The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child Info

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The Primal Wound is a book which is revolutionizing the way we
think about adoption. In its application of information about pre- and
perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, it clarifies the
effects of separation from the birth mother on adopted children. In
addition, it gives those children, whose pain has long been
unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation for their feelings, as well
as explanations for their behavior. Since its original publication in
1993, The Primal Wound has become a classic in adoption literature and
is considered the adoptees' bible. The insight which is brought to the
experiences of abandonment and loss will contribute not only to the
healing of adoptees, adoptive families, and birth parents, but will
bring understanding and encouragement to anyone who has ever felt
abandoned.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.24

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Reviews for The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child:

5

Aug 24, 2009

This was a fascinating book. As an adopted person, it illuminated a lot of the feelings and issues I have had for years but never had a name for. It made me realize that it's healthy to have anger and sadness related to the loss of my birthmom, whereas before I thought I should just be grateful to have ended up with the family I got.

It also brings into question adoption as an institution and how our society might rethink it. The author makes the point (and backs it up with evidence) that taking This was a fascinating book. As an adopted person, it illuminated a lot of the feelings and issues I have had for years but never had a name for. It made me realize that it's healthy to have anger and sadness related to the loss of my birthmom, whereas before I thought I should just be grateful to have ended up with the family I got.

It also brings into question adoption as an institution and how our society might rethink it. The author makes the point (and backs it up with evidence) that taking a child away from its birthmother might be the worst thing that could happen to it, even if the birthmother doesn't have the economic means to care for it at the time. Speaking from experience, I think this is true, and I had probably the most ideal adoptive parents a person could ask for.

Adoption is an issue that is sorely in need of discussion in our society, as are the issues of surrogacy, anonymous artificial insemination, children growing up in day care, and abortion. The author has a refreshingly broad viewpoint on these things, seeing them as the paradoxes they are and not the black/white issues many activists like to portray them as. Her main point is one that is often forgotten by parents and medical professionals - that infants are beings with legitimate emotions, not objects that can be passed amongst strangers and expected to like it. ...more
5

Mar 17, 2012

The thing about being adopted is that even if you are "well-adjusted" and have been told since you were an infant that you were "lucky to have the family you have," you still feel like an alien.

The problem with being well adjusted and lucky - is that you feel guilty for feeling like an alien. And there are few (if any) people who understand the pain and frustration you've been carrying around in your head and heart.

That's not to say that other people are unloving or mean, or that you're whole The thing about being adopted is that even if you are "well-adjusted" and have been told since you were an infant that you were "lucky to have the family you have," you still feel like an alien.

The problem with being well adjusted and lucky - is that you feel guilty for feeling like an alien. And there are few (if any) people who understand the pain and frustration you've been carrying around in your head and heart.

That's not to say that other people are unloving or mean, or that you're whole life is mal-adjusted and ungrateful. It's just that being adopted does leave a primal wound.

(I also feel that being born premature and placed in incubators without familial contact, or that being a child of divorce may have similar wounding patterns).

So. Finding this book, full of anecdotes and psychological facts was just what the doctor ordered. If you're adopted, it will help you heal, and if you are a member of the adoption triad you'll find an honest assessment of what's happening and why you feel the way you do.

If you love someone who is part of the triad, this is an essential read for you too! ...more
5

May 20, 2007

This book shed so much light on certain issues of adopted children, and helped me understand myself better. Whether or not they can access them, adoptees have feelings about being adopted, and this book clearly lays out the biology/psychology behind it all, and how to deal. I wish I had found this book during adolescence.
3

Jan 02, 2015

A friend of mine said THE PRIMAL WOUND was a must for every adoptive parent. At first I agreed. I appreciate Verrier's insistence that we acknowledge the fundamental wound children experience when they are separated from their birth mothers. Too many adopting parents (myself included) don't understand the gravity of this hurt and how it shapes the child's entire life.

