow is that I thought it would be simple, I thought that giving up my daughter would make BOTH of our lives better and easier, I truly thought I could “get over it” and that she would too, that we’d never think of each other again. I thought it would be better to provide misleading information, a scenario I thought would be prettier and make more sense than the truth. Because the truth made no sense at all, because the truth was that there was no reason any of us went through this but fear and shame. And those are stupid reasons to make decisions.
    20 years of drinking the koolaid, and 2 of throwing it back up.

  2. I don’t have many shadows in regards to adoption because I have never dealt with it directly, I am not adopted nor have I given up a child for adoption. My mother was adopted, and I believe her emotional problems to this day stem from that. Especially since she was 2 almost 3 when she was. I know that I do struggle everyday to not pass on those same emotional problems I inherited from her, to my 2 small children. Problems I know that come from my mother’s inability to really attach to her daughters because her own mother gave her away, (or it seems to me this way). Adoption truly affects more than just one generation, it screws up a whole family line in more ways then one. I suppose my shadow is breaking that cycle of insecurity and unability to attach its hard to do that and it has already cost me friendships with great people in my life and affects my marriage daily.
    I don’t know if I got my point across or if I’m wording this in a way that makes sense. I’m not very good at that. Because I’m not directly related to adoption I almost feel as if I’m intruding by posting this, but I honestly want to understand more about the problems involved with adoption and the only way to do that is put myself out there…

  3. “Do you welcome in the pain and dark shadows and serve it tea and cookies … ?”
    Earl Grey and Oreos. And what happens when I do is the precise opposite of what those who encourage hiding that pain: It comes out, you face it, and you deal with it.
    I’ve found, too – speaking for myself here – is that the pain of acknowledging that my kids were born to another woman has faded as they’ve grown. Whether that’s a result of the fact that my desire to experience pregnancy was much stronger when they were younger, or acceptance of the fact that they are their own people – I don’t know. But either way, if I had denied it, it would have been exquisite by now.
    Thanks for a beautiful and wise post.

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