The Adopted Child from the Inside Out


Go see Disney’s Inside Out and THEN if you want a window into the mind of an adopted child….specifically a traumatized adopted child…OR if you want a way to talk to your children about what an adopted child may be thinking/feeling – then read this:

Imagine the first emotion being born in your soul is Sadness rather than Joy. The first memories – the core memories – are, from that point on, colored by Sadness – the sadness of abandonment/rejection. Your personality islands are not Family Island, Friendship Island, Honesty Island, Goofball Island or Hockey Island…Instead they are Orphanage Island in place of Family Island, Lonely/Abuse Island instead of Friendship Island, Survival Island (where fantasy, the unknown and lying all collide) instead of Goofball Island, and Space Island (where the mind just blanks out into no man’s land) instead of Hockey (or any other hobby) Island.

All of these unique and traumatic personality islands are what make you YOU and Sadness, as already mentioned, has colored all your core memories. All of this pains you so terribly you try to purge Sadness- because you just can’t take it anymore – and give the controls over to Fear, Anger and Disgust (which is more aptly named Shame in orphan world).

The Train of Thought circles those Personality Islands all day long.

Then along comes a family who recognizes your Sadness – not because they really know you – but because they understand your circumstances can only be described as sad. They probably don’t see the Anger and Shame yet…though they may see the Fear. All they see is the sad circumstance and they feel compelled to change the circumstance for you. Rarely do they think past that.

Each member of this adoptive family is generally operated by Joy. Compared to your life – their core memories are mostly colored by Joy…or at least an adult perspective that has come to know Joy. And Joy is what controls their pursuit of you. They joyfully embrace you and joyfully bring you into their home.

But then, their Joy collides with your Anger, Fear and Shame and they just want you to feel Joy….but they don’t want to give up their own Joy. And you want them to know your Sadness but Fear, Anger and Shame do NOT want your family to know about your Sadness. Letting them know your Sadness means you might actually be known and you’re too scared to be known because you don’t think they will want you once they know you.

So the warfare begins. Joy wants to get rid of Shame, Anger and Fear. And Sadness wants to know her family’s Joy. And everyone wants to hold on to the emotion controlling them because giving up control is SCARY. And who in their right mind gives up Joy to embrace Sadness? And who in their right mind gives up Sadness when its all they’ve ever known?

One day – the Joy driven family is almost ready to give up. They can’t find their Joy anymore and they have a choice – they can give control over to their own Anger, Fear and Digust/Shame (and they will – often) or they can engage the Sadness – give up their own Joy (which they know is not for forever – but it sure feels like it might be) to really feel and know the Sadness of you – the adopted child.

But Sadness is heavy…and heavily guarded. So warfare ignites over and over again in the pursuit of unity/healing.

After all, you are deeply affected by the simplest of questions from friends like, “Where are you from?” – which doesn’t mean much at all to a bio-kid but to you it means – you’re not one of us or you don’t look like your family – which triggers your Sadness and puts more Shame, Fear and Anger in control.

And you are deeply affected by the simplest statements like, “That’s not your mom,” or “You must be adopted.” – And this is the season of your life when you just want to fit in – and so Sadness colors the memory/answers and Shame, Anger and Fear ramp up. And you feel so misunderstood – and you are – over and over again.

And your Train of Thoughts continue around Orphanage Island even though you have a Family Island because new pathways to Family Island can’t be built overnight and Family Island isn’t put together in a pretty way like you fantasized back on Survival Island.

And your Train of Thoughts continue around Lonely/Abuse Island, Hunger island, Space island….. because its all you’ve ever known and the new pathways aren’t there yet…and if they are there, there are too many walls/obstacles in the way to see them.

But one day your adopted parents figure out a way to draw out of you a sad core memory and they listen and they pray and a wall comes tumbling down and sadness pours out like a blue ocean and your adopted family floats in the vast, deep blue with you. And you look up from your doggy paddling panic to see that Sadness has actually linked you up to a new pathway….Bonding Railroad…and Family Island may still seem scary…but its looking a little more enticing and you kind of see a way there.

And ALL of this has to happen OVER and OVER and OVER again….Sadness unlocked so a bonding can link your heart to a new pathway…to new islands – Family Island, Friendship Island, Thriving Island, Comfort Island…..

And by God’s grace a whole new world will be born over time and the original islands and Sadness will slowly but surely move into the forgotten zone….though, most of the memories will never be completely forgotten and can be pulled back up all too easily.

But this birthing of a new world – it costed something. A family had to be willing to let go of their own Joy…to take on Sadness – to carry it, swim in it, listen to it, know it, put hope into it….because that adopted family is the only Jesus you know for now. And you – you had to ditch Survival Island….where your imaginary friends have loved you the way you want and your fantasies have comforted you and your own skin is the only safe place you’ve known. You had to be brave when your new family gashed a hole in your lifeline of sadness – you had to let it go -let it ooze, or gush or flood on out. And it was and will continue to be exhausting because this process gets hijacked by your new family’s own issues/sin and by your own Fear wanting control so fiercely OVER AND OVER again. And sometimes old walls are going to rise back up and you’ll have to start all over again. Two steps forward, three steps back.

For the new world to form – light had to break through the miles of deep ocean so you could walk in the light with your new family and discover life is much more colorful than blue Sadness…so much more….life abundant.

This is the constant cycle of the adopted child and adoptive family. There is almost always a deeper component to discipline, answering questions, family life…even basic needs like eating – than a bio-child or never-traumatized child/family will experience.

So love on an adoptive family today. Help them swim in the ocean of Sadness that is the key to their child’s healing. Don’t advise them unless you’ve been there. Just listen. Carry the sadness with them. That is enough. Because if they start feeling lonely in the middle of that sadness they will SINK and hope is lost for the entire family.

And teach your children how words and probing questions can trigger different emotions in children from unique or difficult backgrounds and cause the Train of Thought to circle back around old Personality Islands that took so long to go black in the forgotten zone.

“For the Joy set before Him (Jesus), He endured the cross.”….Joy was before Him…but He embraced the crushing sadness on our behalf to obtain it for us! So may we live in the same way!

Written by Cindy Foote. Reposted with permission.

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