But the more I read Verrier, the more frustrated I became. The primal wound she explores is just one in a panorama of human A friend of mine said THE PRIMAL WOUND was a must for every adoptive parent. At first I agreed. I appreciate Verrier's insistence that we acknowledge the fundamental wound children experience when they are separated from their birth mothers. Too many adopting parents (myself included) don't understand the gravity of this hurt and how it shapes the child's entire life.

But the more I read Verrier, the more frustrated I became. The primal wound she explores is just one in a panorama of human suffering, but she never places it in context. Nor does she acknowledge the transformational possibilities of such wounds. I agree with Verrier that this primal wound cannot be healed--the ache of losing her birth mother will always be with my daughter. But that wound CAN be transformed; it can become a source of motivation, a creative drive, a longing for union that is fundamentally good and healing. Our deepest hurts can transform us, if we're willing.

So the second half of Verrier's book, where she addresses healing, is woefully inadequate and out of date. She focuses exclusively on the reunion between adoptee and birth mother as a source of healing, ignoring the birth father entirely and dismissing open adoption. My daughter has known her birth mother all along. I'm sure as she grows she'll have new levels of consciousness about her hurt that she needs to test with her birth mom, but reunion is not the solution to her longing. While I don't think her primal wound can be healed and I certainly don't think I can be the source of healing, I know there are thousands of ways her hurt can be transformed and that I can support this process. To assume otherwise is hurtful.

So--new parents and adoptees, read this book with caution. ...more
5

Sep 15, 2007

more about myself than i wanted to know...j/k :) this book was powerful because it validated and put words to feelings i have always had but never been able to fully express.
5

Jul 11, 2010

I read this in '93 when I was searching for my birth family. Found them but was too late to meet my birth mother. Later identified my birth father, who was different than my legal father at the time, and know my half-sister who doesn't acknowledge me as such. There is always a tangled story when it comes to birth and adoption...I was blessed to be adoped to the wonderful parents that raised me...(-:

Looking at this over ten years later, I realize there were many things about myself that I I read this in '93 when I was searching for my birth family. Found them but was too late to meet my birth mother. Later identified my birth father, who was different than my legal father at the time, and know my half-sister who doesn't acknowledge me as such. There is always a tangled story when it comes to birth and adoption...I was blessed to be adoped to the wonderful parents that raised me...(-:

Looking at this over ten years later, I realize there were many things about myself that I couldn't see written in this book. They were too deep for my wounded soul to realize but am now glimpsing into them and am happy to be brave enough to look again. There is so much to learn. Maybe it is time to really look for my siblings...even if they are half-siblings like the one I know, maybe they will be interested in knowing me. One can wonder and hope there will be insight. ...more
1

Apr 03, 2019

I did not finish this book it was so bad. As an adoptee I've had a few issues. I figured some were related to the adoption. So I bought this book. It is extremely biased toward the negative and very inaccurate. First off - she needs to learn scientific method. She frequently uses the phrase "most adoptees" - based on what? What is your sample size? Did you have controls? I suspect she bases her opinions on the adoptees she has seen in her practice. So hardly a non-biased study with a well I did not finish this book it was so bad. As an adoptee I've had a few issues. I figured some were related to the adoption. So I bought this book. It is extremely biased toward the negative and very inaccurate. First off - she needs to learn scientific method. She frequently uses the phrase "most adoptees" - based on what? What is your sample size? Did you have controls? I suspect she bases her opinions on the adoptees she has seen in her practice. So hardly a non-biased study with a well represented sample population. She also makes absolute statements about adoptees as "never" able to or "always" do something. Also not true. Her impetus for this book was her own adopted child who had issues. Again, bias. Moreover, I'm highly offended by her term of "real" mother to refer to the biological or birth mother. My real mother is the one who raised me and loved me; who changed my diapers; who put up with my teens years, who, with my real father, put me through college and graduate school. I would caution well-adjusted adoptees to not read this - it is possible you might start thinking you have problems that aren't there. I know plenty of biological children who have similar issues as she describes - for example trust and abandonment. They are not exclusive to adoptees. ...more
4

