We may not born into this world with trauma (though some do experience trauma in-utero). Yet we are born wired for the world and for what it has to offer us. When the first thing that the world offers is trauma, we are changed forever -being relinquished is an early form of trauma. Always.

I’ve written here before about research that shows that a newborn bonds with his mother in-utero, reacting to her voice, her anxieties, and her overall state of being. A mother who is stressed (for example, by having to give up her child) passes that on to the fetus but it is not until the actual birth that the reality affects the baby who is taken away from his life giver. And when that reality is being taken away from this person, that reality turns into trauma.

Knowing that is perhaps enough to understand how a relinquishee is in the world. They are different from the way other people, unaffected by adoption, might be.

Are we more sensitive, more anxious, more self-soothing than others? You bet. Do we need special treatment? Well, that depends on how much you care about our comfort. There are many resources out there for parents of children who have been relinquished and I encourage you to pursue them to get some perspective and some information – whether the relinquishee in your life is your child or a new friend.

From personal blogs (like mine, but there are many others), to verified sites dealing with support for adoptees to reading the latest research, there are lots of materials to educate yourself on how to best talk and treat the relinquishee in your life.

From my own experience, I can tell you that although my adoption was never a dirty secret, it was also never discussed in the way that would make my trauma a bit smaller. Had my parents been educated on how I was affected by what happened to me shortly after birth, perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled with substance abuse and with interpersonal relationships. I don’t know. I prefer to live in reality and not spend too much time with what-ifs, but I always willingly share my experience to help others.

The most I can tell you is that I was ashamed of not fitting in. I was confused about what my societal roles were, and I became shamed when I shared my adoption story with some other kids. I wish I had an adult in my life who would talk to me about what was happening – the expectation that I will succeed and do well just because I was rescued was way too great to handle for a small boy. If your relinquishee is your child, it is my utmost hope you’re working with the right therapist or counselor and have supports that my parents didn’t have and didn’t seek out.

For now, just a short reminder: What happened to us affects both our psychological and physical health. Research shows that stress (such as being taken away from biological parent) causes heightened levels of cortisol and adrenaline and lowers the levels of serotonin. High cortisol and adrenaline lead to anxiety, hypervigilance, future problems with substance use and other self-soothing mechanisms (many relinquishees suffer from love addiction). Low serotonin, on the other hand, leads to depression and shame – both of which have been shown to have a high correlation with future substance use. In other words, what you’re getting with a relinquishee is someone who does indeed need to be treated a little differently.

What works with me? Many things. Honesty, kindness, curiosity, open-mindedness. I love genuine people and I try to be as authentic as I can be. I am an open and honest individual, and I am rigorous in my search for reality and not giving into things that have no bearing on my life (I don’t fantasize, I don’t dwell too much). I like people and people like me – but it takes me a while (so don’t be discouraged if the relinquishee in your life doesn’t spill the beans first thing you meet them). I can be cautious at first, but once you gain my trust, I am a friend for life. I like things to be in order and I don’t thrive in chaos at all, although I love a challenge and I’m a bit of an adrenaline seeker (no surprise, many relinquishees have been found to pursue adrenaline-pumping experiences). I write this blog to connect with others, so as you can see, I am happy to share my story, and I bet your relinquishee will do that too with you as long as you’re patient, informed, and loving.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash


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