Theory cannot be removed from observation of what is present phenomenologically in the client system.
Bert Hellinger – Loves Hidden Symmetry
Pg 115 – 120
Question: I’m a social worker in an adoption agency. We’re often called on to make recommendations about whether children should be adopted or placed in a foster home. And we’re also confronted with adoptions that go wrong. Are there any systemic guidelines that might be of help to us?
Hellinger: When children can’t be raised by their own parents, then the best alternative is probably the grandparents. They usually have the closest connection to the children. If they can take the children, the children are generally well taken care of—and the way
back to the parents is easier if the situation should change. If there aren’t any living grandparents, or if the grandparents can’t take the children, then the next best choice is usually an aunt or an uncle. Adoption is a last resort and should be considered only if no one in the family is available. Judging from my experience in working with families, the crucial factor is the adoptive parents’ intentions. If they’re truly acting in the best interests of the child, then the adoption has a good chance of turning out well. Adoptive parents often don’t really consider the child’s interests, but rather their own. Typically, they can’t have a child and are rebelling against the limits nature has set for them.
They’re implicitly asking the child to protect them from their disappointment.
When that’s the case, then the fundamental flow of giving and taking and the order of the relationships are disturbed before they start, and the parents can expect to suffer the consequences of their actions, or that the child will suffer.
When partners adopt a child out of their own needs and not out of concern for the well-being of the child, they effectively take a child from his or her natural parents in order to meet their personal needs. It’s the systemic equivalent of the theft of a child, so it has
serious negative consequences within a family system. It doesn’t really matter what motivated the natural parents to put the baby up for adoption; the adoptive parents very often pay with something of equal value. For example, it frequently happens that couples divorce after adopting a child for the wrong reasons. Sacrificing a partner is
the compensation for robbing the natural parents of their child. In families with which I’ve worked, the consequences of adopting children for inappropriate reasons have included divorce, illness, abortion, and death. In its most destructive form, this dynamic has expressed itself in the illness or suicide of one of the couple’s natural
children. It’s also not uncommon for adopted children to resent their adoptive parents and not to appreciate what’s been given to them. In such families, it’s often the case that the adoptive parents secretly consider themselves superior to the biological parents, and the child, perhaps unconsciously, demonstrates a solidarity with his or
her natural parents. Sometimes the biological parents have given their child up for
adoption when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Then the child feels legitimate resentment toward the parents, but it’s the adoptive parents who become the targets. It’s worse for them if they’ve assumed the position of the natural parents. If the adoptive parents are clear that they’re only acting in loco parentis for the natural parents, then the negative feelings remain targeted on the natural parents, and the adoptive parents get the appreciation they deserve. That’s a great relief for adoptive parents, and also for
adopted children. When adoptive parents or foster parents are acting in the interests
of the child, then they have the inner sense that they’re substitutes for or representatives of the biological parents and not their replacements—that they’re helping the real parents by completing what those parents couldn’t do. They have an important function, but as adoptive parents, they come after the biological parents, no matter who they are and what they have done. If this order is respected, then the child can accept and respect adoptive parents.
A man in a group had separated from his wife and was concerned about the custody of their adopted child. In the family constellation, he placed the child between himself and his wife. I asked “Who wanted the adoption?” He said that his wife had. I told him, “Yes,
and she sacrificed her husband for it.” T h e man representing the boy in the constellation suddenly felt weak and said that he felt like falling to his knees. I told him to do so, and he knelt while his natural mother was positioned behind him. As he then turned toward her, he said that he felt a great relief. I placed the representatives of
the adoptive parents behind him so that they could look on as he knelt before his natural mother. As they watched, they felt themselves becoming a couple. When children are adopted, it’s helpful to make clear distinctions between the names of the parents. It’s clearer for an adopted child to use different names for the natural and the adoptive parents, for example, “Father and Mother” and “Dad and Mom.” Adoptive parents
shouldn’t identify an adopted child as “my son” or “my daughter.” The message they communicate to the child should be more like, “This is the child we’ve been given to care for as representatives of the natural parents.” This message has a very different
quality. There’s no set solution for every situation. T h e main point is that
the adoptive parents retain a deep respect for the natural parents, and that they make this respect clear to the children. In many cases, it’s better for the adopted child to keep his or her original name so that it remains clear that this is an adoption.
