Friday, November 25, 2005

Becoming Whole

"You see the one that I am, not the one that I was.
But the one that I was is also still part of myself."
-Jean Amery


My birth name is Gwendolyn Ray. I was named after my maternal grandmother, Gwendolyn Painter who died in 1963 from breast cancer. I have always imagined that I have her grace and poise and I am sure that I carry many of her shadows. In 1987 I met my maternal grandfather and full biological sister. In 1992, at the age of 32, I met my biological mother and father. I am one of three children from my birth mother and father and the youngest of five children in my adopted family. I was taken as a ward of the state of Michigan during the first five years of my life and adopted in 1964. My adopted name was Gwendolyn Carrie Sampson.
As I grew up I developed a split sense of myself in the outer world and in my inner world. I was the adoptee who always wore a mask of perfection and I was also the secreted abandoned child who was ashamed of her passion, energy, and difference. The inner dance of boxing off my authentic self and fanning the flame of my masked self took on the energy of my life. In the process of finding the truths in my life and conneting my fractured life story I have become whole by integrating these two selves. As a result I have gained a sense of identity that I never dreamed possible. The integration of internal split selves is possible. When you are whole and find your authenticity the world becomes your oyster and belonging is never up for questioning.
Betty Jean Lifton writes about the adoptees sense of having a split self and states in her book, Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness, that the goal of the adoptee "is to illuminate the dark unconscious of the self and make it whole." An adoptee's lack of a complete personal history is a hardship for the adoptee and a lack of a biological sense of himself is created by the separation from his biological family of origin. The adoptee is unable to identify wholely with either her biological family or her adopted family and as a result is left with internal questions that are unanswerable without the information that a genetic heritage can give them. One adoptee said of themselves in Nancy Verrier's latest book: "I have, as an adoptee, a Swiss Cheese identity because there are lots of holes in it!"
The lack of personal history that is solid and based in truths creates a split identity in the adoptee and steals the individual's sense of belonging not only to a family, but also to society. At some point in the adoptee's life they need to find and face the truths of their life story and their origins. This means that many adoptees will forge ahead, almost driven for answers, to embark upon the task of searching and finding their birth family and ultimately themselves.
The process of finding birth family will plunge the adoptee on to what Joseph Campbell called the hero's journey where they will face the internal dark side of themselves. It is through this hero's journey of finding their origins and completing their interrupted story that they will find the pearl inside themselves and rescue their soul. Completing the quest to find one's story will bring wholeness of identity and belonging to the adoptee.


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