Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Open Letter to Nancy Verrier

Dear Nancy:

As you probably know, some of your strong supporters are very mad at me for contradicting the idea that adoptees suffer from a lasting emotional trauma that you have called the Primal Wound. I’m told by people who know you that you are a sensible and friendly person and a supportive, helpful therapist. I wonder whether you might be willing to answer some questions for me. They are more challenging questions than I suppose you often get, but I am asking them in a genuine spirit of inquiry after reading some of your work. I am curious about unconventional theories and have been working on a book that examines some of the ideas shared by such theories and the therapies that are associated with them, and that work is the source of some of my questions. In addition, I believe that better understanding of these issues could facilitate mutual understanding between the “pro-PW” and “anti” groups.

1. Why do you accept and use the idea of cellular consciousness or memory? I’m sure you know that conventional views attribute consciousness and memory to the functioning of cells of the nervous system and not to other types of cells. Are there aspects of memory that you feel are better explained by cellular memory than by the conventional perspective?


2. Do you think personality development can be explained in terms of natural, material events, or would you say that some non-material/spiritual factors are needed for an explanation?


3. It seems that different adoptees have different feelings about their adoptions. What do you think are the factors that lead them to have one opinion or another?


4. What are some examples of what you call biological mirroring, ways people look or behave that you say have special meaning for biologically-related children? What are your reasons for thinking they have special meaning?


5. You have been involved for some time with the organization APPPAH, which in turn has connections with primal therapy and other “primal” ideas. I assume that this connection
is why you chose the term Primal Wound. Do you share beliefs with Arthur Janov and earlier contributors like Frank Lake and Francis Mott? Do you consider their LSD and “breathwork” experiences to give an accurate depiction of the experiences of an unborn baby?

6. Do you recommend that adoptees use any of the “primal” or “rebirthing”therapies to help with distress that they consider a result of adoption? Would you say there are other treatments that are helpful?



I think the answers to some of these questions might help explain the very intense commitment of some adoptees to the Primal Wound concept. It’s possible that the attractiveness of this idea to its proponents may have to do with a broader set of beliefs, not just with the single idea-- that discussions of this issue are culture wars in miniature. If that’s the case, discussing the “real problem” might be the beginning of a way for well-intentioned people concerned about adoption to come together for good purposes rather than attacking and blaming each other.


I hope you will take the time to answer at least some of my questions, not necessarily all at once. I would be grateful for your help on this, and I believe readers of this blog would also appreciate it.

Yours sincerely.
Jean Mercer


[9/1/2011 Nancy Verrier has kindly responded that she will be answering these questions in the near future. ]



82 comments:

  1. Is this the position of ACT and your friend Monica Pignotti?

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  2. You mean, is it their position that rational discussion might lead to less antagonism? I would guess so, but you'll have to ask them.

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  3. What empirical evidence is there to prove that babies permanently removed from their mothers do not experience more anxiety (or a different type of anxiety) than those who remain with their mothers & that this period does not impact the development of the brain in some way? It is not unconventional to assume that an infant is aware of its mother, or that a child sees the mother as an extension of itself. Nor is it unconventional to assume that a baby is traumatized by a permanent separation... the inability to communicate trauma does not mean trauma did not occur. & for someone who claims to be a developmental psychologist, I would expect you to know the difference between attachment & bonding. Attaching to a caregiver at six months is not the same as bonding with that caregiver.

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  4. Actually, the assumptions you mention are unconventional as applied to very young infants, as you can see if you look at any recent developmental psychology textbook. Those ideas were around a good deal in psychoanalytic circles in the '40s and '50s, though.

    Now, this business about the difference between attachment and bonding: Attachment is a term that describes some of a CHILD's attitudes and behavior toward a familiar caregiver. Bonding is a term that describes some of an ADULT's attitudes and behavior toward a child. So, of course they're not the same.

    But something tells me that these are not the definitions you are using. Could you tell me what you mean when you say "bonding"?

    (By the way, Klaus and Kennell later said they regretted using the term "bonding" because so many people have been confused by it. )

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  5. For those less educated on the topic of psychology (developmental or otherwise), I believe you are doing a great disservice in these past few posts by dodging serious questions & making sweeping generalizations. You cannot dismiss all psychoanalytic theory because an American text book said so, just as you cannot claim these "assumptions" or theories are false without proof. What noted psychologists/neurologists devoted their research to the adoptee experience & share this supposedly "mainstream" view with you? & I will have to ask you again, What empirical evidence is there to prove that babies permanently removed from their mothers do not experience more anxiety (or a different type of anxiety) than those who remain with their mothers & that this period does not impact the development of the brain in some way? To dismiss this idea as something that was only thought in the 40's & 50's is dishonest at best.

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  6. This is a bit confusing, having everybody staying Anonymous. I'm guessing you're the same Anonymous as the last one.

    To respond to your points:

    1. I didn't even mention all psychoanalytic thinking, much less dismiss it. I said there was a certain view of infant mental life that was common in psychoanalytic circles in the '40s and '50s (i.e., before Bowlby's attachment work) and is uncommon in developmental science today. I stand by that statement and direct you to popular textbooks for confirmation.

    2. Those who share my viewpoint: Michael Rutter and Charles Zeanah, just for starters. Not that they ever heard of the PW, I don't suppose.

    3. It's not possible to prove that something doesn't exist or doesn't happen, although you can say that if there's another event that's mutually exclusive with the first one, that argues against the existence of the first one. However,your question reverses the customary burden of proof, which requires someone to show that their claim is true. The reversed burden of proof is a common feature of unconventional or "alternative" claims about both psychology and medicine. (I can't prove there's no "thetan" inside me, either.)

    Now, what about my question? What did you mean when you used the word "bonding"?

    Please note that I have not bandied terms like "dishonest". I'm sure you're not dishonest, although I think you're wrong. I'd appreciate having this discussion kept at a civil level.

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  7. No answer from Nancy yet? Not holding my breath.

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  8. I'll post as soon as I receive anything.

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  9. It appears Nancy Verrier is taking her time responding.

    While we are waiting, I thought this Amazon review of book promoting primal wound notions provides a viewpoint contrasting to some others posted on this blog:


    http://www.amazon.com/review/RWLZPLY28DV8P/ref=cm_cd_notf_reply?ie=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2MTNKL6SFJZGF&cdPage=1&cdThread=Tx1GTL82P22VRXU&cdShowEdit=MxPATAJFT76HV1#MxPATAJFT76HV1

    "Not only bad, but quite possibly harmful, August 16, 2006 By James J. Hutton

    "This review is from: Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew (Paperback)
    I am a 38 year old adoptee and adoptive parent. I was adopted as an infant, as was my own adopted daughter. As others have pointed out, this book is clearly both overly negative and overly dramatic. I would like to add that following the advice of the author could even be very harmful to your adopted child. In particular, I was taken aback by the author's suggestion that you should essentially tell your child that he or she must have unresolved grief issues and help him or her uncover them. That is just plain wrong. Please understand that it is entirely likely that your child, especially if he or she was adpoted as an infant, will never have any significant feelings of loss or grief. DO NOT CREATE THOSE FEELINGS OUT OF SOME MISGUIDED EFFORT TO HELP YOUR CHILD "UNCOVER" SUPPOSEDLY SUPPRESSED FEELINGS. In my own experience, I have always known that I was adopted and that I have been loved by my parents. I simply have no negative feelings regarding my own adoption. None. However, if my parents had read this book when I was a child and decided that they needed to tell me that I must have those feelings and we had to find them and focus on them, I undoubtedly would have needed years and years of therapy.

    "The advice in this book might have some helpful relevance to those who are adopted as older childen. However, for those adopted a infants, what you should do is tell them early and often that they are adopted and loved. Let them know that you are always available to talk with them about any feelings or questions they might have. If they have questions, answer them matter of factly. Do not burden them with negative feelings that they probably do not have and will never develop."

