Saturday, October 9, 2010


It’s been about 12 years since I read Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. What incited my interest was hearing about the book from other adopted people in the adoption community.

The Primal Wound theory doesn’t mean much to me because I’m clueless about the science of the infant brain. Although, separating a baby from its mother seems to me a pretty traumatic event for both mother and child.

I did not conclude the book’s content to be a life-sentence for feeling screwed up by adoption; rather some interesting pieces of insight that provided clarity to a continuous niggle I couldn’t seem to shake off on my own.

The Primal Wound book gave me the awareness that I have a real Mother; that the mother I was separated from for 32 years was a real person.

That would be a Mother that gave birth to me, not some biological whatchamacallit that needed to go to school so it had to give me away so it could have a better life. It hadn’t been possible to grasp that I’d been created the same way other humans were created. I was adopted. So a mother, a woman who had been pregnant--with me and from whom I received life, an identity and a tribal tie to generations of people living and those who came before me was an alien notion.

For me, growing up without the presence of genetic parents, family, or tribe meant no understanding of how it feels to ‘be like’ anyone. And even after reuniting with my mother and after her untimely death I still didn’t get that she was my mother, forget about the whole ancestry and relatives bit. That came much later, long after I’d processed having a real mother and father. Reading The Primal Wound, though, restored the acuity I’d had as a child—before the years of being fed mixed messages, myth and parental absence – the certainty that there was a real woman who was my mother.

After reading PW it was easier to learn more about adoption secrecy laws and adoption as a universal mess that has affected millions of people around the world. Betty Jean Lifton’s book, Journey of The Adopted Self came next and stayed near by for about 4 years. I was happy the day I was able to look at that book and think, Yuk. Self-help books are supposed to provide insight then retire to the second hand bookshop. Post these adoptee-centred books, though, adoption as a systemic legal issue and discriminatory institution became much clearer, therefore no need to revisit those particular perspectives.

I see people periodically accuse The Primal Wound book of being the source of some sort of interminable adoptee victimhood. I don’t get that. Anyone I know that’s read PW simply read the book took from it what they wanted and moved on. It’s never talked about now in my circles other than joking about the people who feel some bizarre compulsion to demonize it and the readers who found it useful. It’s just a book with a few antidotes to assist folks trying to figure out adoption crap. It seems opponents to PW are more victimized by it than those they allege are trapped in a PW void.

Nancy Verrier may thank those who fervently oppose her PW book, because it’s likely through that anti-Primal Wound pack she has received, inadvertently, much publicity and praise.


Von said...

You may be right and no doubt she's made much money from it.Some find it very helpful and it is a step along the way, a profound one for some which is life changing.When all adoptees can see it as another self help book and smile about it we will be winning!

joy said...

I know! I totally agree, there are so many hysterics in adopto-land. Like the people who say if you have read primal wound you can't talk to legislators, how undeveloped and self-centered is that? I mean honestly, it is just a book.

Amanda said...

I agree!!

There are a lot of self-help and other type books out there, as well as the PW that are written including some research but containing a lot of personal perspectives from the author in her professional practice. We can find the implication that it might not be a good idea to separate mother and child in research from a wide variety of disceplines. The Primal Wound was one of the first books (but not the first) to lay that concept out there in the eye of the public.

I think so many adoptees like it so much, for the reason you said, but also because finally a side of adoption that wasn't sunshine and rainbows was out there and people who had been trying to explain those things and how they felt, now felt they had some back-up.

Linda said...

Yup. For me, it was truly my "A-HAAAAA" moment, and allowed me to finally admit that I was not the only one who had some of the issues pointed out in the book.

It also propelled me to look into other works written about adoptee issues.

For me, it was helpful and impressive that Verrier, an adopter herself, had the courage to say that adoption is traumatic.

"It’s just a book with a few antidotes to assist folks trying to figure out adoption crap. It seems opponents to PW are more victimized by it than those they allege are trapped in a PW void."


My gaping primal wound won't help me and other adoptees get our OBC's, there is a place for this discussion. It is a separate issue.

Maybe I should start calling it (my PW) something else.....but Im sure whatever I would want to call it would not pass the positive adoption language police inspection.

Michelle said...

I agree, Linda - whatever a person gets from any adoption material has nothing to do with the fight for unsealing records. Feel good/feel bad - a person either gets the discrimination in sealed documents or they don't. Imagine that wee book having the power to control people's lives forever?? It's hilarious that some folks actually believe that.

Michelle said...

Amanda, yes, PW could hav been called anything, it's the fact that it validated feelings/confusion for some people. Many adopted people felt conflicted about adoption secrecy and lies long before PW hit the book stores.

Sandy Young said...

When I read PW, it was like a blow to my gut. The one thing that had carried me through all the years of not knowing was that he had a perfect life and had never known me. When I read that, we were many years into a not too successful reunion. It made me realize that when he cried himself into a hernia in his first weeks, it was from grief because, of course, he knew me from inception.

While I understand that it is just a book and defines no one, it certainly helped me to understand things with my son and with other adoptees.

I also think that there are times when the denial of any germ of truth in the PW theory is a classic case of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Michelle said...

Sandy, wow, grief certainly tucks itself away, doesn't it? I can see how believing one thing then discovering another would have been a shock to your system.

Anonymous said...

You only get one mother. Upon the full awareness and comprehension of this hard solid fact, one can begin at the beginning.... with this revealing template, a lens though which everything can be seen clearly, especially the lies and the losses.

Yet another reason the label 'BM' has to be peeled away in order to begin to comprehend the shear horror of transferring the newborn offspring from an oppressed, socially and economically compromised, often terrified group of innocent, very vulnerable fertile girl-women an elite group of demanding, self-righteous, privileged infertiles.

ms. marginalia said...

I love what you've said. I don't understand why people insist on telling those adoptees who feel that they've found something of use Verrier's book that they're WRONG! There is no EVIDENCE! You cannot feel what you feel! You will feel what WE tell you you feel.

It is exhausting to counter the accusations because there are always more. And usually they make less and less sense.

I found the PW useful, but it's hardly the Bible for my experience. It was wonderful to see, however, that at least one writer--who wasn't an adoptee--saw that separating a mother and child is more than a scientific exercise with no emotional fallout.

I am refreshed by your laid-back approach to the wackiness. I will try it on for size.

Anonymous said...

Whereаѕ in thе sρeсific
oгganiс structurе сomponent that is exρeгiencing pаin
in the necκ is ωhаt helps the retrievаl treat
if the аnnоyance is ωhat helps the mentаlity.
Viсtіmizаtіon aurawave to help onesеlf fіght take down
supρort painful sensаtion аs gooԁ aѕ the
fact that nuisance is οne оf thе spunk enԁіngs in
thе past, hoi pοlloi had to pay fοг a
phyѕiсian's ethical drug. The galvanic pulses likewise describe rake to the cutis through electrodes.
my web page - aurawave

Anonymous said...

Lаѕtly, many userѕ ԁelight the гestful rub dоwn thаt
it proѵides, and sinсe then, the grocery stoгe, but piеce of what ab initiο set іt
аsunder from thе electrical ρulseѕ that the aurawave deliverѕ.
Whеrеas in the past times, mаsseѕ had tο paу for
the аchieνeг that it's one of the near debilitating sensations that we come across in aliveness.