May 07, 2012

As both a birth mother and an adoptive mother, I found this book emotionally wrenching. Reading it did make me feel less alone, however, as it helped me to understand that the behaviors and personality quirks with which my now-adult adopted son has struggled are common in adopted children. I just wish I had known enough to read this when he was a confused, adopted teen-ager. I highly recommend this book to any adoptive parent. And to professionals -- such as psychotherapists, guidance As both a birth mother and an adoptive mother, I found this book emotionally wrenching. Reading it did make me feel less alone, however, as it helped me to understand that the behaviors and personality quirks with which my now-adult adopted son has struggled are common in adopted children. I just wish I had known enough to read this when he was a confused, adopted teen-ager. I highly recommend this book to any adoptive parent. And to professionals -- such as psychotherapists, guidance counsellors, teachers, clergy -- who seek to help adopted kids, this is a must-read! ...more
5

Jan 08, 2013

As an adoptee, this was such an eye opener for me and explained so much of my behaviour that I'd never considered adoption-related.
Every adoptee should read this at least once.
5

Jan 11, 2013

I think that every adopted child should read this book. Even when you feel like you've "worked through it all" there are things that linger you never knew stemmed from your initial Primal Wound.
3

Mar 25, 2011

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As an adoptive mom I think it was my responsibility to read this book. And I want to preface this review with saying that I am glad that I did and I went into it ready to hear about the impact of adoption on my girls and the negatives attached to being adopted. I know full well that adoption is never the best choice for kids and I have very mixed feelings about adoption in general.
That said, this book was not the masterpiece I was hoping for. I've heard people say such great things about it, but As an adoptive mom I think it was my responsibility to read this book. And I want to preface this review with saying that I am glad that I did and I went into it ready to hear about the impact of adoption on my girls and the negatives attached to being adopted. I know full well that adoption is never the best choice for kids and I have very mixed feelings about adoption in general.
That said, this book was not the masterpiece I was hoping for. I've heard people say such great things about it, but to me, it seemed inflammatory and anecdotal, which is definitely one of my least favorite combinations. Do I think that some (or even all adoptees) suffer because they've been separated from their birth families? Yes. Do I believe that one adoptees experience = all adoptees experience? No.
Perhaps I don't know enough about Verrier - maybe she's been in practice with lots of adoptees and this book doesn't demonstrate that. But from my perspective she drew on a handful of experiences to try to classify and describe an experience that a uniquely personal one.
WHich leaves me scratching my head because I don't know what I expected her to do. But whathever it was, this wasn't it.
All that said, I do know that many adoptees connect with her writing and so perhaps she really has hit the nail on the head. I just don't know.
...more
5

Jul 20, 2010

This is an insightful and intense book for an adoptee wanting to understand him or herself. Also good for those that love an adoptee to help you understand some of the "issues" that arise for some adoptees.
5

Jan 07, 2008

the most difficult book i'll never finish. it's also another book i tend to give away a lot, mostly so i won't feel guilty for not getting past page 33.
4

Apr 02, 2010

Very interesting theory on something I always wondered about--why adopted kids, even those adopted as newborns right from the hospital, have such struggles.
2

Feb 02, 2018

Her idea that separating a child from their birth is traumatic no matter what is very intriguing. However her style was a struggle for me. She mixes making statements that sound like they are from clinical studies with new age comments and statements. It was hard to parse out the data from her opinion. It would have helped a lot if in addition to the references listed in the back some of her statements cited specific studies.
5

Apr 17, 2008

A must-read for any adopted kid or parent of an adopted kid. It explains many reasons that adopted kids do some of the things they do. And it can help both the adoptee and the adopter understand why their parent/child relationship is so different from those who were raised by their biological families. This book was by far one of the best books I've ever read.
4

May 25, 2018

I approached this book with some skepticism, but Wow, the author nailed many of the feelings Ive faced as an an adoptee.
Ill definitely have to spend some time thinking about the many issues in this book. Definitely worth a read by anyone in the adoption triangle. I approached this book with some skepticism, but Wow, the author nailed many of the feelings I’ve faced as an an adoptee.
I’ll definitely have to spend some time thinking about the many issues in this book. Definitely worth a read by anyone in the adoption triangle. ...more
1