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    1. I was adopted at birth & 85% of this applies to me. Nancys point isn't to trouble kids & put thoughts in their head, it's to help the ones that are having trouble be understood. If the things in her book were understood when I was growing up, I might not have suffered so much. No one thought my problem was adoption. I was loved, my parents were there & would talk to me if I needed to, problem is when you're a confused adopted child & you don't realize you're confused, there's nothing to talk about. I believed I was just a detached/bad kid, all through school no one understood why I acted the way I did especially bc my adopted sister didn't act like me & everyone believed that as long as I was shown love & accepted I shouldn't have problems, besides how could I have loss if I never knew my mom right? Well I do have loss even with all he love I had. Logically, I don't feel like I have bad feelings about adoption, but it been expressed subconciously throughout my life w/relationships & actions. Nancy's not putting negative ideas, she's saying to be open to things to "help" the child. So to say her book is for older adoptees or that's its a bad influence is completely wrong. It may not have helped you, but it opened a door for me that has been shut my whole life.

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    2. I'm glad you found something helpful for your situation. I have never said that adoptees do not sometimes find their histories confusing and troubling. What I did say is that Nancy Verrier and her supporters are mistaken when they say that newborn or very young babies have already formed emotional attachments to their birth mothers and will be grieved by separation in ways that will affect their whole lives. When people believe mistakenly that this is the case, it becomes harder for them to understand feelings of distress and depression that may be present for quite different reasons, and they may despair of help when help is in fact available.

      If you don't feel "logically" as if you have bad feelings about adoption, can you tell me what it is that convinces you that you must have them "subconsciously"? Do you think that there might be other possible explanations for your relationships and actions?

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    3. I was just going to ask you the same question. If I didn't suffer some sort of loss, then why do I have such abandonment issues? There is no other answers & I've been searching for many years. Why could I not bond w/my family? I love them but they don't even know my issues bc I don't let them see that side of me. It wasn't until I read her book that a lot of my feelings were validated. The issues will be around my entire life unless I do something about them. I've only now begun to face them. With the help from her book to identify this stuff I can now work on it. Just given my experiences, I have learned how important a child's self esteem is. & that applies to all children. What resonated most w/me was that by no fault of my mom & dad that raised me, I suffered a lot & still am as I work through this. I think if them & the counselors had known more about what Nancys talks about, I would've received the correct counseling when I was younger. i

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    4. Everything we know about the timing and events of developing emotional attachment says that very young babies have not yet become attached to anyone, and that separation from their birth mothers does not cause the grief that we would see in separation of an older baby or toddler from a familiar caregiver. That's why I say that the Primal Wound idea is out of line with known facts of early development.

      I have no idea who you are, so it would be inappropriate for me to try to figure out why you've had the problems you mention-- but I would suggest that more than one factor is likely to be involved, just because this is how development most often works. One factor that MAY be involved is your basic temperament, the biological background of your personality. Family experiences that work well for a child of one temperament may not be ideal for a child with a different temperament. You might want to read one of the many books explaining temperament and see if you find it helpful.

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    5. Please explain what you mean by biological background of my personality? I have no biological information. Wouldn't my personality be formed through experiences growing up, since I knowing nothing but what I am exposed to? Keep in mind, my questions are hypothetical, I'm not looking for you to tell me about myself.

      I am curious as to who you, or anyone else is that has opinions on this topic. Are you adopted? What gives you this "understanding" of adoptees? Who does these studies on how an infant is affected? I'm interested in where you get your information because I would like to look into it.

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    6. You can probably get some information from your adoptive parents about how you responded to your experiences when they first got you. For example, did you easily get used to new events, or did it take you a while to "warm up" to new people and things? This is the kind of thing that is referred to as your temperament (biological or constitutional personality characteristics). Your personality is not formed just through your experiences, but through the combination and interaction of your temperament with your experiences, so children who had exactly the same experiences(if that was possible) would not necessarily "come out" exactly the same.

      No, I'm not adopted. I'm not sure why you care who the people are who make statements about child development-- a more important question by far is how they found out. If you want to know more about research in this area, I'd suggest you begin with any popular textbook on child development. There are good ones by Helen Bee and by Laura Berk.

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    7. The reason I ask if you're adopted is b/c I believe you can't truly understand our mind unless you are one of us or you've done extensive research with counseling adoptees. I have let to find a counselor that really gets it. I had yet to put my unknown feelngs into words until I read Nancy's book. How can you or anyone else comment on how adoptees feel if you haven't been one? 1/2 those people that commented negatively on her book on Amazon were adoptORS & the ones that were adoptees say they don't have issues & that is impossible. I've met a lot of adoptees in AA, they all had issues. I know adoptees out of AA & they all have issues on some level, some of them aren't as outright about it but I'd like to meet a single one that has a normal life and good healthy relationships. Did anyone read the comments from the people who thought her book was amazing, b/c it put words to how they felt? I didn't read that book & go "oh that must have been how I felt" I read that book & knew in my heart that was how I felt & again I didn't relate to all of it. The lady was able to help me see. I recommend this book to adoptors who have problem children. What Nancy is trying to get across is that, when there's a problem child that's been adopted, they need help or they will struggle their whole life. I'm curious how many adoptees are addicts b/c they don't know how to deal with how they feel & they use drugs & alcohol to escape. I think in a nutshell you need to know more about what you're talking about beyond what you've read. Tryin interviewing a few of us.

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    8. I didn't say I know how adoptees feel. What I said is that everything that's known about the development of attachment contradicts Verrier's idea of a Primal Wound. However, you seem to be convinced that you know how all adoptees feel, that it is impossible that they don't all "have issues". How can you know that unless you know them all very well?

      The point is that there is much more to be considered than how any single individual feels about his or her life. I've been trying to suggest some of the factors that need to be thought about. For example, what do you think about this "cellular consciousness" that Verrier mentions (and which she's never explained)?

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    9. I don't speak from a technical aspect, I speak from what's in my heart. I said I have known a range of adoptees & being one myself, I don't need to know them all very well nor do I think I know everything they think or feel. I have the same trauma as them, a common bond. If there is an adoptee that feels they're completely fine & have not a single issue, I would love to talk to them & learn more. Do you know how many of us believe we're fine & find out as adults that we have been affected by this even though we believe we haven't? Which is why I resonate with her book b/c logically I never believed that adoption was my problem, I don't care about who my mother was, she's not my mom. I know my mom loves me very much. But logic means nothing, this obviously goes deeper than what I think. Logically I know I'm loved & safe but there's still something there that causes me to feel the way I do & it didn't begin to make sense to me, until I read her book.

      I know a little about cellular consciousness but as far as the book is concerned, that didn't stick out to me. You know, take what you can relate and learn from & leave the rest. That's why I don't have to identify with every single thing she talks about in the book & the stuff I do identify with, has helped tremendously.

      So what do you think is the "real problem" you said in your letter to her if we discuss the real problem might be a way to come together. Has she responded to your letter? I have thought about emailing her myself just to to get an insight from someone who has worked w/adoptees since I can't find anyone that knows even a little about us.

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    10. The "technical aspect" is the only way to find out what might be true for many or all adoptees. You as an individual can only know what's in your own heart, not how others actually feel, no matter how much they tell you. The "technical aspect" looks at factors that are measurable, like how many adoptees receive psychiatric care, compared to the number of non-adoptees treated.

      No, Nancy Verrier has not responded, although when I first posted this, she said she would do so soon.

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    11. hello jean its mike or mik another anom.
      i know anom has not perfect language perhaps with the didactic terminology of logic versus feeling ...a misnomer of modernity just like sc called science versus spirituality in reality non mutually exclusive and actually not as fragmented as your revelatory stance seems to betray... the greeks and mid east philosophers never seperated those subjects as much as the hypapragmatic northern europeans and their cultural predisposition towards perfrctionism and organisation which btw cud b why we see such small empathy with us vuknerable people like adoptees and orphans but nevertheless its perhaps speaks volumes of why you dont like to hear how infants know whats happening to them on some level in the absence og that kind of so called absolute evidence mike bibeeno f

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    12. but i dont like people saying theyre gonna answer soon then dont theres too much of that bs in this society too to be fair

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    13. Why is it about what I like to hear, rather than what there is to hear? And I don't require or believe in "absolute evidence", but when all that's observable about infants says they don't know these things, don't you think something besides faith is needed to be convincing?

