Posted by Sarah on February 27, 2017

The Inevitable Consequences of Adoption on the Adoptee’s Unconscious Psyche

When a child is separated from its mother at birth, the result is what’s called the primal wound. The primal wound refers to the trauma experienced by the child upon losing its mother. Every single adoptee experiences the effects of this trauma at one point or another during their lives. “The severing of that connection in the original separation of the adopted child from the birth mother causes a primal or narcissistic wound, which affects the adoptee’s sense of self and often manifests in a sense of loss, basic mistrust, anxiety and depression, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and difficulties in relationships with significant others.” The bond between mother and child is fundamental and heavily ingrained into human instinct. Naturally, the disruption of this bond creates many issues due to what is lost in the separation. The adoption triad includes the adoptee, the biological parents, and the adoptive parents; they all feel the effects of adoption.

A consequence of adoption often seen in the adoptee is an inauthentic life or the adoption of a false self. This behavior stems from deep within the adoptee’s psyche. It is a defense mechanism to prevent further loss and rejection. It does not matter if the child is given to its adoptive parents immediately after birth, there is still a bond from the nine months in utero. A child is not born with an already established sense of self; so it is believed that their sense of self is contained within their mother initially entering this world. When the child loses its mother, it also loses its sense of self. The child grows up feeling empty, life a part of itself is missing. Well, a part of the child is missing… its mother.

Upon entering the world, a child knows nothing and no one other than its mother. The child felt the love of its mother during the nine months in utero. It is said that babies are able to recognize the sound of their mothers voice, and her face. The child loves its mother, and the mother is supposed to love her child. However, when they are separated, the child naturally then feels the deepest, most extreme form of rejection and loss. The grief of losing its mother is with the child their whole life. The child grows up feeling inadequate, abandoned, and alone. They do not remember the separation so the child wonders what is wrong with him/her. They come to the conclusion that since they were abandoned, there must be something amiss with them. When in fact, this is often not the case. Nonetheless, the child can’t help but wonder why its own mother would give him/her away. The child sees it’s peers with their birth mothers. They often times resemble their mothers, allowing them to know themselves in their mothers. Whereas, the adoptee has no recollection of what his/her mother looks like. They have no way of knowing where they got their hair, eye color, etc. This often leaves them feeling disconnected and isolated.

To prevent further rejection and loss, the adoptee often times has trouble attaching to their adoptive parents. They feel as though they are imposters, this mother is not my real mother. No matter if the birth mother actually abandoned her child or not, the child with experience it as abandonment. Consequently, the adoptee is conditioned to be weary of others. It was abandoned by its first mother, this mother could abandon him/her too. All adoptees experience a basic mistrust that creates many obstacles in the establishment of healthy, long term relationships. The adoptee has closed him/herself off to others due to the initial separation. Adoptees with often times push away the people who love them the most. They are scared to let someone in, for fear of being hurt as they were hurt in the most primal way.

Chen, Fu-jen. "Asian transnational adoption: subject and trauma in life narratives of Korean adoptees and Gish Jen's The Love Wife." ARIEL, vol. 42, no. 3-4, 2011, p. 163+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.
Homans, Margaret. "Adoption narratives, trauma, and origins." Narrative, vol. 14, no. 1, 2006, p. 4+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.