This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.
by Kris Rao, adopted from India to the USA, recently discovered their adoption as a Late Discovery adoptee.
In 2019 at the age of 34, I learned that I was adopted. Since then, I have become insanely familiar with the grief cycle. In a non-linear fashion, I have been relentlessly experiencing all the emotions associated with grief. Of all the emotions, anger, however, has become the one constant emotion when I think about adoption.
In the case of my experience, as a late discovery adoptee, I am angry for being lied to for 34 years. I feel deceived. Conned. Duped. Whatever words I can think of to describe it, ultimately for 34 years I was manipulated into believing I was someone that I’m not. Manipulated into believing strangers where my biological and genetic kin. The identity I was given never seemed to fit with the person I knew myself to be, and I was gaslit into feeling like the crazy one for my thoughts.
The thing about anger though, is that it is perceived as a negative emotion. All my life growing up, I have been taught to control it. To not let it get the best of me. Even now, as I write to share my experience and express my opinions on adoption today, there are those that tell me to not be so angry. That anger is not a good thing.
For quite a while after discovering the truth, I struggled with the anger. In a group for late discovery adoptees, I once posed a question about anger. More than 90% said that they still are angry, or struggle with anger. The most helpful responses were the ones that said it was okay to be angry. One adoptee even responded to something I wrote and said that it was a “righteous anger”. And they were right. My anger is righteous and justified for my experience. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel it.
As Faith G. Harper wrote in her book Unfuck Your Anger: Using Science to Understand Frustration, Rage, and Forgiveness:
“If feeling anger is OK, you can be angry and still be OK.”
Looking back, I think I struggled with anger because I confused my thoughts about anger with how we manage and act upon it. There is nothing wrong with the emotion itself. Anger is a normal reaction to any negative situation, and it’s how we deal with it that determines a positive or negative reaction. And that’s the key thing, “Anger is a response to a deeper emotion. It’s a secondary emotion, meaning it’s reactive. Not just to situations we encounter but to other emotions.”
Negative emotions are okay as long as we express them in a healthy manner.
I was always frustrated growing up with how I was raised. Frustrated that I couldn’t understand why I always felt different. That frustration turned into anger soon after discovering I was adopted. I’m angry about being lied to. I’m angry about all the abuse I experienced and for being gaslit into believing that it was for my own good. And I grieve because of it. It’s a lot of negativity to deal with all at once. When I learned I was adopted, I was hurt. There was sorrow from what felt like a huge act of betrayal. That hurt would also become anger. The more I tried not to feel all these “negative emotions”, the more “negative” I felt I was becoming.
Mark Manson wrote the following about negative emotions in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:
“The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”
“This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.”
It’s been a lot of work, but I’m learning to reframe myself and how I view my anger. I am learning to simply accept what it is, and use that to process my grief, my trauma. Accepting the negative experiences of my adoption. Allowing myself to feel my anger, and not be it.
I came across this quote a while ago, and it stuck with me regarding my grief.
“No one notices your sadness until it turns into anger, and then you’re the bad person.”
I don’t know its origins, but it feels accurate. If anything, I want people to know that my anger is not about who I am as an adoptee. It’s not even about who I am as a late discovery adoptee. It’s about what I feel as an adoptee.
More importantly, I see my anger as a tool, because it not only has allowed me to establish and keep necessary boundaries to protect myself, but it is what drives me to write for change, share my experience, and restore all that was taken away from me. I’ve learned to use my anger to advocate for change, for sharing my experience and my unapologetic truth. I share the realities of adoption by writing just exactly what I feel and how I’m dealing with it.
My anger is about calling for accountability from those that don’t want to be held accountable. It’s about reclamation.
In an essay about anger, Brian Wong wrote the following:
“While anger might not be the most practically useful emotion to have in all cases, its epistemic and motivational productivity makes it the ideal candidate in steering victims towards making appropriate claims to compensation or reparation. It is the anger towards losing what matters that enables victims to pinpoint the most important components of their restorative process – of course, we might not think that restoration is intrinsically most valuable, but this critique misses the point. Anger can play a crucial role in recovering lost goods.”
Quite simply, that’s what anger is. What it can be.
Healing from my past traumas for me isn’t about letting go of my pain, or my anger. It’s how I manage it and how I utilize that anger. It’s about using my anger for a positive experience.
Anger as a reaction to a negative experience can provide us with the energy for change. It can be used to help keep ourselves safe and give us the courage to take back what we’ve lost. And that’s a good thing!
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