      Mistaken beliefs cause people to focus on the wrong causes and the wrong solutions for real problems-- that's my concern.

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    14. Jean Mercer, you strike me as an adoptive mother hell-bent on proving that her selfishness and sense of entitlement were justified. Am I right?

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    15. Hell-bent-- what a wonderful word! I have always wanted to be hell-bent on something. It sounds so dashing and adventurous.

      However, I am not a member of any adoption triad.

      I am "hell-bent" on showing that systematic evidence argues against the PW theory, an unsupported idea that has caused much distress.

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  10. I was adopted at birth, grew up in a family where I was loved & have dealt w/issues I never understood until I read Nancy's book at 33 yrs of age. When I read Primal Wound, so many misunderstood feelings were answered. I was literally reading about myself & how I felt my whole life, having never knew what this hollow/defective sense of self was. I just felt different but never believed it was from being adopted bc my mom loved me & I was adopted at birth. I thought how could I possibly be affected by that? My line was always "being adopted are just words, they don't really mean anything to me" ha yea right. I came from a home with an older nonbiological adopted sister. She was always compliant & I was rebellious, enough that as a teenager, not understanding myself or why I felt "bad", drew me to drugs & alcohol. My inability to understand my feelings as a child, left me w/low self esteem that I'm just now addressing. Had Nancy's view been known & understood, I may have been understood & been able to learn & grow through my feelings w/help as a child rather than it being labeled as "bad" or lazy or strong willed or a child w/issues that no one understood even though HELLO I was adopted. It baffles me that teachers or counselors never understood that I had a huge glaring issue. My sister doesn't believe adoption affected her & she didn't escape w/drugs & alcohol & appeared fairly normal, however, her "unknown issues" have surfaced in other ways. She may not seem destructive yet if u really look at her on an emotional level or really lack of emotional bc she doesn't tend to show it. That right there shows it. Although my mom loved me, I always felt different but never in the sense that it was from my adoption. I never thought adoption affected me until 6 yrs after I got sober & started looking at my codependency & tendency to get into & stay in relationships w/men who constantly recreated feelings of abandonment. I always ended up w/emotionally unavailable men who couldn't meet my needs bc they didn't understand their own, meanwhile I thought if I could love them how I want to be loved it would work & it never did bc I didn't understand my issues. Reading Nancys book, I discovered that I wasn't abnormal or "bad" I was completely normal given my life circumstances & that's been a huge relief, it hasn't fixed my self image but it's opened me to a sense of healing. I never withheld myself from boyfriends out of fear of rejection, rather I continuously tried to get them to accept me but I did put up a wall to my family that was there for me if id let them. I didn't want to bond w/my family, I wanted to bond w/others. So even though I'm still working on this, I believe Nancy's book has been the most eye opening book I've read & I didn't go into expecting much bc I've read all kinds of selfhelp books. She described me in that book, I couldn't relate to all of it, but it allowed me to understand myself a little bit more & to believe that I can overcome this trauma that I never felt I had until I started looking at my patterns & my childhood. -L. Morrison

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  11. When my daughter was born, it was by c-section and we were separated very soon after her birth, she for infant assessment in the nursery (and cleaning up, etc.) and me for the usual stitching up, post-surgery and post-partum nonsense.

    A little while later I was in my regular hospital room waiting for her to arrive. I heard a baby's cry coming down the hall. Up to this point I'd only heard my daughter squawk once, not a full cry (she was very calm when she was born, squawking only when they poked her foot), but I recognized her voice anyway.

    She in turn recognized mine. The nurse opened the door and began to wheel her in and before she was through the door, I called her name and she immediately stopped crying.

    I don't know what nonsense "researchers" are telling you about very young babies and what they do and do not expect, but I'm telling you as someone who has personally witnessed this, they know their mothers' voices and Mother is whom they expect to be with after the birth.

    Just because they don't all cry and become inconsolable when Mother disappears, changes nothing. Many babies shut down and *stop* crying when it becomes clear that crying will not help them. What is parsed as a "good baby" is often a baby who's given up on having their needs met.

    I don't know how valid all of Nancy Verrier's ideas are--but tabula rasa is bunk, and she's right to argue against it.

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    1. If I stop crying when I hear you say my name, does that mean I think you're my mother?

      I understand that you are convinced that your experiences-- and your interpretations of those experiences-- are more significant than any objective information. You are happy to go with your explanation of the baby's quieting without asking what factor other than your specific voice might have caused the change. There's not a thing I can do about your world-view except to point out to you and others like you that there is a different and more productive way to look at things.

      Two things, though:

      To say that recognition of and attachment to the mother don't exist at birth is not the same as claiming a tabula rasa, which no one has done for many years; it's a matter of being cautious about attributing to the baby characteristics of an older human being.

      C-section babies are not best described as "calm" when they don't cry. They've missed the long period of pressure on the head that stimulates stress hormones, and in addition they often have fluid and mucus in the throat that interferes with sound production and breathing too.

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  12. This initial remark is meaningless youre not a baby! Babies develop through attachment to the mother of course the baby would recognise her voice. This is a very arrogant reply and your theories are extraordinarily off in my opinion. No wonder nancy didint reply.

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    1. Another thoughtful and well-informed comment!

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  13. Hi different anon. I came across this by accident. As an adoptive parent I thoroughly agree with Jean Mercer. I now await to be shot down in flames!

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  14. The battle of the anons begins--

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  15. Can you please cite any refernces to your findings on infant bonding? Ive read plenty of contrary references (there are two sidews to every story) that support the infant-mother bond.
    Also what are your beliefs or findings on
    in-womb bonding?
    You cant deny there is basically a chemistry that occurs when a mother is with child. A symbiotic relationship, if you will. Mother and child become interdependent. The mother the sole lifeforce and constant companion,and studies have shown that infants recognize their mother's voice at birth.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-discover-childrens-cells-living-in-mothers-brain

    Ive also read that oxytocin is responsible for the mother-child bond.

    http://www.childup.com/blog/very-special-chemistry-behind-mother%e2%80%99s-instinct
    Its also been said that newborns can "smell" their own mothers.

    http://www.childup.com/blog/very-special-chemistry-behind-mother%e2%80%99s-instinct

    So to me, its a matter primarily of chemistry and essentially a "Primal"instinct that occurs between mother and child for survival alone. Humans are not genetically wired to be nutured by another "foreign" mother. They are genetically wired to be with there birth mother.
    Thats my two cents!
    Danielle

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  16. I'd be happy to do that, but first I need to know what you mean by "bonding". People use this word differently. I especially need to know whether you're referring to the mother's feelings about the baby or the baby's feelings about the mother.

    Also, could you explain what you mean by "genetic wiring"?

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    1. I guess the feelings between both. I understand its difficult to calculate an infants feelings. You can say attachment as my understanding of that would be a connection where there are no feelings involved.So I guess I meant to use the word attachment as i look at what I wrote.

      To me genetic wiring would be dna.
      Danielle

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  17. But do I understand-- you're saying that you are talking about some change in both mother and baby that does NOT involve feelings? Is that right? So do you mean that it's a change in behavior?

    Or do you mean that it's about the mother's feelings but not about the very young baby's feelings?

    Sorry, I'm not trying to be difficult, but I've come across so many different ways that people use these words. For myself, I'd use the word "bonding" to describe the mother's preoccupation and strong positive feelings for the young baby, and "attachment"to mean the strong feelings and behavior of the baby after about 8 months toward familiar people.

    As for DNA, do you mean you think different people who have different DNA patterns might experience bonding or attachment differently?

