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190 - The Gathering Place, An Adoptee Story
Episode 19019th November 2022 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:40:21

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Emma described her adoption with words and concepts like "purchased", "captor", and "Stockholm syndrome". Those aren't the ideas behind a healthy parent child relationship

When she decided to find her birth mother, Emma would not be deterred by the redacted information her case worker gave her, so she took action... illegally, to steal her birth mother's name.

In reunion Emma lacked the tools to maintain a relationship with her birth mother, and stood face to face with her birth father who portrayed himself as an innocent bystander, not a biological relative.

This is Emma's journey.

The Gathering Place, An Adoptee Story

Who Am I Really?

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Transcripts

190 The Gathering Place

Cold Cut

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[00:00:00] Emma: it's very, , satisfying and gratifying that I finally figured out that I do have choice and maybe I didn't have choice. I did not for sure have choice when I was in my childhood home, but that was then, and this is now, and I have my own key to set myself free, but until I gave myself permission to think in those terms, I was lost.

Show Intro

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In reunion, Emma lacked the tools to maintain a relationship with her birth mother and stood face to face with her birth father who portrayed himself as an innocent bystander, not a [00:01:00] biological relative. This is emma's His journey

Opening

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[00:01:19] Damon: my first memories were being very sad, sad for not only myself, it felt lonely.

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And if I ever did, I was ungrateful and selfish. And all I needed to know was that they owned me now. [00:02:00] And I should forget, and not even ever think about ever coming from somewhere else that was painted as being cut from inferior cloth. So, you know, the message to me was if I came from inferior cloth, then I must be too.

So how was I to separate that message and I couldn't, so it was, you know, very much a totalitarian authoritative. Also, I mean, it was really a cult-like family situation where there was no breathing room to have a thought, have a feeling, have a, any kind of idea of anything other than what they told me was allowed.

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[00:02:50] Emma: No, but it was the implicit message.

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[00:02:55] Emma: that I was purchased for a certain role and I was to play that role of the [00:03:00] dutiful dot.

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Right. and I'm, I'm interested to know a little bit more about the suppression of thought, you know, the, it sounds like you were pushed away from pursuing individuality almost. Is that right?

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To my own identity or have a thought of my own. Because I was really, they thought just like other people at that time, you get a baby and it's a blank slate instead of it having texture and fabric of ITSs own. And if there is anything, like, that's just pretend like it's not there and we'll force the situation until that baby complies. And there was a lot of oppression in order to get at my brother and I to meet the approval. And it was really a lifelong thing of, I mean, even today, it's still playing itself out where [00:04:00] I have. They have, my father has certain expectations what I should be doing in order to revolve around him.

That's it's been a lifelong thing.

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Can you tell me, what was your family structure like? Were you multiple adoptees? Did you have biological siblings to your parents? Tell me a little bit more about your, your family structure.

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And there were no biologicals. We were always told that my parents were infertile and couldn't have their, their own [00:05:00] children so we were, you know, plan B. So father , very much. The dictator. And I'd say he just was basically co dictator with my mom. It was their, they were a United unit for sure.

But it was to the point of where the detriment of their children, where they wouldn't listen to their children or even foster a good relationship might between my brother and I, we never were feeling like we were brother and sister.

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[00:05:30] Emma: In fact, we couldn't trust each other. And I think my parents unconsciously wanted it that way because it's harder to divide and conquer.

If you have a United unit with, you know, if my brother and I were a solid unit, so it was an easier way for them to control us.

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[00:05:52] Emma: Well trigger warning. There was a lot of mental. And [00:06:00] psychological abuse of many hours of being stripped away of your identity to the point where you didn't really know who you were.

There was a lot of dissociation on my part to be able to survive that kind of day to day. You know, telling of that. You're whoever you think you are. You're not so. In order to survive, you're gonna need to go along with our plan. And my brother, unfortunately, he developed a lot more addictions and adaptations than I did.

And at 60, his heart exploded and he died.

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[00:06:38] Emma: and I truly feel like it was death by adoption

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[00:06:43] Emma: adoption, meaning that it wow. colored his entire life. You can't separate it out.

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[00:06:51] Emma: You know, it's, it's always on a spectrum though, right?

atic people know how to, you [:

Mm-hmm of you love your captor,

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Like most of the time, you know, you grow up with what you know, and it's not until you sort of bear witness to it at. An age where you can understand it, you know, you might go to the neighbor's house and see, Hey, their family doesn't kind app, right. Like this. Yeah. You know, so there's no point of reference.

cept what your situation is. [:

It's supposed to be.