Question: What if the child wants-to take the name of the stepfather
or of the adoptive parents?
Hellinger: I advise caution. Children feel intuitively what the adoptive parents want, and act as if they want it too. T h e adoptive parents must look very carefully to see what’s good for the child and then do it, and not let themselves be distracted by their own needs. They also m u s t n ‘ t allow the child to be the voice of their needs, as if
their needs were the child’s own. When parents discover what’s truly good for their child, then the child will naturally want that as well. The issue with a stepfather in a second marriage is clear: If the mother respects and honors the natural father, there will be no problem for the child. T h e same holds true for a stepmother.
118 Love’s Hidden Symmetry
Question: When one partner brings a child from a previous marriage
into a new marriage, should the new partner adopt the child?
Hellinger: Generally, I advise against it. It isn’t good because the child then has to deny his or her own father or mother. But look at the child, and you’ll know what’s best. It’s very difficult for a child to have to deny a parent. I’ll give you another example,
A woman called me in despair. Her adoptive father was dying and she was unable to resolve her ambivalence toward him. She wanted to be near him at his death, but she couldn’t bring herself to approach him. She explained that her mother had divorced her
father many years ago to marry this man, and that he had adopted her.
I suggested that she rescind the adoption. She hesitated, thanked me, and hung up. Some time later, she called again to say that she had done it. The situation had changed immediately, and she had been able to be with her adoptive father in his dying process. He had died shortly before the second phone call, and she was feeling at peace with him and the situation. It had become very clear to her, she said, that she had brought something back into order, and had regained her proper place in her family.
Question: I know of two children whose parents and grandparents were killed in an automobile accident. An uncle and an aunt each is willing to care for one of the children. Is it more important that the children stay with relatives, which means being separated,
or that they stay together in a foster home?
Hellinger: That’s difficult to say without knowing the children and the aunt and the uncle. We don’t know why the aunt and the uncle each is prepared to care for only one of the children, but it suggests to me that they’re not primarily interested in the children’s well-being. Maybe they feel obligated. Otherwise, one or the other
would do what is necessary to care for both of the children. Unless there are clearly extenuating circumstances, I suspect that the children might feel happier in a foster family where they can live together. I’ve often observed that people who, as children, lived in a foster home (or who were adopted) have a desire to care for foster children
or to adopt children. Children in need are well taken care of by such foster parents, because the foster parents are passing on what they themselves received. T h a t ‘ s an excellent dynamic.
Thomas: A couple in the town where I live have no children of
their own. They flew to a developing nation several times and paid
huge amounts of money to adopt a child. As soon as they got the
child home, the man had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized
for three months. As soon as he was released, they adopted a
second child. I think what’s happening there is really terrible.
Hellinger: Who knows? Look at the children and think, “They’ll
make it somehow.”
Thomas: I have another question. Friends of mine . . .
Hellinger (Interrupting): No, no, no! What did I just say?
Thomas: The children will make it somehow.
Hellinger: Yes, but before that, I said, “Look at the children.”
Who were you looking at?
Thomas: You’re right. I was looking at the parents.
Hellinger: They don’t deserve any better than what they’re getting.
They’re aware of their actions. It’s amazing what people do.
Eighteen years or so ago, I worked with a man named Peter.
When he was two years old, his mother had had a schizophrenic
episode and had thrown him against a wall. His father took them to
a doctor. After they determined that Peter’s injuries weren’t serious,
the parents and the doctor disappeared into the next room and left
him alone in the waiting room. After a while, the door opened, and
the doctor looked in. Peter said that he still remembered that doctor’s
look. It was as if the look had said, “You’ll make it.” T h a t was
all. That was the anchor that he had used to hold himself steady
throughout his life. You see, the doctor did just the right thing. He
looked at the child.
Question: My nephew, my brother’s son, was adopted by his
stepfather. He now has his stepfather’s name, and the new family
has broken off all contact with my brother and our family. Is there is
anything I can do for the boy?
Hellinger: Not really. When you consider what you can do for
him, there’s love in your heart. If you allow that feeling to work in
120 Love’s Hidden Symmetry
your heart, and at the same time resist the temptation to do something
until a good opportunity arises, then you’re doing something
good for the boy. It may take years for a good opportunity to present itself.
