As a counselor, I’ve seen over the years some difficult stories related to adopted children. One I vividly remember was that of a family who adopted a infant boy, and then a couple of years later adopted an infant girl. They thought they had a complete family. They did a good job of raising both, but when the son grew up, he kept getting into trouble and was in and out of jail. In the process, he became a Satan worshipper. In contrast, the daughter excelled in school, went to a Christian University, and loved and served the Lord. The mom and I spent a number of sessions trying to figure out what made the difference. We couldn’t’ come up with anything that might have had to do with their family structure.
It was about that time that I encountered the concept that saw the experience of being adopted as “the primal wound.” What do we mean by that? Let me illustrate. The emotional connection that lays the groundwork for our becoming healthy adults begins while we are in the womb. During that time we are literally connected to our mother through the umbilical cord. The fetus feels the mother’s emotions, tastes her food, and hears her voice clearly.
When we enter into this world, it isn’t a very safe place for a tiny newborn, so our first task in life is to reconnect with the mother we knew while we were in the womb. But if the mother is going to give up her infant for adoption, the child never hears that mother’s voice again. He or she has to accommodate to a new mother, whose voice isn’t familiar. The primal wound is inflicted as the infant is abandoned by the birth mother. It is a major wound, in part because the abandonment occurs when the infant doesn’t have words to express what he or she is feeling.
It’s interesting that in a private adoption, many adoptive parents feel it is important to meet with the birth mother prior to the birth of the child. Part of the rationale for this is that the fetus can also hear the voice of the adoptive parents, so the sense of abandonment by the birth mother isn’t such a primal wound.
Add to this the different genetic pool that the adopted child comes form and you can see the basis of potential issues later on. And when a child is adopted as a toddler, or even older, the task seems even greater. I always say to someone thinking of adoption that they need to see it as a ministry and calling. There’s extra work to be done by the adoptive parents to spend the time and effort to overcome the issues associated with the primal wound, and the larger issues of attachment in the older child..
The wound in the adopted child is often described as an attachment disorder. There’s often an anxious attachment, for as the child grows, he or she is constantly on the alert for any potential and new abandonment. All of this is outside their conscious zone, and words don’t make much of a difference. It just takes a lot of holding in the early years, and lots of consistent love over the growing up years.
Question: What do you think about the concept of the primal wound?