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Or am I the crazy one? Like they've always told me. So there was a lot of deconstructing deprogramming to understand that the rest of the world and true, nurturing, healthy love. That was not it.

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The family lived out in the country, away from other families. The children weren't allowed to do extracurricular activities, which kept them from socializing. All of the suppression of individuality and self-expression led to stunted growth. Emma said.

She, and especially her brother turned to substances as a form of self-sabotage because the brainwashing they were under made the children feel shameful about their natural desire to grow and thrive. I asked if the mere act of going to school was some kind of escape for Emma.

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And as we know, if you know [00:10:00] anything about the polyvagal theory is that stimulates your vagus. And up and down your spinal cord, whenever you sing or get outside yourself. And it was really a tool that helped me feel like I belonged in the choir and I was able to make sense of emotion through the words of lyrics of songs.

So that was interesting. And I started journaling because that was the only way I could. Have a with my parents was to slip a note under their door and either try acquiesce or, you know, apologize for whatever. So I could get back on good standings, but it taught me how to write. It taught me how to form a sentence mm.

And express emotion. Mm-hmm so all of those kind of things, I didn't even realize, but it was feeding into kind of being a, a life saver for me. to individuate in different areas, even though I was being stifled at home.

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And so they're stuck inside their head without an outlet for some of those thoughts. And so it's probably really healthy that you were able to sit down and it definitely was express them and, and actually read 'em back and go, wow. I actually feel this way. You.

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And I kept trying to find that person, but there was no one out there, not a principal, not a teacher, not a family member. There just was no one. And I had to use those oth other vehicles in order to, to try to keep somewhat healthy, but really what happened. And, you know, my whole life was not always a bad decision, but there were enough that really, when I look back now, I see everything was colored by first, the relinquishment and the adoption being raised by dysfunctional parents, every decision I ever made in my life.

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[00:12:08] Damon: That makes a lot of sense. Can I ask, what was the response when you would try to raise things with your parents and you slipped notes under the door?

, how did they respond? If at all?

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[00:12:45] Damon: Do you mean quite literally drinking?

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[00:12:49] Damon: Mm-hmm I see. Wow. Yeah, this sounds incredibly, let's just say

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[00:12:55] Damon: Emma's college years led to more deeper reflections on her own [00:13:00] personality and her upbringing, which she realized was not in a normal house. She read the book, "the road less traveled by Scott Peck and it had a huge impact on her. The book combined spiritual exploration with psychological insights,

was after college in the late:

She said it wasn't until she went to visit the adoption agency, she was placed through. And spoke with a caseworker with a unique relationship to emma's adoption that things changed dramatically for her search

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[00:14:12] Damon: Really. So she was the case worker for your birth mother when your birth mother placed you for adoption. That is fascinating. Yes.

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she signed a letter with her her true name. She had used a fake name all through the pregnancy. So that was the first time the agency knew her as a different identity.

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[00:14:43] Emma: Yeah, it was, it was pretty chilling because then I realized, even if I did ever find my real birth certificate, my unended birth certificate, it would more than likely have a fictitious name for the mother So the only way it'd ever find out her true [00:15:00] identity is if I had that letter. Wow. And she the caseworker, she did give me the body of the letter, but obviously she marked out birth mother's real name.

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Emma and her boyfriend at the time, put their heads together and decided They were going to break into that adoption agency to obtain her file

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[00:15:56] Damon: That's amazing.

able. I've heard some people [:

[00:16:11] Emma: did not get caught, but I had such a guilty conscience that for 10 years I looked over my shoulder thinking, surely I'm gonna get a phone call or someone's gonna knock on the door.

Yeah. And say, we know what you did. . Yeah. But it, well, like we said, it was a time before cameras, security guards security systems. And there was DNA didn't happen. So we used gloves and there were no fingerprints. And then we put everything back just the way we found it or took it, we put it right back.

So there was never anything missing as far as Mm-hmm The adoption agency knew

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[00:17:13] Emma: Well they always say, be careful. what you wish for. It was good talking with her and we did meet in almost immediately after that. I flew to California, but it was difficult because she had lived a very hard life. and I think was looking for me to be more of a mother to her. And I was only 24 at the time.

And . I didn't know how to do that. I didn't know how to mother myself at that point. So it, it lasted a couple of years. But she was always very evasive with any information. As far as birth father and so on and so forth. So I kind of gave up, she didn't know what to do with me.

. She was happy. I was okay. [:

[00:18:04] Damon: What, what do you mean by that? Were, were you struggling to cultivate a relationship because you'd been apart so long because you were sort of socioeconomically different or your different life struggles, what was, what does not knowing what to do with each other mean?

