'Adoptees search in the mirror for a glimpse of their mother's eyes, their father's nose, a grandparent's lips and some clue to who they are and what they might become.' - B.J. Lifton.
In April, I facilitated a workshop on Constructing Identity After Adoption for Jigsaw Queensland's Forced Adoption Support Service (FASS). The workshop focussed on using art (writing, painting, sketching, multi-media etc) to explore adoption experiences and piece together new narratives.
During the workshop, participants worked on building foundations on which to explore their own stories, such as; creating adoption timelines, using free-writing to unlock closed doors, starting points in adoption literature, the neuroscience of adoption, self-soothing techniques and recognising the effects adoption has on adoptees. Most importantly, we identified that although we had no control over the events that led to our adoption, we have all the control over how we write our stories now.
It isn't your imagination...it is challenging to understand and find the words to articulate how you feel about adoption. It is challenging because of the way the brain reacts to protect us after a pre-verbal trauma, because trauma is characteristically silent and because adoption is a disenfranchised grief. Unlike other trauma, pre-verbal trauma doesn't allow us a pre-traumatic self to work back to, so we must forge a new, authentic identity.
What is important to remember, is that while It is challenging, it is not impossible to break that silence and construct our own identities. Healing is possible and indeed probable if we are willing to do some work.
Many thanks to FASS' Andrea Lynch and Jane Sliwka and most especially to the participants for attending with open hearts and minds and making it an uplifting and incredible experience for us all.
Participants comments about the workshop:
"I felt understood, I felt I belonged, and there has been a lot of discovery."
"I feel less alone and my experience felt validated. I feel like I belong."
"I valued the unification of others in a shared awareness through professional science, techniques, creativeness and Jo's wonderful story for empowerment."
"I appreciated the kindness and the willingness of the participants to listen and share their stories."
"I liked being able to come together to listen to other adopted people's shared stories, being guided to think about important issues that have affected us and perhaps transform into, or closer to, our authentic selves."