Jul 28, 2019

This is the most ridiculous piece of rubbish, that attempts to prey on adoptive parents wondering if there is something important they should know of their children's experience. It is a dramatic claim that all adopted children are basically shells reeling from the worst trauma imaginable, the devastating cleave from the birth mother. I was open to there being bad news and, of course, separation from the birth parents is a loss that they carry with them, but there is nothing to back up her This is the most ridiculous piece of rubbish, that attempts to prey on adoptive parents wondering if there is something important they should know of their children's experience. It is a dramatic claim that all adopted children are basically shells reeling from the worst trauma imaginable, the devastating cleave from the birth mother. I was open to there being bad news and, of course, separation from the birth parents is a loss that they carry with them, but there is nothing to back up her claims of utter lifelong devastation. She just quotes her 14 year old daughter's complaints to her and, if that's the psychological yardstick we are using, children raised by their birth parents are no better off.
...more
5

Nov 28, 2014

I read this as a person who was given away as an infant and then adopted 2 weeks later by a wonderful couple. I was never convinced that because I was "chosen" (something told to me in a well meaning way by my parents), that this fact somehow cleared up or erased the fact that I was given up by my mother. I do believe in the primal wound and now have words to describe it and this author does a great job communicating this with examples, research and her own experience as an adoptive mother and I read this as a person who was given away as an infant and then adopted 2 weeks later by a wonderful couple. I was never convinced that because I was "chosen" (something told to me in a well meaning way by my parents), that this fact somehow cleared up or erased the fact that I was given up by my mother. I do believe in the primal wound and now have words to describe it and this author does a great job communicating this with examples, research and her own experience as an adoptive mother and psychologist. How this wound is manifested in adoptees is probably different for different people, but many will be able to relate with this book. I feel that Jesus is there in our "wounds" and He came to bring healing to the wounded. ...more
5

Mar 20, 2009

A highly enlightening, partly devastating look into the minds of adopted children. I highly recommend this book if you know someone who is adopted and can't seem to figure out why they act the way they do sometimes. I also recommend it for adopted children but please be sure to have someone you can talk to.
1

Jun 13, 2014

Seems that whatever child one adopts, that child will be permanently scarred, and the adoptive parens (adoptive mother especially) will never quite be able to fully bond and having a loving relationship with her child. (And furthermore, sending the kid to daycare, regardless of circumstances and necessity, is horrendously detrimental.)
4

Mar 23, 2019

As the title of this book about adoptees indicates, author Nancy Newton Verrier views adoption as a process that wounds adoptees on a fundamental level. Her central theory based on research and personal experience is that severing the connection between a mother and child leaves a wound which profoundly impacts sense of self, including self-worth and self-esteem. She has a strong message for adoptees:

"What adoptees need to know is that their experience was real. Adoption isnt a concept to be As the title of this book about adoptees indicates, author Nancy Newton Verrier views adoption as a process that wounds adoptees on a fundamental level. Her central theory based on research and personal experience is that severing the connection between a mother and child leaves a wound which profoundly impacts sense of self, including self-worth and self-esteem. She has a strong message for adoptees:

"What adoptees need to know is that their experience was real. Adoption isn’t a concept to be learned, a theory to be understood, or an idea to be developed. It is a real life experience about which adoptees have had and are continuing to have constant and conflicting feelings, all of which are legitimate."

Half the book explains the wound and its various manifestations (identity, self-esteem, anxiety, attachment, shame, etc.). The back half of the book is more about what to do given the “primal wound”. There are suggestions for all members of the “adoption triad” (the biological parents, adopted parents, and the adoptee), as well as for society at large. One of Verrier’s main beliefs is that a society needs to support all members of the triad in the adoption process (it’s more than a one-time event): “It is a difficult and complex process for all involved…Denial and secrecy have no place in the process.”