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But I think she looked at me as sort of that guilty reminder. Something she'd done in her past, and now she's supposed to try to have a relationship with me. She should try to be something to me and she didn't know how to do that. [00:19:00] And I didn't know how to help her. And so I think that we just both walked away from it and she's passed now.

So there's no opportunity to do anything else with it. Mm-hmm but I'm still reconciling. And that was. I don't know, 36 years ago. Oh,

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Is that correct?

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[00:19:38] Damon: What do you think about when you think back on. when you did connect with her and your desire or attempt to rebuild, do you, what do you have things that you think you could have done differently?

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Mm-hmm before. Attempting. That's huge. It's just so huge to unravel. You need, you need some tools first. yeah, and I had enthusiasm. I had tenacity, but I didn't have tools.

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What was your reason why you were searching and, and, and did you know enough about yourself? What was your reason?

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And so I think that stayed with me until I did find her. And one of my biggest motivations was to tell her I'm okay, I'm not lost in the woods. I'm, you know, I'm here in front of you right now. And also I think I searched in every person I ever met throughout my life of could they be my birth family?

Is this my birth mother? It's like that book. Have you ever heard of that? Children's book? Are you my mama? Yeah. Or the little bird? Yeah, that, that was so me. and I have to analyze my actions present day of when I get attracted to a certain personality, I have to say now, what is this? what am I looking for?

for things and have no idea [:

[00:22:01] Damon: Emma said when she broke into the adoption agency, she got access to her unamended birth certificate in her adoption file. Remember her birth mother had used a fictitious name throughout her placement process until she signed to the letter to Emma with her real name. With that in mind, Emma assumed that the name on her original birth certificate.

Would be a fake name for her birth father to. Emma took the man's name on that birth certificate traced him through the department of motor vehicles in the local area where she was conceived and tracked him Down

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And I said, well, what was her name? And he would fein it and say, he couldn't remember. I actually found [00:23:00] him before I found birth mother

and I, and I asked him, can you please help me? Because I have her name that was after I already had her name. Can you let me know. Is this true? Is this the person?

Can I, how can I find her? And he was saying he couldn't help me. He was very nice, but he couldn't help me. And he was not my birth father.

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[00:23:24] Emma: he said he was not my birth father. He only signed the document to help out a friend, meaning my birth mother.

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[00:23:39] Emma: well, fast forward, about 35 years later when I finally did my DNA the surname of the person that was on my birth certificate across as a close relative on DNA relative matches mm-hmm . So I started digging more and. Found a first cousin [00:24:00] that I did call and she immediately had said that, yes, we have that name in our family.

He's passed now. So anyway, that, that's how I found definitely for sure that he was my birth father. And he had hugged me that, that time I met him. So he hugged me knowing that I was his, his daughter.

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When in fact he was the guy.

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Wow.

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Did you, did you sense any

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There were certain things I did have a feeling of. I really kind of think you are, but you're telling me you're not. So I just went with it even though. For 35 years more. I thought, yeah, I think it is him, but I had no proof until the DNA came through.

And I have to believe he just, he just felt that was the story he had to live with.

He was uncomfortable with anything else. and birth mother was uncomfortable telling me anything more than she could tell me. And I've tried to really reconcile, not having. Harsh feelings towards either one of them. But it's been process.

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Like how did you manage it? [00:26:00] Because I'm sure you can go through anger and confusion and just tell me a little bit about some of the things that you've felt along that way and how have you gotten past those, those issues?

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And it wasn't a linear journey and I'm still on that journey, but it really came down to not feeling as though I needed to be of my adoptive parents. And I'm not really of my birth parents either. I'm me. And I feel like I'm connected with my universe and I'm connected with my true purpose of why I feel like I'm here.

ither the, all four of those [:

Yeah. And that took me a long, long time to understand.

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It is as a result of the experiences you've had. And it is as a result of the biology from which you're born. But it's also what you do with it, right? If you, yeah. You know, definitely place moldable clay in front of someone, they're gonna have different ideas of how to make it into something that is their own.

u create experiences of your [:

Accepted mm-hmm, what people have given you in terms of the information that they will or were not willing to share and, and pieces of themself that they were willing to, or not willing to offer to you. And you've said, okay, that's what they have decided to do, but here's me in the middle and I'm going to do, as I choose with building up myself.

And it sounds like it took quite a bit of work, but you've, you've done the work to get there, which is really.

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[00:29:11] Damon: I love that I have my own key to set myself free. That is amazing. Wow. That is really incredible. Oh.