Bert Hellinger –Loves Hidden Symmetry pg 136-
A Constellation :
Transcript : Leslie- A Childe given up for adoption
Leslie was a participant in a large workshop for adopted children,
adoptive parents, and parents who had given a child up for adoption.
Her work makes clear some of the unexpected complexities
that adoption presents and points the way toward good resolutions
for difficult situations……..(read on in Loves Hidden Symmetry)
Bert Hellinger talks about adoption :
Systemic Family Solutions Website:
Stephen Hausner speaks about adoption.
From Learning Circle with Stephen Hausner:
We’re in touch with all the children – including stillborn and adopted children – half siblings, siblings, mothers and fathers and their siblings, grandparents and their siblings and those who made way for members of the family or suffered to the family’s benefit. We must be in resonance with all. Especially with the excluded people. When we’re not in resonance, illness happens.
The basic question is, who belongs to the system and has been excluded? A person is excluded when there is overwhelming pain. When a baby’s mother dies, the baby is overwhelmed and the mother is excluded. Or the father is an alcoholic and the child is afraid to take him. It’s easier to exclude him. Everyone we exclude comes in through the back door.
An adopted child who deals with adoption correctly, has 4 parents. Two from whom he got life and two others who supported and nourished him. When the child is able to take life from the biological parents, then he is able to take nourishment from others. If he can’t take life from his biological parents, he can’t get nourishment from others. The child must be in tune with the biological parents who gave him away by saying, “I agree.”
Suzi Tucker (co-founder of the Bert Hellinger institute USA) on Adoption and what Bert Hellinger said about adoption:
Not long ago, a young woman came to a workshop, and as we were talking about her difficulties in becoming pregnant, she said something like, I would never adopt, having seen through family constellations the terrible consequences. I heard her, heard what she’d heard and saw what she’d seen, all in a flash. I was immediately struck by how easy it is slip into a dogmatic way of thinking, even while looking through this experiential, insight-oriented lens. I am not speaking now of this young woman, but of myself, who could have taught this idea about adoption somehow.
From the beginning, my sense has been that what Bert Hellinger was pointing to when he spoke of adoption — of most things, really – was the necessity to take our actions seriously, to attempt to imagine them beyond that most local neighborhood of ourselves. What it means to go outside of those parameters in this case includes:
That the child, who is taken (given up, remanded, or in any other way severed from original connection), suffers a deep and enduring breach of the most basic level of security: to be taken care of by those who gave life. While there is not compensation for this betrayal, even the simple recognition of it may inform any potential parent’s decisions in a good way.
That in this loss of connection it is not only the biological parents themselves who are missing, but the biological language and culture of the specific family. All of it is in the child but no longer reflected back to him or her by the group.
That rather than condemning the biological parents for their handling of circumstances, gratitude to them is the place to start. Such a stance rights the initial agreement between biological lifegivers and nonbiological caregivers in a powerful way, perhaps allowing the child to better integrate both the original and the newer streams that hold him or her in life. Such gratitude has no place for the details of judgment, so the child doesn’t need to be fragmented within it.
The constellations I have seen often reveal discrepancies at vital points that damage the possibility of good outcomes. That’s different than adoption being “wrong.” Imagine the adoptive couple standing in the full depth and breadth of their gratitude for having the opportunity to nurture this life who has come into their care. Imagine if that were the sole message received and shared. Imagine that both partners were united on this level. Imagine, too, that their understanding encompassed the deepest sense that the child draws from currents outside of theirs and that their task is not to replace or erase those currents but to support them, in the best possible ways, with the biological parents standing with them at all times, in the best possible ways.
At the workshop, when we set up a piece for this young woman, there was such clarity and profundity on this layer: an image in which a child could be seen and loved and supported in all of his or her complexity.
Because I do not presume to speak for Bert Hellinger, I offer only one quote on the subject here. In Lousiville, Kentucky, in 2008, a member of the audience asked a complicated question about the new technologies available to conceive a child. I’d lost track midquestion and was afraid Bert was going to ask that I repeat the details, but instead he simply smiled and then looked out into the large audience: “Welcome child,” he said.
That beautiful phrase has stuck with me all these years as the key answer to this type of question: yes. It also seems to me the pivotal question on the way to most of our answers. Welcome child, welcome love, welcome life.
