Andre Radmall special guest speaker: coaching and training for transformation and adoptee.
Andre shared at our meeting about the challenging background to his own adoption. He told of his ‘older almost elderly looking parents’, how many family nuances he spotted as a young boy didn’t seem to add up and of the day a sudden emotional bombshell fell on him aged just 17, when his parents sat him and his brother down and told him they were both adopted. The world he knew crashed.
He candidly told of the serious implications this knowledge had on him and his brother’s mental and emotional state. The feeling of a forced identity crisis that would eventually drive him to search for his biological parents during his early twenties. This search was done alone with no real support; it was hard for a young man to deal with challenging, emotionally mountainous situations that would yield more challenges than he had anticipated.
The search for answers and inner peace he added towards the end of this talk continues, we all agreed that adoption and fostering is a lifelong experience to find and define YOU, as adoption is complex and multi-layered.
The Birth Father discussion Part 2 – written from
TTAG International Searchers’ Get Together, with andreradmall.com
The power of sharing your own story especially to those who have gone through similar experiences in a ‘safe’ and inspirational setting Andre said he had never done before, but he found it powerful. Every word he uttered hung in the room as everyone digested the full complexities of his story and lessons could be gleaned to add into their own life.
Early life challenges
I’m not going to share it on this blog as it’s personal, but a few things I did find interesting was that Andre had discovered that the name he had been given by his adopted parents wasn’t his actual name, after a long search he found his real name and decided to change it by depol to ‘Andre’, as we discussed this it was very emotional as some in the group had done likewise, others had chosen not to and others such as myself had no choice of discovering this information as we were ‘found’ babies with no paperwork. At this point once again I found myself blinking back tears.
There is power in your name, it is such a vital part of your identity like your first calling card to the world, and for adoptees it can hold grief, pain and loss. Incidentally, I discovered recently that adoption agencies encourage parents to change a child’s name to fit in with their new family identity… Is this stealing a baby’s true identity? A name gift from a biological mother, culture and background? Can you simply ‘cut and paste’ a new identity as simply as that? And what could be the long term implications? I will let you decide…
Andre shared how after a long search to find his biological parents it unearthed difficult questions and emotions, it didn’t produce the ‘happy ending resolve’ he had wished it would.
The huge question of:
‘What is it that makes me ME?’ was still a conundrum post-search question that seemed enlarged by the search not reduced.
‘The quest for identity wasn’t purely to be found in a biological answer, maybe things are more difficult?’ he pondered alluding to a past version of self.
Support when searching
Andre spoke of how important it is to have the right support during the search, an outside knowledgeable voice to guide you and help discuss the questions that will arise. When I write ‘outside’ support I mean possibly outside of your immediate family and maybe a certain type of mature friend, someone you trust with challenging information and emotional problem solving.
Avoid ‘crying’ support for example, those well meaning folk who will just hear your story and predicament and cry for you – ‘your life’s been terrible! I couldn’t do it, boohoo’… not helpful.
The best support is someone who has knowledge and understanding of the search in hand, and can process challenging situations and maybe ask challenging questions back to you the searcher to help you explore the journey, now and in the future see it from other perspectives.
Some questions to ask could include,
If you do this… how do you think it may play out?
*Having someone help guide you to look into the future of a decision you are about to make is imperative, decision making that is purely emotional driven is dangerous to your own wellbeing and potentially to others too.
How might this situation be viewed from another person’s viewpoint?
*It is so easy to have a blinkered eye view on an emotional search based on what we want to achieve, and not on how others may receive us. A good mentor/friend/support in this can help a searcher to carefully peel back the years and be gentle, emphatic and wise when contacting past family connections for example. Factors to consider are the age of a person, culture specifics, gender and suchlike when approaching a family that may or may not know of your existence. Searching therefore takes careful planning and emotional strength.
