His Mother Had to Give Him up for Adoption as a Baby
I was on a video call with my friend Dan when we decided to talk about a longing that I had noticed in him. Earlier, in a post on Facebook, he had asked his friends if they would honestly reveal what they could see. I had described what I imagined was longing, longing for his mother.
Dan was born in Korea, adopted by new parents who didn’t look, smell, or feel like the ones his infant-self knew, and raised in a completely foreign environment to the one his nervous system was primally accustomed to. As an adult, he has been on a quest to know his roots and to find his biological mother, all of this to nurture his inner-child.
While some social services exist today for single mothers to raise their children in Korea, they are still ostracized and financially disabled by society so severely that giving children up for adoption is an understandable though heartbreaking choice. Dan doesn’t know for sure if his biological mother was single, but he thinks it’s highly likely, and suspects that the pressures on single mothers would have been even greater when he was a baby.
This label “longing” had resonated with Dan on Facebook and still resonated when we spoke on the video call. I supported him in noticing the actual visceral experience that the label pointed to. When he reported to me the aching pain he felt in his chest, I could also feel it in my own chest. It was not as simple as just longing however; it turned out to be also grief and loss and rage. “I want to push it away,” he told me.
This is the part that is hurt, wounded, abandoned, “and you want to push it away?” I asked. This is the child part that seemed to have been rejected before, and now there is an acting-out (or rather an acting-in) of that apparent abandonment. “What if the child part never stops hurting?” I asked, hoping to contrast the idea of never getting rid of the pain with also never getting rid of the child.
As Dan welcomed the discomfort of the past traumas, and the innocent, child-like life energy trapped within them, I intuitively reflected, “This is the source of all of your power and it’s trapped away in the core of these wounds. As you welcome in the pain, you also welcome in the power.”
Then he began to feel tightness in his throat. Something else was coming up into consciousness to be met with kindness; another ancient aspect of the self was needing to be heard. “My body has started to shake,” he told me.
“Let’s welcome that too,” I said, trusting that his body was delivering the exact medicine that was needed, while also thinking of Peter Levine’s work on Somatic Experiencing. Like a gazelle after being chased by a lion, the human animal body, unshackled from the constraints of should, is able to execute its automatic healing and integration program on its own.
“This is pre-verbal” he told me as he started a round of coughing.
By the time we ended our conversation, it was clear that Dan had been holding onto unpleasant sensations by pushing them down and away, deferring their eventual integration by ignoring them. Holding onto these sensations was a way for him to hold onto his biological mother. This was all he had ever known of her: loss and longing and rage. Where the fuck is she? Regardless of her story, regardless of the easy-to-take but completely ineffective path of having conscious compassion and forgiveness for her, the unconscious rage continued to cry-out to be finally held and parented.
For me, there is no judgement of this rage; there is nothing wrong with it. A baby was torn, by life circumstances, from the arms of its mother. That baby felt fear and then longing and finally rage. That tiny baby felt that way for a minute, then an hour, then a day, a week, a year. And now here he is, in his thirties, that inner-child still waiting for his mother to return, still holding on to that visceral memory. Maybe one day, if I hold on tight enough, she will come back. Meanwhile, life goes on.
After writing this article, I shared it with Dan for comment. That started a process of refinement and revision in which I learned even more about his culture and his story. He helped me to craft this article to be a more accurate reflection of his experience and to make it as respectful to his biological mother and adoptive parents as possible. I learned a lot about him in this process and it moved me deeply; at times when I was talking with him, as Dan pointed out to me, I was crying.