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And if it hadn't happened, I wonder if I might just keep that low vibration for the rest of my life, where I just do things and don't understand why I'm doing 'em

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It's amazing.

Emma said she never shared her reunion journey with her adoptive parents. She told her adoptive mother's sister who shared the story with Emma's mother. Her parents didn't speak to her for three anguishing years. Their withdrawal and silence was their way of punishing Emma for what they perceived as her insolence.

She said the only reason they started talking to her again was Emma had a baby and we agreed infants have a beautiful way of bringing people together. Emma and her parents haven't mentioned her reunion since they found out about it. And her daughter is 27 years old now. I'm always curious about adoptees as parents, especially people like Emma who described her home as cult-like with an upbringing that gave her feelings of Stockholm syndrome. I was curious how she shares her experiences with her daughter and how her daughter talks about them with Emma

eautiful relationship and it [:

[00:31:22] Emma: And luckily I didn't hold on so tight that I caused a lot of damage, but anyway, things are really great. Now She sees clearly what's happening or has happened with her grandparents. And my mother recently passed my adoptive mom. And so now it is my dad, but I'm still very much walking through the emotional immaturity and the sense of entitlement that both my parents have always had plays out to this day.

and I should be propping up [:

My daughter has been there with me, even though she's getting her PhD right now. Every spare second, she helps with, trying to do everything you need to do for an elderly person. There's quite a bit, even though he's got 24 7 caregivers, it's still, there's a lot of caring and a lot of.

Needs, and she's always right there to be as helpful as possible.

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Right. [00:33:00] That's incredible. Mm-hmm good for. Wow, Emma, this is amazing. Mm-hmm I love to hear a person's growth throughout their life. And to hear that you came from this adversity of being suppressed and mm-hmm sequestered and, you know, even isolated from your own siblings, let alone sounds like from the rest of life to focus on these adoptive parents who brought you in to.

Place where you've identified that you've got the keys to your own freedom, I think is just really, really powerful.

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[00:33:40] Damon: Emma has written a book about her journey called "the gathering place and adoptee story". We chatted a bit about what she wants readers to take from her book and the catharsis that comes from capturing your own story.

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Whether you get it published or you put it in a [00:34:00] drawer, just get it outside your body. And take a look at it and see what reflections you see, what, what connections you see rising up from your own story. And it helps you to know where you're going in the

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like, I'm very, very adamant about people getting their own stories out because as you've said, when it lives inside your body, no one else can really sort of truly appreciate it for one and two. There's something extremely cathartic about releasing it, right when it just lives in your head, it bounces around in your brain.

words or hear your words or [:

Your perspective, because this is your own self-expression and nobody can take that away from you. And, and as I told another adopted person recently, one of the big things that's so great about these platforms is we don't necessarily. Usually get the opportunity to express our entire journey, right?

Mm-hmm , it's usually this elevator speech, you know, I was adopted, I was you know, I had an awesome adoption or an awful adoption. you gave a couple of facts about your life and you know, now I know my birth mother or she rejected me, whatever the things are. And. sharing the elevator version.

people truly can understand.[:

How you've gotten to where you are now. That's, that's my opinion. Mm-hmm so I totally second write your story down. Even if you put it in a drawer and someone finds it later, just know that it's out there and it's your words and your own emotions behind it. That's really cool.

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Yeah, that's right. To hear those kind of words.

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[00:36:42] Emma: That we need to be welcoming of ourselves. And what I mean by that is we have a lot of parts and they all make up who we are. And I try trying to welcome even those parts of myself that I'm not [00:37:00] thrilled about. But knowing that I. Can have conversations with my inner self. Maybe, you know, there's so many selves in there that we can have dialogue and we can integrate to where there's just a lot more harmony in my life now.

And within my bodily system than there ever has been before. And I'm hoping that others can get that too.

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[00:37:32] Emma: Thank you, Damon. I appreciate your platform and everything that you're doing as an adoptee and as an advocate.

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Thank you all the best. Take care. Bye-bye

bye.

Closing

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And she admitted she had the tenacity to find the woman, but not the tools to navigate a sustainable reunion When Emma found her birth father, he led her to believe he was not the man she was seeking, but she said she could see herself in his baby photos and she could feel that he was the guy.

It took over 30 years for DNA to confirm the man's identity. But by then her birth father had passed away. It was cool to hear that Emma's self-reflection continues and that the process had revealed she was doing some unhealthy things raising her daughter. It's really great that she was able to catch them and course correct to build the beautiful relationship she has with her daughter today.

ou found something in Emma's [: