g a t h e r i n g s

When Insights Serve the Flow of Life: Thoughts on Adoption

Not long ago, a young woman came to a workshop, and as we were talking about her difficulties in becoming pregnant, she said something like, I would never adopt, having seen through family constellations the terrible consequences. I heard her, heard what she’d heard and saw what she’d seen, all in a flash. I was immediately struck by how easy it is slip into a dogmatic way of thinking, even while looking through this experiential, insight-oriented lens. I am not speaking now of this young woman, but of myself, who could have taught this idea about adoption somehow.

From the beginning, my sense has been that what Bert Hellinger was pointing to when he spoke of adoption -- of most things, really – was the necessity to take our actions seriously, to attempt to imagine them beyond that most local neighborhood of ourselves. What it means to go outside of those parameters in this case includes:

That the child, who is taken (given up, remanded, or in any other way severed from original connection), suffers a deep and enduring breach of the most basic level of security: to be taken care of by those who gave life. While there is not compensation for this betrayal, even the simple recognition of it may inform any potential parent’s decisions in a good way.

That in this loss of connection it is not only the biological parents themselves who are missing, but the biological language and culture of the specific family. All of it is in the child but no longer reflected back to him or her by the group.

That rather than condemning the biological parents for their handling of circumstances, gratitude to them is the place to start. Such a stance rights the initial agreement between biological lifegivers and nonbiological caregivers in a powerful way, perhaps allowing the child to better integrate both the original and the newer streams that hold him or her in life. Such gratitude has no place for the details of judgment, so the child doesn’t need to be fragmented within it.

The constellations I have seen often reveal discrepancies at vital points that damage the possibility of good outcomes. That’s different than adoption being “wrong.” Imagine the adoptive couple standing in the full depth and breadth of their gratitude for having the opportunity to nurture this life who has come into their care. Imagine if that were the sole message received and shared. Imagine that both partners were united on this level. Imagine, too, that their understanding encompassed the deepest sense that the child draws from currents outside of theirs and that their task is not to replace or erase those currents but to support them, in the best possible ways, with the biological parents standing with them at all times, in the best possible ways.

At the workshop, when we set up a piece for this young woman, there was such clarity and profundity on this layer: an image in which a child could be seen and loved and supported in all of his or her complexity.

Because I do not presume to speak for Bert Hellinger, I offer only one quote on the subject here. In Lousiville, Kentucky, in 2008, a member of the audience asked a complicated question about the new technologies available to conceive a child. I’d lost track midquestion and was afraid Bert was going to ask that I repeat the details, but instead he simply smiled and then looked out into the large audience: “Welcome child,” he said.

That beautiful phrase has stuck with me all these years as the key answer to this type of question: yes. It also seems to me the pivotal question on the way to most of our answers. Welcome child, welcome love, welcome life.