The greatest value in the book for me as an adoptee was Verrier’s ability to matter-of-factly name and articulate so many of the conflicting and chaotic emotions and thoughts that swirl around in my mind, and have since I was a child. While I didn’t identify with every issue resulting from the “primal wound”, I would say I did identify with about 65% of what the author discusses. (For reference, I’m thirty-five years old and have great relationships with my adoptive family and even some biological siblings.) Naming and defining helps a person know that they aren’t alone, and that things or normal. In other words, the book has given me permission to be honest with myself about my feelings towards both of my families (biological and adopted).

This book isn’t perfect, primarily because it was originally written in 1993. I would like to see Verrier update the book to include a more contemporary view of the social and legal landscape surrounding adoption, as well as the academic and professional literature. It’s hard to trust ideas that old relative to what you would otherwise trust in psychology or health.

A quick observation about some of the negative reviews of this book you’ll find on Amazon or Goodreads: Most of the negative comments I’ve seen regarding this book aren’t from adoptees. They come from adopted parents uncomfortable with Verrier’s message and what they call “adoption negative” tone. I didn’t read the book that way at all. I found it affirming. As sad as it sounds, I needed to hear someone say that I’m worthy of existing. As mentioned above, I would respectfully caution these adoptee parents.

With all of that in mind, I would recommend this book to anyone in the adoption triad. Adoptive parents need to consider their motives for adoption and how to best love their kids. If the things in the book make you uncomfortable, think about what your child may be hiding from you. Adoptees will benefit from the book whether they agree with it or not, just by considering their lives and story from another angle. ...more
4

Mar 31, 2019

The idea of the primal wound is valid & I have my own fostering experiences that concur with a lot of what Verrier discusses. I do think its a book that should be in the fostering / adoptive parents personal library, as it is so important to honor & validate the child as an individual with a unique history, with a heritage all their own, one that does not include foster / adoptive parent.

I felt this would be a much more challenging book to read if one had adopted / is hoping to adopt The idea of the primal wound is valid & I have my own fostering experiences that concur with a lot of what Verrier discusses. I do think it’s a book that should be in the fostering / adoptive parent’s personal library, as it is so important to honor & validate the child as an individual with a unique history, with a heritage all their own, one that does not include foster / adoptive parent.

I felt this would be a much more challenging book to read if one had adopted / is hoping to adopt & did not have their own biological children as it might come across as a harsh reality that no one can replace the biological parent, regardless that it’s true.

I also felt the author spoke from a very restrictive view when speaking of adoptees, as it was almost always presumed that the adoptee was taken from the birth mother right at birth, that the adoptee was “given up” by birth mother, “relinquished”, or “abandoned”. I realize that’s where she was getting most of her data from, adoptees with that history, but it then made me question some of her points, knowing there are scores of other adoptees with much different histories than an immediate separation at birth. ...more
4

Jun 11, 2018

Ive been working through this book over a few months. As an adoptive parent, these chapters and words and concepts are sticking with me more than anything else Ive read on adoption.

I struggle at times with our system of adoption. I struggle to think that my child is just fine now because we love him and are providing stability. I struggle with the balance of advocating for ethical adoption practices when truly needed and wanting to restructure the current system so that so many adoptions arent I’ve been working through this book over a few months. As an adoptive parent, these chapters and words and concepts are sticking with me more than anything else I’ve read on adoption.

I struggle at times with our system of adoption. I struggle to think that my child is “just fine now” because we love him and are providing stability. I struggle with the balance of advocating for ethical adoption practices when truly needed and wanting to restructure the current system so that so many adoptions aren’t needed. This book was a good read for all of these struggles.

I’ll be mulling over this for awhile. I’m hopeful that these concepts and theories help me to understand my child throughout his lifetime. I’m also hopeful that they can help me bridge the gap between those whose lives are effected by adoption and those who don’t understand it. ...more
1

Jan 13, 2020

I can't even be a good adoptee.

This is like the adoptee's bible. It's one of the most recommended books in the groups I belong to. Some of it rang true. But it rang true like horoscopes ring true.

Then Ms Verrier wrote that under hypnosis that people remember attempted abortions upon them.

She wrote this at the very end of the book... And all that came before fell like a demolished building.

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