…everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags….tribes gave visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship, and a way to defend the group enthusaistically against rival groups. It gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world….the drive to join is deeply ingrained. – E.O. Wilson (Newsweek magazine, April 9, 2012)
I can’t wait to read the rest of this biologist’s book. I think I read the opening three paragraphs at least four times declaring YES! each time. I am always struck that in my profession of therapy, the presenting problem may be adoption or something else, but it always ends up being about finding and losing and finding again a definition of family and belonging. In reading this article it affirmed for me my desire to belong to a group and label it so. Not that I am an extremely concrete person, but I need to know what box I put myself in and who I choose to ask to join me. And now I know, this is natural, the way we humans all do it.
However, I find myself in a conundrum. I find, we adoptees, tend to do the complete opposite in our tribe…we faction, we subgroup, we demonize a whole lot. We label when we repel labels, we point fingers when we hate being outcasted and we judge almost hoarding our resources leary of sharing. I don’t think this is what a tribe is supposed to do. Are we, adopted people, a tribe? Or has our life experience and the tribes we were adopted into muted our common label so much that we cannot see each other?
I admit to having an intense feeling when I read adoptees decimate adoption as genocide. I admit that I have an equally intense reaction when I hear adoptees gushing with gratitude and feeling saved through adoption. And then I withdraw and want nothing to do with adoption, adopted people and the “A” gets shoved down the list so I don’t have to deal with it. I also fear that I get judged pushing me further out of the group. To those who are searching, I am the freaking lucky one who got found. To those who are seeking, I seem to have it nicely wrapped up. To those who are angry, I am in denial, succumbed to the dark side of happy adoptions. To those who are grateful, I am a hypocrite. And if I am being truly honest, I think the same of others in my own tribe too.
Despite all the judging, I love this crazy tribe of adopted people. I love that we are so diverse and cannot get along all the time. The compartmentalizing is a bit crazy making and perhaps the outward expression of the dischord we have inside having been transplanted at such young ages. But I will continue to come to the group with the approach that I am meeting extended family. Surely we can find something we can like about each other even with all the exceptions to our stories. If anything, being adopted (present or past, depending on how we choose to see it) gives us a name. I suppose then, that it is up to us to define our social meaning…is that we are collectively working towards?
I keep going back to my kids when I get stuck. I keep thinking about what the message is that I want to convey to them? What neural pathways of communication and community do I want to create? Is casting the net as wide as possible a good thing or overwhelming? My big guy likes his alone time, and while I get unnerved by it, I respect it and think it rather brave of him to walk away. My little guy is right in the middle, in the thick of things, and I admire that too. But I am constantly pleasantly surprised that they choose to come back home, to my husband and me. Despite their pushing of boundaries, back talk, anger, frustration, they keep coming back to their homebase. Despite my fears of worry that they will like another family, another relative more than me, they keep looking for me. I am their tribe.
Ok then, I get it. For me, the tribe of adoptees has become my homebase for better or worse. In the past 20 years, I have decided this is my tribe and it is the strength and passion of this tribe that allows me to push away and return with little ceremony.