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    1. from the above it's clear to me that your preoccupation/agenda is to deny the immortal connection between mother and child only to supplant this with a well-intentioned alien abductor's snatching away of innocents, or to put it in your words 'the adopting of a child who will at eight months suddenly find this arbitrary person(/stranger/intruder) familiar'.

      what do you understand by the old adage 'blood is thicker than water'? might i suggest that this wisdom of our forefathers may figure somewhat in this matter, or were they ill-informed?

      as an adoptee i would really like to know why i've felt so fucked up until now, my present age being 45: is it my fault or the adoption's. am i a failure or a victim, because i'm undoubtedly one or t'other.

      it strikes me, although i have zero evidence, that to suggest there is not a peculiar connection between mother and baby, the severing of which would cause minimal damage to either party, as singularly purblind
      Barney Wheway

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    2. Hmm-- well, Barney, blood IS thicker than water. Hot chocolate is thicker than water too, right? I don't think adages are a lot of help in figuring out how human beings actually work-- but systematic research on child development can be useful, and that's what I try to stress on this blog.

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    3. ahhh, so they were ill-informed

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    4. I believe some of that is at work here.

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    5. The quote is actually "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." So it really means the opposite of what you're proclaiming.

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    6. Isn't the covenant in question something quite a bit different from the topic under discussion? Or maybe not-- what the heck covenant is this?

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    7. "Covenant" is referring to the relationships made by choice.

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    8. But doesn't it strike you that attachment occurs because of chance factors, not by conscious choice?

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    9. In early life, yes. Once you get older you make more choice in that.

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    10. Attachment, as it's ordinarily defined, does occur early in life.

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  18. Attachment to me = connection with a primary person who meets all your basic needs

    Bonding to me = a deep, primal emotional connection to a similar person

    I think that people with similar DNA share emotional and personality traits.
    Danielle

    Can you please cite your references? I'm interested to see the opposing viewpoint

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    1. I'd suggest that you read "Parent-infant Bonding" by Marshall Klauss and John Kennell. Klauss and Kennell started the use of the term "bonding" with a specific meaning, but were later sorry they did, because so much confusion resulted. This volume contains a series of papers that discuss differences between bonding and attachment. Another useful source would be the chapter by Samantha Wilson in "Supporting Development in Internationally Adopted Children", edited by Deborah Hwa-Froelich (2012; Brookes), which discusses the effects of early and later adoption as well as going into issues of attachment.

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  19. If similar DNA causes grief when mothers and children are separated, does that mean identical twins go through the same thing? Their DNA is a lot more similar than mothers and babies.

    Interestingly enough, there are studies of reared apart identical twins that you can look at for that sort of evidence.

    For the record, I am an identical twin and I think separating twins is a bad idea, but I don't think mystic cellular bonding is why.

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    1. I think what they mean is that people feel comfortable with those who have similar DNA, but less comfortable with those whose DNA is different, so they never feel quite comfortable when adopted.I am only trying to interpret, not stating my own belief!

      There are some interesting implications for consanguineous marriages and incest in general, it would seem... that is, if there really is such a phenomenon.

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  20. I would argue the anons by saying this: I don't believe it's the "primal wound" that causes the problems later in life, but rather the feeling of rejection. It's not that on some genetic level you miss your birth mom or have more in common with her, but rather the thought/fact that she so thoroughly rejected you, at birth, that hurts you and causes potential behavioral issues. Some adoptees handle that reject better. In addition, one anon claimed that her addictions were likely caused by her rejection; however, does she know why she was put up for adoption? Was her mother an addict? Was she exposed to tertogens prenatally?
    I know there is evidence that a newborn recognizes their mother's voice but that doesn't mean they are "attached" to that person; it simply means they recognize it because they've heard it before. There are too many cases of adoptees who go on to live normal lives with normal attachments to believe in the "primal wound." An interesting study would be to compare life outcomes between those who know they were adopted and those who don't. That could potentially shed some light on whether there is some broken bond from the birth mother vs being effected just by the knowledge that one was adopted.

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  21. Dear Participants of this discussion,
    I am yet another anonymous, but just as alive and breathing as you all. Some of you are experts in your own branches of psychology. As an adoptive mom,my humble request to all is that thinkers do not have to stick to one camp of thinking. Expand your consciousness to delve into the unconscious mind. Find your answers, find satisfaction and go on looking for answers to more questions that pop up. Those who are scientists cease to be scientists if they kill their spirit of enquiry.Don't discard explanations that you do not understand. Give different theories a chance to explain life in different ways to different people.
    I am not ashamed to say that I believe that the primal wound is real. I see its manifestation everyday in my home as I struggle to help my acting-out child. But I am willing to accommodate the thought that every adopted child is not carrying this wound. Please read Nancy Verrier's 'Primal Wound' and 'Coming Home to Self' again. She is not asking adoptive parents to manufacture a primal wound for their children at all. But if they see signs of it ,her books become a great source of solace and strength. The world needs compassion not competition to prove whose theories are right. Rationality and Intuition are two facets of the same conscious entity that we call the human being.
    So, Cheers to life and its mysteries!

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    1. Yes, cheers to life-- but my concern is that promulgation of the PW idea takes away from people's ability to engage fully in their lives as they are, and convinces them that depression and unpleasant moods result from an emotional burden that can never be lifted. This is the "one camp" that concerns me.Why not, instead of joining that camp, see a notional PW as a useful metaphor for some people, rather than a real phenomenon?

      But be that all as it may, I don't suppose I can convince people whose intuitions tell them that there is a PW. All I can do is to point out to the uncertain that such an idea is not congruent with other things we know about early development.

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    2. this adoption lark is a complex old issue. i'm an adoptee. i wonder if my inevitable sense of abandonment as a young infant has marked me for ostracism. that has undoubtedly always been my experience. or is it just me? do only other adoptees feel like that or does everyone really deep down feel like that: 'other'.
      i don't applaud my relinquishment/adoption, it was an unsatisfactory expedient. however i am convinced it has aided the attunement of my critical faculties, for what that's worth. as well, of course, as rendering my life chaotically disorientatatated
      Barney Wheway

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    3. how comes it i'm such a failure in my life? is it that i'm an adoptee or am i just using that as a puerile claim to victimhood. whether or not there is a primal wound, and there may well be for all i remember of it,i am convinced that those subjected to closed adoption have at least one thing in common; i imagine it to be rather debilitating: regardless of the 'good intentions' of parents(birth parents if you will, i won't) or adopters, the infant can only sense an abandonment. i have sensed this all my life and this sense is so hard-wired that i cannot shake it out of my being. it is purely academic or not as the case may be whether or not a PW caused this. i imagine this sense is an adoptee's peculiar qualification or branding although i can only speak for myself

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  22. I'm sorry to hear that you feel depressed and abandoned, and I can see how you want to find a cause for feelings that many other people have less intensely than you seem to. I would certainly think it's possible that "mysterious" closed adoption and perhaps concealment of information about your background could cause your feelings. But that's a different matter from having a "primal wound" just because of separation.

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  23. seriously though it is refreshing to hear a resistant argument to Verrier. as i said with me the jury's out as to whether there is a primal wound. if there is, then i would suggest that primal trauma, describing the experience of the separated new-born rather than what's done to it, would greater serve the 'interests of the chid'.i understand why adoptees, myself included, might be prone to unthinkingly jump on Verrier's bandwagon: they have largely been brought up to minimise 'adoption'as having any bearing on their experience. from the little i have read of adoptees own accounts they appear to be subjected to extreme disorientation. therefore upon reading of Verrier's P.W. they finally hear someone isolating a responsible co-ordinate which apparently has sent them out into he back of nowhere. no-one else has ever identified with them over this hitherto diminished factor but here is Verrier locating it as no less than life-threatening. understandably being finally offered this universal panacea for all their ills they will quite likely champion the idea. speaking for myself, acknowledgment and recognition of their extreme plight is what adoptees want as opposed to being brow-beaten into the submission of infinite gratitude for being forever severed from their'evil', supposedly neglectful kin.

