Friday, March 4, 2016

Well at least.....

Recently I was talking with someone about adoption and the different types of adoptees- adoptee-lite (step-parent adoptee like me), LDA or late discovery adoptee (like me) and of course adoptees who have always known they were adopted.

Anyway, we were having this discussion and I shared about someone I know who found out quite late in life that he was adopted. I felt that what was done to him was wrong. I understand what kind of upheaval that can create in a person's life. When hearing about the adoptee's situation this person's first reaction was to jump to the conclusion that the adoptee was just playing the "poor me" card. Apparently he just needed to choose a more positive outlook on life- look at the bright side- at least he didn't have major medical issues that were compounded by a hidden genetic history. At least he had adoptive parents..... at least.... at least......

I said that I thought this attitude was very dismissive of what the adoptee had been through. I expected more compassion from someone who knows me and knows what adoption does to people. The response was to actually say that he refused to give compassion when a positive outlook could be chosen. It was a refusal to put himself in another person's shoes. It was a refusal to even try to understand the feelings of another.

I'm sorry but that's not being positive or having an optimistic outlook, that's being condescending and dismissive of another person's story and the impact that story has on a life. I understand the importance of having a positive outlook. Choosing to use the pain of my own experience in a positive way is what's gotten me through the last 36 years of living with adoption. I get that! What I don't get are the assumptions- assuming the adoptee is using the experience to play "poor me", assuming the adoptee doesn't have a positive outlook, assuming that the adoptee is wallowing. He doesn't know the adoptee, has never had any contact with him whatsoever but was willing to assume that the adoptee just hadn't chosen the correct attitude.

This is no different than people assuming that first mothers and adoptees are all bitter and angry and should just get over themselves and quit talking about it. If you dare talk about the negative side of adoption you're just wallowing in misery and must have a terrible life. If we would just choose to be positive then of course the industry will fall in line and fix itself. Sure it will.

Isn't it possible to be positive and compassionate at the same time???

Does choosing to have a positive outlook mean that you're no longer allowed to express pain and anger? When you've been hurt, traumatized, had an awful thing happen to you, you will experience sadness and pain. What happens to those feeling then? They get bottled up, shoved down deep to eat away at you from the inside and who knows what kind of havoc that's causing your body. Have you every heard someone say they need a good cry? A cry can be good for you. It's releasing, it's cathartic, you feel better afterwards. What you don't need in that moment is someone telling you that you just need an attitude adjustment. The more positive feelings will happen after you let go of the crap that's built up.

Yes, we can choose to be positive. We can choose to be grateful for what we have and that's hugely important!! AND it's important to recognize the hurt that someone might be going through and empathize with them. Don't dismiss them as just having a poor attitude. Do some people wallow and spend their lives in misery when they can make another choice? Yes. Just don't assume that everyone who expresses pain is doing that.

Brene' Brown said "Rarely does an empathic response begin with- at least" Watch this short video from Brown about empathy and sympathy.

The discussion I had left me feeling sad and disappointed that this person didn't even want to understand what I was trying to say about empathy. I not only felt my friend was being dismissed but I was also dismissed as not having the proper attitude. Living with adoption is not a one time event. It's effects can be felt every single day of your life. You can choose to be positive in how you deal with it day to day and be a happy, productive member of society and there will still be days when it gets you down. Those are the days when a little understanding can get you through.

I think I'm coming to the conclusion that fear is at the bottom of this. People don't want to stand in another's shoes and empathize because that means feeling something painful themselves. It's much easier to wave it away and just say they need to be positive. What they don't realize though is what a huge, POSITIVE impact genuine empathy has for a person who is in pain.

1 comment:

  1. There are so many who refuse to even think about things that make them uncomfortable.