During a search Andre spoke of how oftentimes situations can come out of the blue that can shake you, so the correct support can become a lifeline. Plus, you can rehearse various scenarios to see how you would respond and reply, especially important if one is about to meet a possible lost father or mother? Emotions could run so high so much so you could be unable to speak, so rehearsing helps to get your mind and heart ready.
Finally, the friend who is supporting you can also help you to chart progress and give an outside viewpoint on the journey, as it could take many months and years.
Taking back control of your life
Experiencing prolonged or extremely high levels of trauma from your early years of development can encourage a person to blame everything on that experience, in this case adoption. It wasn’t until he came to the place where he wanted his life to change and started to take responsibility for his actions that things started to get better, we all agreed the power of breaking the ‘victim’ mode is crucial to overcoming and not allowing your past to destroy your future.
Andre spoke how he learned that past, traumatized behaviors could be unlearned by learning to self-medicate and not suppress feelings of pain and anguish. I thought it was powerful when he warned of the dangerous of suppressing pain and departmentalising emotions and how these two actions working in union can create a perfect environment for addictions to be formed. It could be anything from eating disorders, to alcohol or porn, sometimes a secret pain is at the root of a fruitful addiction that can ruin a person’s life.
I always say it is important to deal with ‘the root not the fruit’ when it comes to any addiction or pain that could be covering a negative action. As any gardener will tell you, the danger of cutting off fruits or hacking down a bush encourages the root to grow back even more stronger over time. Basically, a temporary ‘clear up job, or turning over a new leaf and new me’ short term change may look good, but is actually detrimental in the long run to a happy positive life.
Andre shared about the power of the ’12 step’ plan for alcohol addiction can really be applied to anything that a person may want to ‘overcome’ in life. There is power in facing horror and trauma through a good management programme and regular accountability.
Finally – Read up
I always say ‘ignorance is not bliss’ and it isn’t. There is plenty of stuff available online to read up on or listen to that will help coach new positive behaviour. Such as attachment therapy and trauma theory, even basic knowledge is powerful to help encourage change and destroy the feeling of hopeless and helplessness often from the past ‘child’ experience of life.
Basic Trauma Theory. (Important for any traumatic experiences actually, not just adoption in fact even those who work in traumatic daily experiences from the police to fireman are now getting hold of this knowledge to keep wellbeing at a premium to avoid breakdown.)
Firstly name the trauma that you are experiencing, don’t name the feeling.
Name the action that you are taking.
Be inspired and listen to Brene Brown brilliant talk on shame: TED talk click here
Name the shame you are experiencing
(You don’t have to tell anyone as such, do it in your own YOU quiet time)
Andre shared honestly he had to say to himself ‘That’s not the real me! I don’t have to go through life in a mess’.
Don’t deny it. Face it.
It is important to get negativity out of the body as trauma is held in the body until it is dealt with, secret pain can become like a bullet trapped in the body, destructive.
I remembered writing a blog sometime ago about the power of the words we speak over ourselves too – speak hope to get hope, speak fear to get fear. Words can change and frame a new future.
Maybe look at movement based work to work alongside your cognitive reading, as you are a whole body not just a brain. Movement is healing, try Pilates, running or swimming in fact anything you enjoy to work on the whole experience of YOU.
Listen to podcasts
The emotional manifestations on trauma is also worth reading up on to help you heal the inner you, physical touch, self-soothing all these external actions can help bring about internal changes.
I would conclude that whatever you decide to do, this is your own emotional journey into ‘finding YOU’, if it works for you – do it! Learn from others stories, inspire others and enjoy the joy of learning.
Thank you for reading.
If you’re interested at joining the TTAG group or know someone who you think would benefit from being a member please do find the group on Facebook and join – TTAG.
Our next meeting and talk is on 14th October 2017 when we will be looking at mental health and adoption.
Why not find out more about Andre Radmall? Contact him or find him on linked in to enjoy his insightful writing and coaching work.
Thank you for reading