I'm a gifted adult survivor of child abuse by my adopted parents, who left me with chronic depression, PTSD, and a touch of autism for good measure. Here I examine the fragments of my past. It's enlightening but not pleasant. You've been warned.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

A Light

I tried meditating again the other night.  For a few moments, instead of the usual pain, numbness, sadness, and/or despair; I felt calm.  It didn't last, but it was there for a short while.  That hasn't happened in a long time.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Babies and Bridal Bouquets: The Issue of Trust in Closed Adoptions

 One of the things I can't wrap my mind around about closed adoptions such as my own is how could you just throw a baby out to a random couple that you never get to meet and have any trust, any expectation at all, that the baby would be treated well?

How could you be that trusting?

What evidence did you have to support such a trust?

Yeah, there was a "home study" but that was a joke. My parents paid the study team to say good things about them, and they got their money's worth. The actual evidence in the house at that time (and there was actual evidence that could have been used against them) was discounted and the money was pocketed.

Granted, because I'm an adoptee I have severe trust issues but -- I don't get it.  I know girls were encouraged to be much more trusting in the 1950s - 1960s but really, there's less consideration shown towards who would end up with their baby than would be shown by someone purchasing a car.

Good grief, newborn babies aren't bridal bouquets. They're a lot more fragile and a lot more important -- in theory.  You can't just toss a baby backwards over your head and trust that one of a giggling horde of girls is going to catch it and take good care of it.  At least you shouldn't.

When I asked this question online, the answer I got back was that these young mothers were isolated from their communities into "maternity homes", stripped of their names and identities, and intimidated daily until they signed the papers.

There's a term for that process.  It's called "brainwashing".  Certainly the stories told by former maternity home inmates in The Girls Who Went Away and The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative matches Singer's description of the sort of brainwashing from Cults in Our Midst:

  • Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.
    • Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.
  • Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.
    • Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.
  • Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.
    • This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.
    • The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
    • Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.
    • Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.
    • As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world are diminished. (ordinary view of reality is destabilized)
    • As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.
    • This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.
  • Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity.
    • the target's old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.
    • Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.
  • The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.
    • Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.
    • The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.
    • Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group.
    • The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.
    • Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.
  • Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.
    • The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.
    • Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.
    • The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.
    • Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors.
It is deeply ironic that a population which was watching The Manchurian Candidate and arguing over whether such things could really by done  to "our boys" in foreign countries were perfectly willing -- even grateful -- to have them done to "our girls" at home.

The main criticism of "brainwashing" is that the effects are short-term; however in this case it only had to last until the woman signed the relinquishment papers.

Then again, I suppose if the young women hadn't been kept ignorant and trained to be overly trusting they would have insisted on birth control.  I can only conclude that for all the overt fuss made over them white Boomer girls were raised like mushrooms -- kept in the dark and fed on garbage.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Geography of Pain

Different aspects of my life reverberate in different parts of my body.  Pain in my shoulders and upper arm muscles emanates from my now-deceased abusive adoptive mother, which still act up whenever I think about my childhood.  My arms are twinging -- Hi Mom!

But when I think about my adoption, the place I feel it is at the front and base of my neck, right on the windpipe.  It's as if someone is choking me, or trying to keep me from speaking.  I'm feeling a lot of that lately.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Traipsing Through Tar Pits

Been quiet lately.  Not that I haven't had things to say, there's an impressive stack of half-written posts in my "Drafts" folder about various things.  But I ran out of steam and into despair.  Stopped being agitated and started being overwhelmed.  Then just stopped.

My adoption paperwork has always knocked the wind out of my sails.  Just having a piece in front of me is enough to fold me up like a puppet whose strings have been cut.  All desire, energy, curiosity, anger, passion is gone, leaving behind a lethargic numbness.  Behind that numbness lies more pain than I can bear at this point.  Moving is like walking through tar, like I've been walking through tar for uncountable years and lack the strength to move another step.

With everything else stalled I tried reaching out to that pain the other day.  I know I've got to feel it in order to get through it.  I've got to let the beast clawing up my insides have it's say, but it isn't talking it's screaming.

It seemed to me that I was sitting Shiva, but I couldn't say for whom or what.

It wasn't long before I flinched.  Kinda like standing in front of a blast furnace door with no protective gear on.  That's a good way to get burned, and I did.

Didn't want to deal with anything after that for a while.  Eventually tried reaching out to it again just to see if it would be that bad a second time, but the "blast shields " were locked down so tight I couldn't even find the door.

Still, I got another form filled out.

Hope it gets easier with practice.