From Brene Brown’s I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t):

Her writing is in black. I’m going to comment as it goes along {in red}. Showing how shame and fear are part and parcel of even a so-called “good” adoption experience.

“Shame is all about fear.  As I wrote in the introduction, we are biologically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively wired for connection. For many, there is also a deep need for spiritual connection. Shame is about the fear of disconnection. {which is already inherent in adoption. We’ve been disconnected from *everything* we had. It’s a fact.} When we are experiencing shame, we are steeped in the fear of being ridiculed, diminished or seen as flawed. {these stereotypes are still very common in adoption, even today. We don’t have the rights of “normal people” (e.g. our own birth certificates or to know who our parents are).  We are the “illegitimate.” The mistakes. The ones who should just stop talking and be grateful that someone “rescued us” from abortion or poverty.}  We are afraid that we’ve exposed or revealed a part of us that jeopardizes our connection and our worthiness or acceptance. {Just being adopted reveals this.  The people pleasing adoptees, of which I am a card-carrying member, also turn this into an every day, every moment cross to bear. “I’ve got to be good, got to be perfect, no mistakes allowed…or I’m going to die.” Add into this any sort of poor parenting on the adoptive parent’s part, *especially* one that increases shame, punishes for mistakes, withdraws love in any way, and you have a very difficult time, indeed.}

This fear is fueled by the sense that we are somehow trapped in our shame. {We are/were trapped! We were babies and children! There was nothing we could do at that age to escape it. And we are still adopted even into our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…you cannot “escape” being adopted and all that entails.}  This fear of being trapped relates to the way in which the shame web is baited with an impossible ratio of  expectations and options. First, we have an unreasonable amount of expectations put upon us, many of which are not even attainable or realistic. {We are expected to be “as if born to.” Impossible. We are supposed to fill a role of the child they really wanted (their own flesh and blood). Impossible. And this one may be self imposed, but no less real to us…We need to be perfect or we’ll be sent away. Impossible. We were children for **** sake!}   Second, we have a very limited number of options in terms of how we can meet those expectations.  (…then she starts talking about body image….) {We had NO options. Our job was impossible. We were children! We couldn’t just “leave” or have an informed discussion on our plight.  Most of us couldn’t even figure out why we felt like crap all the time.  “I must just be doing this adoptee thing wrong. It must be me.”  It’s not like body image, where *maybe* if you ate or exercised a certain way there was some slim chance you could look like the models you see.  There was NO WAY to be their real kid. There was NO WAY to make your first parents keep you. There was NO WAY to be perfect. None.  We had NO options.}

As you can see in the web illustration [in the book], partners, family, friends, and self are all drawn closest to the center of the web. We most fear disconnection from the people closest to us. {As I said above, this is inherent in being adopted. It is what adoption is about! And as kids and even adults we now cling to the new family we’ve been given, good or bad, already steeped in shame.}  In other words, shame is the most powerful when we enforce the expectation ourselves, or when it’s enforced by those closest to us…” {Natch.}

She then goes on to say how if we were raised in a family that highly valued the unattainable expectation (her example was a body type), we might continue to impose that expectation on ourselves even when we have others in our life who think we are going overboard. Then that brings up the problem of trying to please two opposing groups at once…impossible. Crazymaking. Well, of course we were raised in a family that highly valued the unattainable expectation – we were adopted! They wanted us adopted because they wanted us.

“When it comes to the outer layers of the web, we may feel shamed by doctors, colleagues, or fellow group members. And beyond those groups, there are even larger, more insidious systemic issues that we have to confront. {like society at large that demands we be thankful for this hell. Like the multi-billion dollar adoption industry that goes to great lengths to keep us in our place as quiet, happy adoptees. *gag*}


This was just one tiny part of her book. I’m going to stop here, because I think I will have a lot more to say. Too much for one blog post! 🙂




It's lovely to have you here. Please keep comments respectful of the adoptees who read here. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

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