Every time I hear an adoptee share their story on-line or even in person, there is a quick rebound of Adoptive Parents (APs), Hopeful Adoptive Parents (HAPs) and others who aren’t even in the adoption triad responding with #NotAll.
Of course, I’ve seen it hundreds of times when other people who are generally disenfranchised speak up about their experience too.
Whenever I see this response I’m upset. I’m upset because the person telling their story is entitled to feel their story – to be in it and because when your knee-jerk response is to tell them (or me) “not all fill in the blank do that/think that/say that,” you are telling us that you are more concerned with you than with learning about the experience and feelings being shared.
We are a knee-jerk nation — quick to judge and quick to cut people off who are speaking things that are not in alignment with our world view. We often couch this in the belief that we’re just helping.
I’m guilty of this myself. A few weeks ago my half-sister called me and started telling me about the crap going down at her job. I worked in the same industry for many years and instead of just listening to her, I immediately went into my knee-jerk mode of giving advice from my personal experience.
Lucky for me she’s not shy about stating her needs and her response was, “Stop trying to fix me! Just listen.” (I’m still in awe of that simple request and am doing my best to channel my sister when people talk over me!)
It’s awesome to talk about love and light and sending visions of sugarplums to heal the ills of the world, but it’s harder to show up and do the loving thing which is to listen,
even if, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Adoptees need to share their stories. Many of us have spent our lives trying to make other people feel comfortable with our existence. Even people like me who were raised with unbelievably loving families still feel the pings of not fitting in and worrying that at any time we could be banished or sent away from everything that is familiar and safe. (Our logic says it happened before, it can happen again!)
The need to make you comfortable and my fear of not being truly loved has existed at various stages throughout my life and for me and many adoptees, we don’t start understanding the depth of this feeling until we are well ensconced in adulthood.
The freedom to talk about what I feel or felt, even if it goes against my grown-up, polite and people-pleasing self is an important part of my healing.
Sometimes what I say comes out in a child-like way – and it’s painful. I throw emotionally triggered phrases in as a 10-year-old might and that’s the only way I know how to get out what needs to be said. There are no appropriate words in my adult lexicon for these feelings because I’m digging up stuff that’s been buried for decades.
When I speak about my experience, with individuals or groups of people that I’ve encountered, I’m telling you my story. I’m not implicating you – or EVERYONE in my story. I am telling you my story because I feel safe with you and I trust that you’re listening. When you respond with “Not all…” I feel that you are negating my experience and telling me that it’s not valid. I’m also hearing you say that my knowledge is inferior and my life experience is flawed because I don’t know that not all people are that way. That is the best way to get a typical childish response – treating me like a child!
Please, when talking with a friend, colleague or even a stranger let them own their experience. Don’t try to belittle it by telling them that the majority of people aren’t that way. I assure you, they know.