The Path Taken Away – Adoption, Ancestry and the Shadow Self

By Sue Harding

The Fulcrum, Issue 46 Winter/Spring 2009

One evening I was sitting with a friend in a café while she perused her new books on numerology. We laughed as she read out her ‘findings’ based on the mathematics of her name. She tried different combinations, with and without her middle name, just to see what the outcomes would be. I then did mine. It didn’t seem to fit. My friend suggested trying my original birth (or pre-adoption) name. Strangely, the personality I read felt like someone I  almost knew. This person had a familiar feel to them, like a shadow self. A nearly me. Suddenly I felt very unformed, unaccomplished and far from having reached my potential.  Rather than feeling a shadow of this other self, I felt the shadow was more potent and  authentic than the self which I had developed: a recognition of qualities in my awareness which were not actualised. This was years before I discovered craniosacral therapy and it was a moment which was to resonate with a treatment I received some years later where the practitioner felt as if there was an undeveloped version of me, a latent self, suspended in  cellular form. A little like an undeveloped photograph.

…a latent self suspended in cellular form.

Whether the numerology of one’s name makes any difference to one’s life I don’t know. The  exercise served more to highlight the question as to whether one’s choices and achievements would be significantly different if one had stayed with the birth mother. This is  more than a ‘what if’. Much more. It opens up an area where sense-of-self is a void for  adoptees – the part of identity based on access to and contact with blood lineage and ancestry. It is a question about how much the attitudes and beliefs of one’s bloodline remain
in one’s DNA or energy field. A question about genetic memory and whether or not severance from bloodline and subsequent placement with non-biological parents makes it harder to  access or align one’s natural preferences, habits and tendencies. Adoptees need to be able  to know and understand their nature and who they are, not just hear a debate as to whether  or not nature triumphs over nurture. For adoptees the question is, ‘What is natural to me?’ And I have no doubt that many adoptees achieve authentic actualisation within their adoptive families, just as some in their birth families do not.

What has CST got to do with all this? A craniosacral therapist will ask about family medical  history. Many adoptees do not have access to this factual information, and many illnesses  can be linked to beliefs which are ‘handed down’ through the generations. With CST, as with  other energetic healing therapies, ancestry is accessible if the system deems it appropriate  and is ready for healing or resolution. For the adoptee the separation, or severance as I will  call it here, is a cut not just from the mother and all she represents, but from the ancestry of the families the child comes from. A severance from two family histories, two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews etc (just as the birth mother relinquishes part of the next generation of her family). It is also a severance from two families’ ways of doing things which must, for better or for worse, have been established for reasons based on their histories and temperaments. Granted it may also be severance from  a nightmare; but if genes are the vehicle for ancestry then the vision may not change merely because the host family has. Perhaps access to ancestry is the equivalent of the chemicals  needed to develop the photograph; the catalyst needed to make its qualities more visible and potent.

All this means that an adopted person navigates a changed path with a different compass  provided (hopefully) by the adoptive parents. But they may also retain an inner inherited compass which may be at odds with the new one. The inner compass or ancestral habits  may override the new taught ways of being and cause chaos and misunderstanding. The fact that there is no one in the family with whom to identify the behaviour – ‘That’s just like  Uncle Bert!’ a reaction which both explains and accepts the behaviour, however annoying – highlights the alien status of the child. In my experience, this ‘not of my tribe’ reaction is  often present in adoptive fathers when disciplining their children, particularly male children; and even more so when the family has produced their own biological children subsequent to  the adoption. I believe it is a reaction based on fear of the unknown, part of a primal reaction  to ‘difference’ or to ‘other’. The child is part of another man’s tribe, perhaps. (It’s interesting to note the proliferation of ‘wicked’ step-parents in fairy tales and folklore – here, the alien parent is billed as evil and a threat to the lives of the established family.)

Not ‘bad blood’ but ‘different blood’. Displaced blood.

