Is shooting yourself in the foot so bad if it improves your aim?

Well of course it is, because there are other ways to improve your aim. I think the only upside of shooting yourself in the foot is that you are much less likely to shoot yourself in the other one.

I was reading vietK’s recent post on things we adoptees do to undermine ourselves and feeling a bit chagrined about my own recent ride on the drama llama, and it struck me that perhaps some of these things are inevitable, and maybe the best we can do is just expect them and deal with them. I think it’s natural to worry about conflict and disorganization harming “the movement” or “the community” and to want to come down hard on them when they occur. Not that vietK is doing that, of course, he’s pointing out the things that bother him (including, but not limited to, conflict and disorganization), and they bother me too, especially when I see them in myself. Also, I am not really responding to his post so much as posting the thoughts that it inspired (mainly about conflict and my own recent drama), and the main reason I’m linking it here is that I think everyone should read it because he makes some very good points.

Adoptees are an incredibly diverse group. Pretty much the only thing we have in common is the adoption experience. But it is really amazing to me how much that is, just by itself. It gives us so much in common, so much we can relate to each other, that it can be really shocking when we uncover unexpectedly divergent aspects of our adoption experience, especially when there is an underlying assumption of commonality. It can make people feel shut out, even when they’re not.

The persistent use of epistemic modality (“I think…”, “in my experience…”, etc.) does get a little tiresome but I think that too many unqualified declaratives can create an assumption of shared commonality of experience, or at least project one. We all probably know that we are speaking of our own experiences but it’s easy to slip out of that and wonder if we’re being marginalized. And even speaking strictly of our own experiences can give the impression that those experiences are in some way being asserted as norms, exemplars, or prototypes of some sort. I’m not saying anyone should stop doing this, or even do it differently, but rather that it might just happen from time to time.

I think adoptees are very sensitive to discourse because we are constantly being victimized by it. The adoptee experience is something that has been subject to authorship by non-adoptees with agendas for so long now that it’s hard not to react defensively when we think the authenticity of our own experiences is being threatened, even by one of our own. It’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that that’s what’s going on, because with non-adoptees that’s almost always what’s going on.

So how do you choreograph a porcupine ballet?

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2 Responses to “Is shooting yourself in the foot so bad if it improves your aim?”


  1. 1 suz August 1, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    great thoughts. as always.

  2. 2 really? August 1, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I enjoy your blog, thanks for writing it.

    This particular post certainly rang a bell with me. I have been working in a group aimed at changing our state’s legislation concerning birth certificates. So many people in our group are definitely described here and in vietK’s post.

    Through our whole 2+ year ordeal, I have found that many of us are just simply the walking wounded, in varying stages of hurt. People that were in the group at the start have gone by the wayside, and others have taken up the challenge.

    It’s hard to work cohesively when the work is something that cuts you, and if anyone speaks out against your mission, it is taken truly to heart. It made many stay away.

    I have my own adoption issues. I have great adoptive parents that have helped me in my quest to change the law. I have found my birth mother, and she too is dead, long before I could meet her. I know where her grave is; her father tends to it, though he refuses to speak with me.

    In order to push the work, compartmentalizing has worked for me. I know when my mission is spoken against, it is not about me, it is about their uneducated point of view. It was the only way that I could proceed.
    We have worked long and hard to come out on top, and we finally did.

    I know the ones who dropped out are very grateful, and they wish they could have done more to help us. But I know where they come from. I know that some of these people were at a disadvantage, even before the word ‘go’.

    Thanks again.


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