Written by Betty Jean Lifton, who was a clinician and pioneer in the adoption awareness movement. She passed away in 2010.
Therapists often ask me to supervise their work with adopted patients. I try to make the adoptee visible to them, and to do this I call in the ghosts that accompany everyone in the triad. It is not possible to see the adoptee, the adoptive parents or the birth mother without seeing the ghosts that accompany them.
On one side of the adoptee is the ghost of the child he might have been had he stayed with his birth mother.
On the other side is the ghost of the child his parents might have had, or the child who died. This ghost is like a sibling rival, who the adoptee may try to compete with, or give up on without even trying.
And there is the ghost of the birth mother, from whom the adoptee has never fully disconnected, the ghost of the birth father, and the birth clan.
The birth mother is accompanied by the ghost of the baby she gave up
The ghost of the birth father, who is gone
The ghost of the mother she might have been
The ghost of the adoptive parents who are raising her child
The adoptive parents are shadowed by the ghost of the perfect child they might have had
The ghost of the birth mother and birth father, whose child they are raising
The Ghost Kingdom
All of these ghosts fluctuate between dispensing comfort and wreaking havoc in the psyche. Too dangerous to be allowed into consciousness, they are usually banished into what I call The Ghost Kingdom. It is an awesome sphere, located in everyone’s psychic reality. We can think of it as an Alternate Reality. In the past, one could only enter one’s Ghost Kingdom through fantasy, but now in this Age of Search and Reunion, the ghosts are being morphed into real life people who inhabit the real world.
In my clinical practice, I try to make everyone aware of the ghosts who influence much of their behavior, as well as the trauma they’ve experienced, and the dissociation they have done.
-Betty Jean Lifton