So the notion of ‘likeness’ is profound here and is certainly not confined to the issue of  adoption. Many non-adoptees have told me they cannot see the likenesses in their family (though there is power in the fact that others can). But I believe they do ‘see’ them, but on a  much less visible and obvious level. Each family also has a scent which is not ‘smelt’ in the  usual surface sense – it is more of an experienced scent felt near the olfactory bulb and near enough to the ethmoid and third eye to be connected to them. I remember sensing this scent/ smell when I first met my half-sister as we hugged – that sense of belonging (even to a  ‘stranger’) was immensely powerful. ‘I belong’ equals ‘I survive’ on the most primal of levels – especially after a prolonged ‘casting out’!

Craniosacrally the ethmoid is the obvious and most potent structure with which to work when  ancestry is relevant. I found this area very profound when I was being treated. To the practitioner there seemed to be a direct link to my biological paternal grandmother. This is not surprising if we consider that the ethmoid and coccyx form the two ends of the developing  embryo, providing connections with the mother and planet earth itself. This place of seeing,  not just ourselves but our connections with others, determines how we view ourselves in the  world and so is vital for the health and development of the human being. It is inbuilt orientation – for better or for worse! The compass is set early, perhaps. Maybe this is why I  connected with an abstract description in a numerology book more than I had ever done with my ‘self’ at that point in my life. My lifelong feelings of displacement relate as much to  inner as outer geography. This means that children adopted and transported from one country to another have yet another dimension to deal with – geography in its literal sense.

And, of course, this is not just relevant to adoptees. If we view the ethmoid as a compass  which either allows or inhibits intuition and insight then it has two purposes here. One is the  level of insight inherent in that individual and the other is the ancestral information which may be accessed from treating the area around the ethmoid.

Adoptees reunited with their biological families find they have traits and talents in common. Some traits and talents can perhaps best be understood in the familial/ancestral context from which they came. This is not to say they are not welcomed in adoptive families, it is just harder all round when it is something unusual which may need a hereditary context in which  to welcome and nurture it – rather than having it become a problem. It is not a case of ‘bad  blood’ but ‘different blood’. Displaced blood. Indeed the navigation required of adoptive  parents in raising their adoptive children can be substantial: sometimes easy, sometimes  impossible. It is work which needs understanding from the beginning of the adoptive process, which for most parents is Plan B (or even Plan C if we count IVF), and therefore comes in the wake of huge disappointment; quite a formidable context in which to be placed after a separation from one’s birth mother. We are placing together a couple facing the pain of childlessness, with a grief-stricken baby or child separated from its grief-stricken mother. How can we best make that work? In one way both parties have had a cut in their ‘lines’. But both are grieving different ‘tribes’.

With an issue as profound and abstract as a severed ancestry, the long tide is perhaps the wave which can take the client to the right plane for reconnection. I suspect it is a wordless  place. I have only recently seen a photograph of my paternal grandmother and have been  very affected by it. She is the person who came up in my ethmoid treatments (she died some years ago). I see myself in her but not through the facial features. It is a likeness in a different sense of the word. It is a sensation I am unable to put into words. Perhaps more powerfully,  when I saw photographs of my birth mother for the first time I immediately recognised her. My eight-week-old baby memory came into play and my whole body felt both intense relief, ‘There you are!’ and then acute grief to the point where I believed I was having a heart  attack. In a less conventional sense of the word I suppose I was. Here I must mention that I had two fantastic grandmothers in my adoptive family – Kitty and Ida – and I would never  swap them in a million years.

I remember sensing [a familiar] scent/ smell when I first met my half-sister as we hugged – that sense of belonging was immensely powerful.

So it is not a case of getting stuck in the past, but of synthesising the authentic ancestral parts of the self with all the adoptive family has to offer, and then functioning at full potential  in the present. I do believe this is complicated and I do know I have not yet achieved this  myself; but I also believe that it is cleansing and clarifying. People care where they come  from, who they look like; they see and seek likenesses, they look up long-lost relatives, they  do family trees. They watch Who Do You Think You Are? (Editor’s note: Who Do You Think You Are? is a TV genealogy programme) and see people who weren’t adopted profoundly affected by ancestral connections.

It would seem that deep in our psyche we share the sentiment: ‘I know my own and my own  know me.’
(John 10:14)

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the CSTA.

You Might Also Like