Review Joe Soll has probably worked with adoptees and first parents more than anyone else on the planet. His approach has always involved empathy, intuition and introspection, without which dialogue runs dry. Joe creates an environment where growth can occur. - Robert Andersen, M.D., psychiatrist, author, 2nd Choice:Growing Up Adopted --Access, Spring 2012Some books are so good that you can even forgive your friend for borrowing your copy and never giving it back. Adoption Healing ... a path to recovery by Joe Soll is one such book. [Adoptees] one-sided false selves have their roots in the adoptee s understandable fear of abandonment, Soll tells us as he gently guides us into living more authentic lives. He explains that adoptees inner worlds are shaped by mixed messages that force them to choose between the socially unacceptable reality they experience and a distorted, but socially sanctioned, interpretation of their reality as determined by others. This book, he writes, is about the realities of adoption and the realities of the inner world of the adopted person. Hope for Individual Change- Soll a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and American domestic adoptee simply and concretely describes the adoptee s inner world in 26 concise chapters. In each chapter, he gives examples of Myths and Facts about adoption, a summary of the information in the chapter, an exercise to write or do mentally, and a grounding Experience of the Moment designed to be read after the exercise. Always with the whole triad of adoptee, natural parents, and adoptive parents in mind, Soll ends the book with appendices that include lists of What Adoptees Do Not Wish to Hear and What Natural Parents Do Not Wish to Hear, and What Adoptive Parents Do Not Wish to Hear. Readers of Nancy Newton Verrier s The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child will be familiar with some of Soll s fundamental beliefs about adoption, beginning with, The mother-child relationship is sacred and the separation of the mother and child is a tragedy for both. Soll considers thus primal wound to be the first trauma. He considers the second trauma to be the verbal acknowledgment to the adoptee that she is adopted. (It s likely that many transracially and internationally placed adoptees, older adoptees, and children adopted into families where there were older siblings present, did not need to be told by their adoptive parents that they were adopted.) He considers fracturing to be the third trauma. Fracturing is an acronym for the simultaneous feelings that the adopted child is surrounded by: Frustration, Rage, Anxiety, Confusion, Terror, Unrest, Regret, Inhuman, Neglected, Grief. Fracturing occurs at the age of cognition, usually around six to eight years old. At that time, adoptees are able to start thinking about their own adoptions. They do so in the face of conflicting messages, for instance, Happy birthday! / This is the day you were surrendered. Faced with unresolvable messages that cannot be integrated into her reality, the adopted child will resort to her own logic about her abandonment. If not validated, the child represses horribly painful emotions, after which she is actually unaware of such emotions and suffers a psychological death. It is much healthier to deal with truth, writes Soll, and indeed he puts every painful card out on the table: It s normal for adoptees to be in crisis during adolescence. Adoptees, because of not knowing their origins, finds it difficult to imagine themselves getting older. They have more difficulty maintaining healthy intimate relationships. They have a harder time than non-adopted people finding careers that suit them. Many people who appear happy are just (unconsciously) hiding pain. He likens the material in his book to an emotional root canal painful, but necessary. ----Conducive Chronicle - Part 1, Spring 2010I am not happy about what I have written here, but it needed to be written writes Soll, but, it needs to be recognized as knowledge that can help heal those already hurt and help prevent some of the hurt for those who may become involved in or impacted by adoption. As a self-help book, Soll s description of adoptees inner worlds, while not exactly feel-good material, gives adoptees and the people who care about them a lot to consider and reflect upon. I was personally surprised by the power of Soll s simple affirmations and visualization exercises. Like another reader, I found them to be a little weird at first, but I soon realized that they are very worthwhile. Hope for Systemic Change The book offers help like this on an individual level, and also suggests systemic changes in the practice of adoption. To start with, all members of the triad suffer huge losses whether infertility, the loss of a child, or the loss of the mother and these losses should be truthfully addressed instead of whitewashed with either platitudes ( You were chosen. ) or completely denied ( Get over it. ). As far as specific recommendations on policy, Soll includes the following: 1. Every effort should be made to keep children with their birth families, followed by the extended family. 2. All adoptions should be open, meaning regular visits should be held with the natural mother throughout childhood and adolescence, even if the visits have to be supervised. 3. Children should keep their names and heritage. 4. Adoptees should have periodic psychological development checkups. In short, Soll is a big fan of speaking the truth and dealing with reality. He is completely in the camp of open records. A reunion should preferably take place before puberty, writes Soll, saying that a reunion between the ages of six and eight can help prevent the fracture and even bring adopted children closer to their adoptive parents. He sees closed records as a symptom of the lack of respect for adoptees, natural parents, and adoptive parents. Reality and Recovery In The Will to Change, bell hooks summed up why people impacted by adoption need to heed Joe Soll s advice no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient, or expensive: Anyone who has a false self must be dishonest. People who learn to lie to themselves and others cannot love because they are crippled in their capacity to tell the truth and therefore unable to trust. Adoptees lives, emotional health, and even our ability to love our parents are entangled with the very policies and conditions that created us. What have those conditions been? Overwhelmingly, those conditions have been filled with lies our own lies, family lies, agency lies, government lies. For those adoptees working to make positive changes in these very adoption policies that shaped our lives, it is essential to tell the truth, both personally and politically, to ourselves and to our loved ones. For all adoptees, it is important to acknowledge our complex realities so we can live in a joyful way, so that we can make conscious decisions and, as Soll says, fully experience the world, not just exist in it. Joe Soll offers us paths that we may explore on our journey toward healing, health, recovery, and love. This is an important book for adoptees, adoptees partners and close friends, natural parents, and adoptive parents. Soll s straightforward approach and clear organization makes it possible to do the emotional work without being burdened by a text that is too long or laden with jargon. Parts not of interest can be easily skipped over and returned to later. Although it has been nine years since it was first published, Adoption Healing deserves continued & widespread recognition. May you enjoy your copy, and pass it on! ----Conducive Chronicle: Part 2, Spring 2010 Read more From the Author I have written this book as an adoptee talking from the heart to his millions of adopted 'brothers and sisters', as a son to his millions of birthparents and adoptive parents and as a colleague to his fellow mental health professionals in the hope of shedding new light on this most confusing subject. Read more See all Editorial Reviews
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