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    1. Your jury may be out, but mine says that unless a hypothesis is congruent with established information about early development, or alternatively unless there is well-designed research evidence to support the idea, the jury says the hypothesis should be rejected.

      Whether adoptees should receive empathy rather than being pressed to be grateful for something they didn't ask for is an entirely different issue from whether there is a PW. People can talk constructively about what adoptees need without inventing a new and notional factor-- especially one that increases the anxiety of everyone in the adoption triad.

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  24. indeed, 'what adoptees need' is extraneous to the adoption. The 'adoption' was supposed to meet all their need. the fact remains, given the 'disfunction' of many adoptees, that in 'adoption's' very design, or else application, it was flawed. it could not meet the need for which it was championed (a remedy for infertility), particularly in the 60s. personally i suspect the real cause of the damage was not so much an unprovable 'PW', although that may have occurred. indeed i cite two causes: one being that adoption was implemented when blood relatives should have risen to their proper responsibility until such a time as the blood parents arrived at a position in which they were able to resume the nurture of their child; secondly, if it proved absolutely unavoidable to farm their child out to willing strangers, then there should have been a total ban on ANY secrecy whatsoever, 'honesty' undoubtedly being 'the best policy'. i agree that Verrier's arbitrary conjecture, no doubt designed to meet the need of the bewildered adoptee's clutching at straws,is at best an unsatisfactory diversion which whilst attempting to meet the need sadly fails to do so because of its inaccuracy; it may be a noble attempt but really is no more than a subterfuge. the real need, and there is a very real need, certainly in my experience, remains to be legitimately met. to an extent i take my hat off to Verrier for at least attempting to identify with the adoptee in giving optimal weight to his/her 'need', however i fear that, in failing to hit the mark, she has regrettably merely created another set of problems for the adoptee, albeit with the best of intentions, not to say genuine compassion. there seem to be an awful lot of misguided good intentions surrounding 'adoption' which, tragically, do no more than heighten the, already highly charged, anxiety. Verrier's notion may be no more than yet another expedient. she must present some concrete evidence. let her provide answers to your initial questions. you appear, honourably, to be labouring to draw our attention to the woeful inadequacy of mere conjecture and i support you in such a resistance of dogmatism.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Verrier did at one point indicate that she would answer questions when she had time, but this has yet to occur.

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  25. she is most probably too busy preaching to the converted, when, surely the real task is to confront any spearhead of resistance. my bugbear is that if adoption has disoriented adoptees then it is vital to identify to them exactly what it is about it that has done so; assuming, of course, there is an available cure-all. this is highly unlikely. as has been pointed out Verrier's P.W might provide a model or metaphor for disruption to an adoptee. However is there another identifiable hard and fast cause which is of 'real' substance? or are adoptees such as myself merely whining?

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  26. I am far from saying that anyone is whining. Whining on the one hand, and hard and fast causes on the other are not the only options.

    Personality development is usually shaped by the interaction of two major factors-- biological matters like genetic make-up, and individual experiences. People can't develop without genes, nor can genes develop in a vacuum, and although in a few cases the genes do most of the work and in a few others the environment does most, in the great majority of situations the two are working together.

    Since Freud's day, people thinking about how the environments affects development have focused on experiences in the earliest years of life, and of course those years do play critical roles in matters like language development. The PW approach also assumes that whatever happens must happen early. But there's no reason to think that's necessarily true overall-- it may simply be a myth that so much is determined in the first three years. If there's something in their experiences that causes later distress in adoptees, it could well occur during the school years or later, and could involve things like how the adoptive parents talk about the birth parents, or whether the adoptee knows any other adoptees (just some speculation here). Anyway,there's no reason to assume that there's a single cause that has affected every adoptee who feels distressed. There could be different causes for different people, and combinations of causes could be at work as they often are in other developmental processes.

    Another point that I've made before-- and which has caused adoptees to "yell at" me-- is that there is such a thing as post-adoption depression,just as there is post-partum depression. Depressed mothers may get off to quite a bad start with their children. People are just catching on to the idea that post-birth mood problems are a genuine mental illness that needs treatment, not just a display of selfishness by the mother. Still, very few know that maternal depression can follow adoption too, and again is not just a matter of a silly woman who thought she wanted a baby and now doesn't.

    When adoption has followed infertility, there may be even more impacts on the adoptive parents' views of themselves and others, and these can influence the relationship with the baby.

    I'm afraid it will not ever be possible to identify a "hard and fast" cause for adoptee troubles, especially because there are many adoptees who do not report this kind of distress, and when people do report it, it may arise at different times of life or in different circumstances-- e.g., when they have their own children. But it need not be essential to understand an exact cause in order to relieve people's psychological distress. Well-trained therapists can figure out how to approach these problems wherever they came from. (However,it's best to avoid practitioners who say they specialize in adoptees, or attachment disorders, or the PW,or whatever.)

    By the way, there are big cultural differences in people's beliefs about adoption. In the native Hawaiian culture, it's believed that the only important people for anyone are the ones who cared for him or her. Adoptees aren't expected to yearn for their birth parents or to be concerned about them. But do the adoptees feel distressed in the way you report? I don't know-- maybe someone else has studied this.

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  27. yes, I suppose ultimately what i'm trying to establish is whether adoptees, since they are more liable to resort to therapy, have peculiarly sustained psychological disruption from relinquishment to which 'normally' nurtured children are not subjected. to put it another way, is the chip on my shoulder derived from adoption or would I have it in any event?



    your final proposition is very interesting; do these Hawaiian adoptees indeed encounter distress in the face of a cultural norm which prioritises the carer regardless of blood? however in asking this question it occurs to me, that this scenario is far from peculiar to Hawaii. Surely the west has been privy to such prioritising which is seemingly the provocateur of the current backlash from adoptees of closed adoption.



    to what extent do you think secrecy traumatises the adoptee, if at all? my own feeling is that it has caused me immense unnecessary difficulties. I was told from dot that I was adopted but discussion was never initiated further by my adoptive parents. consequently there was this overriding awareness accompanied by intolerable silence; it was the living of an intense contradiction. for example they always knew my name but never told me that it had been replaced by the name they chose to give me. consequently I have only recently, from my own research, discovered the name my mother and father gave me. one might say, what's in a name, you're the same person? yes but it's not quite that simple and why should anyone have to endure such confusion apparently based on a whim?

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    1. My guess ("educated" I hope) is that the secrecy you mention is a critical factor in causing adoptees to feel distressed. The idea that other people know things but won't tell you gives an extraordinary sense of powerlessness and even inferiority.

      If I had my way, adoptive parents would not be permitted to change either the given name or the family name of children. It's absurd to say that it will be awkward if they don't have the same name as the rest of the family-- schools,and even mailmen, are perfectly accustomed to mothers who keep their own names, so why not a child who keeps his or hers? And there is really no excuse for changing the given name-- I understand that in the UK this is not allowed.

      I think that all these things you bring up show the complexity of adoption from the viewpoint of the adoptee, and underline the likelihood that many factors determine how someone feels as a consequence of adoption. That's one reason I have tried to argue strongly against the PW concept-- focusing on PW distracts people from the multiple factors at work (as well as contradicting what'a known about early development). That single-factor theory can lead to adoptive parents fretting about their child's PW while simultaneously withholding information that might help the child feel all right about what has happened.

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  28. hello Jean
    I've just returned to the unanswered questions you addressed to nancy verrier, lamenting that she appears not to have considered your enquiry sincere.

    I thought I might engage more particularly with your blog by responding to them myself, since I've no doubt you do probe sincerely.

    "2. Do you think personality development can be explained in terms of natural, material events, or would you say that some non-material/spiritual factors are needed for an explanation?"

