Inside the Reptilian Brain of Adoption

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birthday-present-headerMy mother is coming in today to celebrate Ella’s 6th birthday. She has been here for most of Ella’s birthdays. And every time she comes in I find myself in a chaotic swirl of emotions. You see this is my “first mommy,” as Ella calls her. She is my biological mother, the mother that, after being held by her for an hour on the day of my birth, I did not meet again until I was 23.

And her presence tends to awaken all sorts of old wounds. And when she is here for Ella’s birthday, that awakening is even more acute.

It was just this morning that I put some of the missing pieces into place. I woke up filled with a deep sadness. And, when I’m sad, my super sensitive little Ella tends to mirror that sadness back to me. So when she woke up this morning, on her birthday, crying and saying that she didn’t want to be six, I knew that it was time to get a grip on my stuff.

But how do you get a grip on stuff that is coming up from deep below the conscious level? How do you transform emotional content that is coming from a pre-verbal cellular memory? How do you turn off the infantile –literally in this case – fight or flight response to a 45 year old event?

Well, I’m still working on figuring that out.

And the piece that fell into place this morning seems to have helped. It’s a piece that comes from not quite so deep in my subconscious mind, probably not all the way down in my reptilian limbic system. It feels like about a 6 year old part of me. And I just now put that together with Ella turning six. Interesting how writing can help pull these pieces together.

It’s as if the six year old part of me is sad because Joan was never at any of my birthdays. And that part of me is angry and confused and, yes, even a bit jealous, that she is now showing up for all of Ella’s birthdays.

And even though this emotional content is coming from well below my conscious awareness, it is bubbling up into my consciousness in a way that I can connect with it. And once I can connect with it, I can begin to play with it.

So, without denying the truth of the sadness and anger and jealousy, all of which have their source in an old wounded place within me, I can begin shifting my focus to the present time. I can begin focusing on my joy that Joan has become such a constant presence in my life. I can focus on gratitude for the love that she shares with Ella. I can focus on Ella’s excitement and joy at turning six.

The shift doesn’t make the sadness go away. One of the insights I had on my recent Vision Quest is that the sadness will always be a part of me. It will always be present within me. But I am able to choose how much of my attention I devote to that sadness.

This morning, when I woke up, the vast majority of my attention was locked onto the sadness. And like a person with a toothache, who can’t stop focusing on the pain and poking and prodding at the tooth, amplifying the pain, I found myself unable to move out of that emotional stew.

But, slowly, step by step, I have begun to shift my focus, and move more of my attention to the present, to the joy that is here now. And as I do that the sadness becomes a softer presence within my awareness of the present.

It’s odd to notice that, as my awareness expands to include more of the world around me and within me, the sadness takes on a comforting tone. It’s like a “blankie” within me, something familiar and known and safe.

But just like a blanket this sadness can smother me, shroud me in darkness, block out everything else, and make it hard to breathe if I hold it too close and wrap it too tightly around me. But if I hold it as a part of my world, without having it become my entire world, it can be a positive, comforting presence.

So today I celebrate the birth of my daughter and all the joy she has brought into this world.

And today I also celebrate my birth and the knowledge that my mother was there with me, she was present for the most important Birth Day of my life!

The Language of the Pain Body


I’m just now digging in to Ekhart Tolle’s newest book, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose. In it, he offers a more detailed exploration of the Pain Body than he did in The Power of Now. And this exploration has definitely heightened my awareness of the manner in which my Pain Body speaks to me.

Just yesterday, after writing about my 30-day trial of arising at 5:00 am, I got a taste of the language of the Pain Body.

As I was getting into the shower it occurred to me that I had not told my wife about my plan to wake up at 5:00 am for the next 30-days. “Why haven’t I told her,” I thought. And then a voice that was very different responded, “Because she’ll take it away from you.”

That was strange, I thought, but my curiosity was aroused so I asked, “What do you mean she’ll take it away from me?”

“Oh, she won’t do it ‘on purpose.'” The voice replied. “No, it will all be very subtle. But you watch. If she finds out about this, you’ll notice that Ella starts waking up at 6:00 or even 5:30 in the morning.”

The voice had more to say, but by that point I was aware that it was my pain body speaking to me. And I could very clearly trace that voice and the belief system that the Pain Body was expressing all the way back to my adoption. The experience of having the one thing I wanted most in all of the world – my mother – “taken away from me” has become the fuel that my Pain Body lives on; fuel that is still burning even now, almost 42 years later.

And the reason that fuel has not burned out is because the Pain Body is a master at conserving its own fuel. The Pain Body burns anything else that it can find in order to save the precious resource of its initial painful experience.

As I stepped into the shower yesterday morning, the Pain Body was attempting to throw more fuel onto the fire, fuel that would have burned up my relationship with Melissa. That is how the Pain Body works.

But this is where the Law of Attraction comes in. Once I recognized the presence of my Pain Body and its desire to draw me out of the present and into the quagmire of an old traumatic emotional/energetic experience, I was able to ask the question, “How do I want to feel in this moment?” That one question brought me fully back to the present moment and allowed me to step out of the grip of my Pain Body.

“How do I want to feel in this moment?” So much power in such a simple question. When you have the presence to ask that question, you have no choice but to answer. For me, in that moment, I was quite clear that I did NOT want to feel the sense of dread and resentment and anger that the Pain Body was attempting to arouse by pointing out the possibility that Melissa would “take away” my newly found morning time. I did NOT want to slip back into that familiar but painful place of rehashing and re-experiencing the pain of my adoption.

What I Did Want was to feel good. I wanted to feel the peace in which I had been fully immersed during my alone time earlier in the morning. I wanted to feel the enthusiasm that I was feeling about the extra time I had to write and share my writing with the world. I wanted to feel calm and trusting, confident in the knowledge that Melissa will support and encourage me in my effort to take actions that lead me to deeper happiness and peace.

With those answers I felt the heaviness of the Pain Body slip away, unable to hold onto me, no longer able to pull me down into the depths of its darkness.

And as the cleansing water continued to wash down over me, I offered my thanks to the Pain Body for helping me become even more clear about what I want, and for giving me the opportunity to envision a more supportive, open and joyous relationship with my wife.