In a previous article entitled, Adopted: What’s That Like?, we touched on the topic of adoption fog. We’ve received a robust response regarding this term, so we thought it would be helpful to dive more deeply into it with a dedicated article.
What is adoption fog? It is a mostly subconscious state of denial which helps insulate the adoptee from the trauma of being separated from their mother. Those early reactions to the trauma can (and often do) significantly shape the course of the adoptee’s life.
Adoption Fog is a huge thing for adoptees. Why? Because the trauma of being separated from our mothers; something which was experienced as abandonment, is an incredibly difficult thing to turn around and face.
Those who are in the fog, generally have no idea what it is or that they are in it at all. It’s somewhat similar to those in the movie who are plugged into the Matrix. It may not be completely real, but it is safe. And that is the function of the fog; to keep us safe.
What was it like for me to be in the fog? It was great! I have some quirks and things that I brushed off as “that’s the way I am“, or “it’s part of my personality“. Adoption was just an event in my past; it was something that happened, but had no connection or influence on me now. How could it? I was a new born baby. I don’t remember any of it.
In hindsight, there were clues. I spent my whole adult life searching for my birth parents. If adoption hadn’t affected me, why was I so driven to find them? You only search if something is missing…
Those people who are out of the fog may not know the ‘official’ term, but they are discovering how deep the rabbit hole goes, and the source of many of their own quirks and personality traits. Some adoptees just out of the fog are discovering for the first time that they even have issues! This can be very surprising and confronting for a great many who experience it. The only way I can adequately describe my own ejection from the fog is to call it a ‘slap in the face’.
Believe me, it was an ejection. There was no gradual realisation for me; it was like being shot out of a cannon.
There are a wide variety of ways that adoptees can be ejected from the fog. The birth of a child is a common one, reunion is another. My own ejection was connected to my reunion. I had recently returned from my trip home to meet and spend time with my maternal family, and started reading to help me make sense of that overwhelming experience. I was reading a book by author and fellow adoptee, Betty Jean Lifton, and was devastated to discover her describing my quirks and personality traits as issues common to many adoptees.
It turns out that adoption has shaped my life in ways I had never suspected or even imagined. The fog had kept me safe from the knowledge of just how my infant brain had reacted to and protected itself from the experience of being abandoned.
Adoptees learn to deal with their own abandonment in many different ways, but there are definitely many themes that a great many of us share.
Is it really correct to describe the process of adoption as abandonment? It’s true; it’s far more complicated than that. We can describe and rationalise it however we like as adults, but that is how we experienced it as children. It is how we experienced losing our parents that directly informs how we reacted to it and what sort of defence mechanisms our infant brains began to build as a result. Our conscious minds, it seems, had very little to do with it; particularly in the case of those adopted at or near birth. It comes from a place far more primal than our conscious minds, and that is why Nancy Verrier calls it the primal wound.
How primal are we talking here? None other than the daughter of Sigmund Freud was able to articulate it in this way:
Image credit: QuoteFancy.
Adoption is about loss. The fog was created by our infant minds to protect us from a devastating loss. It is there, locked firmly in place until we are ejected by events or internal triggers. We are then forced to finally face what being adopted means; making it so very personal, so very primal.
The path of those who chose to face their adoption is a hard one, and no one can judge those who choose to stay in the fog. They may not be ready; they may never be ready.
Can you blame them?