    I am a little concerned about what appears to me to be your demand for 'scientific' evidence as the only decisive way of making progress in this area of discussion. personally I am extremely wary of any claimed objectivity. correct me if i'm mistaken but you appear to restrict your own observations to "natural, material events". this would explain your insistence earlier that only by 8 months is an infant sufficiently developed to identify with a primary carer, be that carer blood-related or otherwise. Perhaps it is the case that physically the child is not sufficiently developed to recognise its mother, say, within the womb, but what of this recently conceived person's soul and spirit which are internal to its body. to what extent are the spirit and soul of said person dependent upon bodily development for personal awareness. how might such an hypothetical intangible awareness be satisfactorily determined. and if its level cannot be determined should it therefore be dismissed as I propose you appear to suggest. although I have no proof, I am unable to reject an idea that the newly conceived infant within the womb is profoundly connected to its progenitors, both mother and father (not wishing to prefer one before another merely on the grounds of placental connection). personally I am unable to consciously remember such a connection but surely this does not negate its substance. moreover, if at birth due to relinquishment, that profound connection is severed surely the long-term impact of that severance upon this person is likely to be no less profound, although not 'scientifically' provable. surely one might designate that severance as the peculiar commencement of an inevitable tragedy remaining to be played out in the remainder of this new-born person's existence in the realm of time and mortality. surely we are more than mere flesh and blood? whilst I do not wish to camp with verrier on the notion of a single PW, I am prepared to accommodate such a notion as one factor within a scheme of traumas consequently to be played out in the life of the adoptee of which he/she becomes increasingly cognisant with maturation. this series might ultimately compel the adoptee, sooner or later, to seek union with those progenitors whose genes he shares, not merely on a physical level but also on a spiritual level which has been quashed for a life-time. such a yearning not being merely for his immediate parents but for his entire blood-lineage, as such, from which he may now sense acutely crippling alienation: in a word disorientation. from the profundity of these issues I query the capacity of 'scientific evidence'. I admit this is merely speculative but it rings true with my own consciousness. would you entertain conjecture such as this Jean? although inexplicable it may be no less 'real'. I do not wish to make room for verrier but I cannot regard humanity as unspiritual, from which I perceive the importance of the above.
    Barney

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  29. Dear Barney-- the thing is,you and I have different a priori assumptions. I believe (and this is of course a belief, not something that can be proved to the satisfaction of all) that all human characteristics and actions can potentially be explained in terms of natural,material events. I prefer a scientific approach,not because I fancy that it is entirely objective, but because it allows public communication of what is observed and cross-checking with other observers-- while not completely objective, its conclusions are based more nearly on objectivity than the conclusions of a single person can be.

    What I don't understand about your position is the way it mixes spiritual and material components. You refer to genes, but also to spiritual yearnings for a blood-lineage. Do you see these as connected with each other? Does one cause the other? Does one dominate the other? I don't see how this hybrid approach works.

    I certainly acknowledge that your personal experience is a very real thing, but beyond that,no, I can't entertain the idea that the events you hypothesize are "real" in any other sense.

    Perhaps you are familiar with the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH). They have views similar to yours and have been very supportive of Verrier. One of their leaders, David Chamberlain, holds that all babies remember their births and prenatal life. I must point out that many of their views are derived from the writings of people like Frank Lake and Stanislav Grof, who used LSD and other mind-altering methods and claimed that through the experiences of adult patients using LSD they could ascertain what unborn babies experience. I can't entertain any of these ideas, but perhaps you'd be interested in them.

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  30. "that all babies remember their births and prenatal life." perhaps a baby might remember these but i certainly cannot. I seem to have forgotten, which I suppose is possible. I can't say i'm too enamoured of the idea of tripping on LSD nevertheless since you make the suggestion I will look at their perspective.
    I can see why what I suggested would be implausible to you, after all it certainly is not at all empirical. I have a spirit and a soul as well as a body, as do you. the former are invisible the latter visible. hard evidence may be predicated surrounding the latter whereas the former I presume remains largely a mystery. I respect that you, as a scientist, must restrict your consideration to these physical material ideas. but I cannot discount the possibility of trauma to a new-born's soul and spirit even if, for the sake of argument, as you appear to posit, their 'body' is insufficiently developed at that stage to register trauma. it seems to me that your stance of only countenancing that which is physical can only arrive at what is, at best, incomplete; a person being much more than merely a body. Although I cannot accept Verrier's PW oversimplification, I fail to see how a person cannot be deeply/permanently affected by severance from its mother: perhaps you may disagree with my idea that by design a mother and father both conceive and consequently are to nurture the maturation of their progeny. surely the disruption of such a design can again at best be only counterproductive whilst at worst tragically flawed. I suppose an accurate although incomplete picture is more desirable than complete conjecture. however, still being incomplete it can be no more or less objective. I fear we are lumbered with untenable subjectivities and no closer to a solution for adoptees. people may wish to pursue 'adoption', to them I will offer this caveat: identity chaos will inevitably be heightened compared to that of a 'normal' upbringing; for this reason it has to be an absolute last resort and recognised by all concerned as fundamentally flawed or at least highly problematic, NOT 'NORMAL'. I repeat my adoptive parents were excellent, however solely the multiplying of parents from two to four will wreak havoc in a child's mind-set; a permanent ambivalence is orchestrated. Unless of course ambivalence is the reality , which it probably is, in which case adoptees are singularly privileged.

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    1. I don't say that a baby's body is not developed enough to register trauma-- I just say that babies do not behave as if they are distressed by separation from familiar people until at least 6 months of age, and my guess is that until that time their thinking and emotions have not developed in ways that make such distress possible. Babies also do not show fear until about the same time, and it's thought that this emotion has not developed until some months after birth.

      As to the soul and spirit, I honestly do not understand how they are differentiated. Is the spirit, as you use the term, a sort of generalized life force or "vital spark", and the soul a part of personality that pre-exists life and survives the death of the body?

      Isn't your view about the number of parents contingent on cultural ways? What about the child of a polygamous group in which there is one father, but more than one person "mothering" the children? What about the old kibbutz culture, in which children were brought up in a group, rarely saw their parents, and apparently became attached to their crib neighbors?

      From an evolutionary point of view, we might see the ability of human infants to attach to multiple caregivers, and of human parents to care for and about children they did not give birth to, as enormously valuable. Human beings, with their large heads and narrow pelvic outlets necessary for walking upright, have relatively dangerous births, and human babies have a long period of helplessness and vulnerability. Would our species have survived if we were not able to adopt and to be adopted successfully? I would guess-- possibly not.

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  31. "I don't say that a baby's body is not developed enough to register trauma-- I just say that babies do not behave as if they are distressed by separation from familiar people until at least 6 months of age, and my guess is that until that time their thinking and emotions have not developed in ways that make such distress possible. Babies also do not show fear until about the same time, and it's thought that this emotion has not developed until some months after birth."

    so, granted, a new-born baby severed from its mother WOULD register trauma, however it would not appear to be able to react to that prior trauma until some six months later. in so doing, at this later date, it would begin to manifest the damage already done prior to its being sufficiently developed to articulate a distressed response to its injury. so it WAS traumatised but could not indicate this, it must have been bottling it up: surely this inability to express a response would compound the trauma, in a process akin to fermentation, rather than predicate its absence? I suggest that this repressed state is compounded to the extent that when the child finally is able to commence expressing its grief over the initial trauma, it proceeds to do solely that, albeit perhaps unconsciously, well into old age and perhaps until death. effectively the child is crippled for life being sentenced to post-traumatic stress disorder which is seldom acknowledged/identified for what it is. if anything the fact(your position) that it was unable to express a response at the time of the trauma, that is, the very delay itself, exacerbates the original trauma in the extreme. I can only cite early photographs of myself up to about the age of three years in which I look consistently very glum, as though at a funeral; apparently I was overwhelmed with grief until later photos evidenced my having perfected a plastic smile to conceal the reality within.

