The Hungry Ghosts I Live With
0 comment Tuesday, June 17, 2014 |
It is often said about adopted children that they are vessels with a small hole in the bottom. You can pour all the attention and care into them that you can, but even as they are being filled with love it is draining out of them all the same. You can never fill them up, no matter how hard you try.
I was pissing around on the internet last night, avoiding going to bed and facing my thoughts, when I came across something about Buddhism and the realm of the Hungry Ghost.
The Hungry Ghosts are probably the most vividly drawn metaphors in the Wheel of Life. Phantomlike creatures with withered limbs, grossly bloated bellies, and long thin necks, the Hungry Ghosts in many ways represent a fusion of rage and desire. Tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding of impossible satisfactions, the Hungry Ghosts are searching for gratification for old unfulfilled needs whose time has passed. They are beings who have uncovered a terrible emptiness within themselves, who cannot see the impossibility of correcting something that has already happened. Their ghostlike state represents their attachment to the past.
I don't think I have ever read anything that sums up adopted children so well. The 'Hungry Ghosts are searching for gratification for old unfulfilled needs whose time has passed', That's what they do, our children, they are on a constant and desperate hunt for something or someone who will make up for their catastrophic losses in early childhood. They try to get it from material things like toys and games or money, or from their adoptive mother's time and attention, but the more it doesn't work, the more desperate they get and the harder they try. The terrible thing is that no amount of wii games, or pocket money, or slavish attention from mother, will ever change what happened to them. Yet they are incapable of recognising this. They are also incapable of letting the past go. They will go on demanding ever more of everything and everybody in a perpetual hopeless attempt to change their ever-present past.
As an adopter you are encouraged to fill in the missing pieces from your child's past. To give them the intense nurturing they missed from their birth parents. But I am not sure, now, that this is the cure all it's supposed to be. I have given these children in the present what they lacked in the past. I have babied them. I have dressed and washed and fed them like they were helpless new borns. I have put my own life on complete hold for 20 months, given half the house over to them and the things they like, used no child care substitutes, and learnt to apply myself in every way possible to meet their needs. And yet, that terrible emptiness inside seems to have received not one drop of my attention. It's not that my attention leaks out of them, it's as if that attention never gets into them in the first place.
All the books I read, the ones for adoptive parents, say that healing can happen in adoptive children in six months or a year, given a certain type of therapeutic parenting . I don't believe them. I don't believe them because if that were true my kids would be healed by now. And I don't believe anymore that if I just keep on giving and giving and giving that my children's emptiness will get filled. In fact, I think that if I keep on giving at the rate that I am, that there will come a time when there will be nothing left of me.
Both filling in the missing pieces of care and therapeutic parenting are vitally important for the well-being of adopted children - it allows healthy personal growth and a chance to become a functional person - but they cannot satisfy the emotional hunger caused by past abuses. I used to think they could, now I know they can't.
My children are filled with rage and desire, and they are tormented by unfulfilled cravings, and just right now, after the events of recent weeks, I am not sure that there is a damn thing I can do about it.
In Summary:Just at the moment, it is my belief that I could baby and therapeutically parent my children to a super human degree and they would still grab for my time and attention like their life depended on it. They are not clingy because I haven't nurtured them enough, or because I'm not being therapeutic enough, which is the misapprehension I have hitherto been labouring under. They are clingy because they have lost something they can never get back. When they get older they will try to replace that loss (or fill in that hole, whatever) with other obsessions and addictions, but right now it's me they're using.