Thursday, February 19, 2009

The End of Fantasy?

I've been reading through B.J. Lifton's Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience. (It's back in print and in a new edition for those who might be interested.) As is often the case when I read books about the experiences of adoptees, much in the book speaks to me.

Early on in the book (p. 20), she discusses the difficulty many adoptees report in understanding where they came from. Since there are no birth stories (your mother almost didn't make it the hospital; you used to kick whenever your Dad would speak, etc.), adoptees often don't really think of themselves as having been born. They came from a hospital, or a social agency, or wherever.

For many adoptees, apparently, this leads to fantasizing about their origins. They may take on a mythical story as their origin: "[Adoptees] live in a mythical rather than a real past. There are no limits. Their fantasies could very well be true. As Florence Clothier warned her colleagues: 'Bear in mind that when we are asked to deal with problems occurring in a child who has been adopted, he may be living out his fantasy of a hero's or a revolutionary's birth.'" (p. 29)

I was one of those adoptees. I always thought that maybe I was an alien. Or some being of mythical origin, masquerading as a human. I always had trouble believing I was born in a mundane way and then just given up. I always thought there must be more to it than that.

Indeed, I think one of the reasons I may have resisted searching for my (natural) family for so long is the fear that I would become mundane as a result.

Where I am now, though, I don't know. I feel more whole than I ever did before reunion. I feel more connected to the human race. But I still don't feel fully connected. The fantasies have not been completely eliminated. Maybe that isn't a problem. But it causes some cognitive dissonance to know my origins (more fully than I ever have before) and still have the mythical hero fantasy hanging about in my skull.

I wonder if the fantasy will ever go away? And the flip side of that is my wonder whether I will ever feel fully connected, fully present in the world?

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