    "As to the soul and spirit, I honestly do not understand how they are differentiated. Is the spirit, as you use the term, a sort of generalized life force or "vital spark", and the soul a part of personality that pre-exists life and survives the death of the body?"
    my understanding is that at conception a person possessed of body, soul and spirit comes into being; these three constitute the vehicle through which the person proceeds to express him/herself in this life , this same person in both soul and spirit surviving the death of the body. neither the person nor this vehicle of self-expression pre-existed its momentary conception at the fusion of the seed of its father with the egg of its mother.

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  32. " What about the child of a polygamous group in which there is one father, but more than one person "mothering" the children? What about the old kibbutz culture, in which children were brought up in a group, rarely saw their parents, and apparently became attached to their crib neighbors?"
    its a safe bet that the mothers of their own children preferred their own offspring to that of their rivals(Rachel and Leah for example). moreover in this arrangement the blood mother was not absent albeit the mothers of the distinct offspring, for the sake of general harmony, would probably have at least minimally co-operated in daily chores of child-rearing, but never as substitutes for one another whilst living. practically these progeny may have rarely seen their parents but not never, and most likely they would have at least known them being in no doubt of their identity.

    "From an evolutionary point of view". call me cynical, but, with regret from my point of view I see only devolution.

    " the ability of human infants to attach to multiple caregivers, and of human parents to care for and about children they did not give birth to, as enormously valuable" I would suggest that these are evidences of common decency, not so common today. moreover such selfless charity would not necessitate wholesale permanent legal transference of parentage but would have been offered freely as and when needed in aid of the perhaps temporarily over-burdened parents/mother.

    " human babies have a long period of helplessness and vulnerability" this is why they depend primarily upon those that conceive and give birth to them and why also the devotion and understanding of extended family proves so invaluable. this is never envisaged to be the responsibility or business of strangers.

    "Would our species have survived if we were not able to adopt and to be adopted successfully?" not only would it have survived but it would have evolved 'common' decency. the adoption which you appear to promote/defend, in my judgement, has been its singular societal downfall.

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    1. You've made a lot of comments here and I want to address them one at a time.

      1. As to whether the capacity of a newborn's body to register trauma means he or she is distressed at separation from the birth mother: whether or not trauma can be registered is irrelevant if the event is not experienced as trauma to begin with. As I pointed out, it is not until 6-8 months of age that babies show reactions of distress to separation or to the approach of strangers. You need to be careful about adultomorphic thinking, in which characteristics of adult feeling and thought are ascribed to infants and young children whose mental lives are very different from ours.

      2. In your own case, the facts seem to be that you were adopted, that you had little access to information about your background, and that you have been quite unhappy. I don't see how you deduce from this that you needed genetically-related people to care for you. Surely that's only one of a set of hypotheses that could attempt to pull together the facts-- and of course there may be many other relevant facts that you have not mentioned.

      3. Your point that helping a mother might be a far better approach than placing her child for adoption is a very good one. Regrettably, it clashes with the common American political position that it is morally repugnant to help people in trouble with measures like WIC or food stamps. In addition, there are many cases where the death of a parent, or serious physical or mental disability, means that adoption is the best of a poor set of alternatives. (Incidentally, where are all those baby-daddies who could be contributing to the care of their children?)

      4. I still don't understand about soul and spirit. What's the difference between them? And where do they come from? Do they come out of a spirit world to join the conceptus, or do these non-material entities emerge in some way from the material events of conception?

      5. About the polygamous and other groups, are you saying that to see your parents just once in a while makes it all right to be reared by others?

      6. By the way,most mammals will foster orphans under the right circumstances. They'll also eat their own young under the right (wrong) circumstances. Our mammalian heritage enables us humans too to care for stranger babies, or to attack our own, or to care for our own, or to attack strangers.

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    2. By the way, people used to think that the baby was influenced by the character of the wet nurse through some component of her milk, and also that the mother contributed nothing but a "nest" for the sperm to grow in. Again, belief systems help determine what people expect from adoption and fostering.

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  33. THANK YOU so much for highlighting the serious logical flaws in Verrier's theory of a "primal wound." As the mother of three children, two of them born via gestational surrogacy, I have been both disturbed and upset reading her views and also the angry and sadly idealistic comments of her believers. I am not a scientist but intuitively, I knew that her theories were suspect at best and probably sheer nonsense, and most likely created through her own need to repair her relationship with her adopted child.

    Throughout millennia, mothers have died in childbirth and someone else had to nurture those babies to adulthood. Are we to believe that the human psyche is so fragile that all these adoptees were deeply and irreparably damaged? Her theories also do not take into account the numerous non-adopted people who have been born into horrendous situations and who have suffered a much truer "primal wound" for having NOT been adopted into a better, more loving, more nurturing environment. Truly, there are worse things than being raised by parents who don't share your DNA. I should know, as I was one of those children who should have been relinquished for adoption, but wasn't, and had to wait 14 years before a family member could sue for custody of me. She won, thankfully, but not before much emotional damage had already been done to me during my formative years, and I can assure you that I had much more to contend with than some newborn grief over being separated from a familiar voice heard in utero.

    Nonetheless, reading comments from so many adoptees who believe in her and who are so vocal and angry about their adoption status had begun to cause me a lot of anxiety and depression. Were my precious, long-awaited and hard won children RUINED, simply because I chose to bring them into the world with the help of another woman who is now my close friend? I appreciate so much reading your balanced, compassionate yet sensible and logical, analysis of Verrier's "work." Everything you say confirms my own deeper beliefs about post birth separation, as well as my observations of my own children following their birth and during their infancy - and that is that there is no lasting and damaging impact of separation that occurs in the newborn period. One child in particular has always seem to calm better to my husband's voice and touch, and my husband certainly did not gestate either child!

    Many people are suffering losses of one kind or another - it's the business of living - and I worry that Verrier's extremely irresponsible book will cause incredible emotional damage to adoptees, adoptive parents, and now also to children of gestational surrogacy and their parents by planting seeds of grief that have no basis in reality. Furthermore, potential adoptive parents will now "walk away" rather than risk having an angry, primal-wounded adult child on their hands, leaving many infants and young children to languish in foster care or in the company of negligent and abusive birthmothers rather than be placed into adoptive homes that, while not always perfect, have at least a better chance of being loving and nurturing. Only a completely immature person not rooted in reality could believe that this is superior to adoption.

    There is another element to Verrier and her followers that is concerning, and that is the cult-like insistence that every adoptee simply MUST AGREE with her point of view, or else they are simply in denial. Strong-minded adoptees will ignore and move along, but I worry for the young, vulnerable, and impressionable who will now be seeking (and thus, creating) problems in their psyches that never existed.

    Again, thank you for illuminating these fallacies and also for your incredible patience in responding to angry commenters. I especially appreciate your ability to separate the business of adoptee grief (entirely valid and worthy of compassion) from the fallacious concept of a primal wound. B.

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    1. Thank you so much for this vivid and articulate statement. I believe your words will be of real help to others facing the same dilemmas you've had.

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    2. Anonymous, you are deluding yourself. That child prefers your husband because she/he knows that your are not the real mother. You don't sound, smell, or feel right and you never will. Burying your head in the sand rather than acknowledging the hard truth will cause even more damage. Shame on you for your self-serving willful ignorance.

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    3. MOF, your statement is not only incorrect but cruelly put. Anon did not say that the child "preferred" anyone, and your attack on her is completely unjustified. Indeed, it is internally inconsistent-- unless you assume some heavy-duty transgendering, the father is not what you call the "real mother" either. Is it your contention that adopted children hate all women who are not their birth mothers, but are able to care for men who are not their fathers? This would certainly come as a surprise to all the kindergarten teachers who have been addressed as "Mommy" by both adopted and nonadopted children! Also, your claim strongly implies that adoption should be restricted to gay male couples.

      If you comment again, please do so more politely if you want me to publish your remark.

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  34. Hi Jean, Im Tim Ford im an adoptee from the Uk , i also run survivors of separation. I have done a lot of work on myself over the years and often with the Primal wound as the only real valid description of what the effects of our adoptions were like. I gone down conventional routes and i spent a long time with the techniques of Tibetan Buddhism and probably i cant answer a few of the more academic questions that involve Western science but im open to sharing my experience if it will help adoptee's. You ask a lot of questions of the spiritual need etc and although i may be confused by the use of spirituality in regards of the basis of the terminology i feel i have a good basis of understanding primal wound trauma through spirituality. I dont know your work Jean so i answered this with an open mind based on your original questions but im open to full dicussion although maybe not publicaly Tim
    Ps im shocked by some comments i just came across on here and maybe those that have not been adopted should really not comment on this work as Events in Australia now legally validate these adoptions as crimes with devestational consequences. Im not against valid thought just have a thought for one million abducted through these soon to be named illegal adopption practices and have some respect for the only work we have as adoptees. We have lived it and Nancy gets it and no one else does and thats what makes the primal wound so special, whether this comes from a greater spiritual source, ask yourself, your own breakfast this morning as well as everything else came from the same greater spiritual source if you cared to take the time to notice as " Martin Luther King " once pointed out. So after readint the last comment im not sure is this is an anti adoptee site or you genuinelly want to understand. I myself try to understand the mind that thinks a baby can be taken from a mother without lifelong damage occuring, It makes no sense to me as a Buddhist i realise science if often nother more than the need for a group of people to get together and search for anythiny that if commonly agreed can change the nature o what people believe and is often nothing at all to do with reality but more about the insecurities and spiritual inadequities of those searching for answers to validate there own fears and this may come into all of our lives whichever side of the fence we choose to sit, If we were truly spiritual there would be no urge to a debate like this as we would be comfortable with the way we see things. If we truly believe in science likewise there would be no need to validate our fears amnd again no need for a debate and really i would like to know the real question that is being presented here and what is it about adoption trauma that is raising all these questions and why ?

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    1. I don't really follow you, Tim. Do you mean, why am I bothering to engage in this discussion? The answer is simple-- as I've stated before, I believe these mistaken beliefs about attachment cause a good deal of unnecessary unhappiness. The beliefs are not shared by all cultures, and where they are not shared, there is no expectation that adopted people should inherently be less content than non-adopted people.

      You might be interested in another belief
      system that predicts difficulty for the adopted-- the Pentecostal tenet that adoption attracts demons! I don't see a great difference between that and the PW, except that the Pentecostals believe they can cast out the demons and fix the problems.

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  35. I am supportive of your efforts toward rational, non-antagonistic discussion of these issues. I think part of the extreme antagonism is partly caused by the failure on both sides to recognize individual differences and that what applies to some adoptees, does not apply to all. It would be nice if a big study/survey were done to find out what % of adoptees adopted at birth had major issues with the adoption and what % did not. I don't think that survey has been done yet. My own anecdotal experience (both personally & professionally) indicates more than half adoptees have many of the problems outlines in The Primal Wound."

    Ms. Mercer, I want to point out the following in response to your statement, "Everything we know about the timing and events of developing emotional attachment says that very young babies have not yet become attached to anyone, and that separation from their birth mothers does not cause the grief that we would see in separation of an older baby or toddler from a familiar caregiver." Everything we currently know about emotional attachment of babies is theoretical, not proven scientific fact. It was long believed that infants felt no physical pain (despite their tears). This has long been disproven. Mammals in the wild follow their moms as soon as they can move independently (some stand up and walk immediately after birth, and follow mom). This indicates a natural process of immediate attachment to the mom who bore you, regardless of whether or not we see this as "emotional." We also have long believed that only humans are capable of true emotion, love and compassion. There is so much evidence to the contrary that I hope this theory has been debunked by now.

    My point is, just because something is taught in schools about "normal childhood development" based on unproven theories, does not make it a proven fact. Human life is extremely complex and full of individual differences. Many people are traumatized for life from sexual abuse as children, while others are not upset by it (according to their own reporting). There are many many kinds of traumas that cause PTSD in many people, while many others walk away apparently unharmed. That is why the DSM requires symptoms to make a PTSD diagnosis, not just the fact of having been through a trauma (that is traumatic to many others). Thus, it is entirely plausible (and in my experience, more than likely), that many people are affected by separation from birth mom in exactly the ways described by Nancy Verrier, while others are not at all. The whole argument seems to stem from the shared belief that what affects half the population in a certain way, must affect everyone that way. Observation of human life proves otherwise.

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  36. I am supportive of your efforts toward rational, non-antagonistic discussion of these issues. I think part of the extreme antagonism is partly caused by the failure on both sides to recognize individual differences and that what applies to some adoptees, does not apply to all. It would be nice if a big study/survey were done to find out what % of adoptees adopted at birth had major issues with the adoption and what % did not. I don't think that survey has been done yet. My own anecdotal experience (both personally & professionally) indicates more than half adoptees have many of the problems outlines in The Primal Wound."

    Ms. Mercer, I want to point out the following in response to your statement, "Everything we know about the timing and events of developing emotional attachment says that very young babies have not yet become attached to anyone, and that separation from their birth mothers does not cause the grief that we would see in separation of an older baby or toddler from a familiar caregiver." Everything we currently know about emotional attachment of babies is theoretical, not proven scientific fact. It was long believed that infants felt no physical pain (despite their tears). This has long been disproven. Mammals in the wild follow their moms as soon as they can move independently (some stand up and walk immediately after birth, and follow mom). This indicates a natural process of immediate attachment to the mom who bore you, regardless of whether or not we see this as "emotional." We also have long believed that only humans are capable of true emotion, love and compassion. There is so much evidence to the contrary that I hope this theory has been debunked by now.

    My point is, just because something is taught in schools about "normal childhood development" based on unproven theories, does not make it a proven fact. Human life is extremely complex and full of individual differences. Many people are traumatized for life from sexual abuse as children, while others are not upset by it (according to their own reporting). There are many many kinds of traumas that cause PTSD in many people, while many others walk away apparently unharmed. That is why the DSM requires symptoms to make a PTSD diagnosis, not just the fact of having been through a trauma (that is traumatic to many others). Thus, it is entirely plausible (and in my experience, more than likely), that many people are affected by separation from birth mom in exactly the ways described by Nancy Verrier, while others are not at all. The whole argument seems to stem from the shared belief that what affects half the population in a certain way, must affect everyone that way. Observation of human life proves otherwise.

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    1. Your point about individual differences is well-taken, certainly. The comparison of human emotional functioning and behavior to that of various animals is less so-- following occurs in some animals and birds and not in others, definitely not in humans, so arguing from this analogy is not helpful. You probably know that John Bowlby originally argued that human attachment was like imprinting, but he dropped this idea along with some others.

      No one would deny that there is a range of ages at which attachment behavior becomes evident, from perhaps 6 months until 18 months, but infants in the first month have not been shown to respond to separation from their mothers in ways that are characteristic of older babies. If you have evidence that they do-- other than what you feel you can "walk back" from older adoptees-- you should publish it.

      There have been many studies of outcomes for early- and late-adopted children. One is:
      Sharma, A., McGue, M., & Benson, P.(1998). The psychological adjustment of United States adoptive adolescents and their non-adopted siblings. Child Development, Vol. 69, pp. 791-802.

      This study notes that adopted and non-adopted adolescents may differ in their strengths and weaknesses, but that adopted individuals do better than others in matters like prosocial behavior.

      When you blame early attachment issues for the unhappiness of some adopted people, you forget a whole list of other possible causes of problems-- genetic characteristics like those of the parents who could not care for the child, depression in the adoptive mother, social pressures to regard the adopted child as fragile, and so on. Only by ignoring those potential explanations, and by claiming attachment at a developmental period when no evidence suggests that it exists, can you support the Verrier view.

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  37. reply to my comment above was sent to wrong email, despite attempt to fix it (which duplicated it instead). I am writing this now just to see if I have fixed the problem to reroute where I want it to go.

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    1. I have no idea how this works-- hope you do--

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