Patricia K. Robertson (Integrative Wellness Practitioner & Educator, Systemic Constellations Facilitator, and Genealogist) writes on Adoption:
The adopted child may experience unconscious, unresolved energetic emotional entanglements with their biological family system. Unless the adoption is openly emotionally processed by everyone involved, there will be individuals living the impact of this unresolved emotional suppression and trauma through struggle in some way.
The individual who has been given up for adoption lives a special fate. Their ability to thrive in live and to live in wellness with inner peace and self-love depends on their willingness to accept and agree to this fate. Where there is yearning for life to be other than it is – there will be suffering.
To adopt means to take as one’s own or make one’s own through selection. The adoptive parents choose to raise the child of another. Their role as loving adoptive parents is important in the life of the child, however, when we look at systemic family wellness and healing for the adopted child, the biological parents energetically impact the adopted child to the greatest extent.
Accepting Who You Are
In this regard, the adopted child is like any other child. The adopted child has one biological mother and one biological father. The child is energetically and physically 50% mother and 50% father. The child can take in life fully when they can fully take in the love of their biological mother and father. The child is energetically tied to their biological family system and their biological mother and father. The fate of the adopted child is entwined with the fate of the biological mother, biological father, and their family systems, and vice versa.
This explains why many adopted children feel so drawn to search for their biological parents. They are seeking to find their emotional healing. To find emotional healing the adopted child does not need to physically connect with their biological parents or family systems and I emphasize this point. It is an option if it works out for both or all parties, but it is not necessary for emotional healing to occur. However, knowing what is available about their biological parents may help the adopted child along their healing journey.
To be well and live life fully, the adopted child can do their healing work and let go of this strong energetic entanglement that may be holding them back in life in some way. When the adopted child agrees to their fate and accepts their biological mother and father just the way they are, energetic wellness may be found.
The Right to Belong
If you have read any of my other blog posts, you will be familiar with the concept that everyone has a right to belong in the family system regardless of what they may have done or not done. You can find a full discussion of this concept at the following link:
The greater family system will not tolerate the exclusion of anyone from the family system. The greater family system will not tolerate blame and judgement. If you are blaming your biological parents for ruining your life, you may suffer in some way. If you are yearning for more from your biological parents, you may suffer in some way.
The fact that you are adopted needs to be internally accepted in the cells of your body, your unconscious mind, just the way it is. This can be accomplished through systemic healing work, body-focussed therapy, ritual, and ceremony. If you are yearning for life to be different than it is, you may continue to suffer in some way. Wellness comes when you say “YES” to life just the way it is. Your life has played out just the way it was meant to play out. You came to life choosing this difficult fate for your own spiritual development and growth.
Agreeing To Your Fate
If you are an adopted child that has not agreed to your fate, it may be holding you back in life in some way or you may have physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, relational, or financial issues that are attempting to deliver you a message. Pay attention to all the messages sent to you by life and by your body.
You may not be making the connection between your adoption and your symptoms or life situations. You may be feeling this energetic entanglement through difficulties with your adoptive parents and your adoptive family system. They are there to mirror or reflect your inner emotional separation wound back to you for healing. Sometimes their role is to provide a safe place for you to do your emotional healing work. Family systems come together for many reasons. Your inner struggle will manifest out into your external world desiring to be seen and heard until you address it.
You won’t tend to do well if you emotionally suppress everything regarding being adopted. You may be shutting out the fact that you are adopted and be carrying the illusion that it has no impact on your life. You may feel you can get on just fine without your biological mother and father. You may be carrying or sharing the burdens of your biological parents if you unconsciously merged with them out of love and loyalty to your family system. This situation is especially common for adopted children when they are being carried in the womb of their biological mother and they can feel her emotional neediness. If you were given up for adoption your biological mother was likely struggling emotionally while she was pregnant with you. This is how many adopted children remain energetically tied to their biological mother in a subversive way. The energetic rejection and merger with the biological father is common for adopted children as well.
When I discuss paying attention to the messages of your body, you may be carrying the feeling of “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t belong,” “I’m not wanted,” “I need to be a high achiever to be wanted,” “I need to be a perfectionist to be wanted,” “I don’t deserve to do well,” “I’m separate,” “ I’m left out,” or “They don’t want me.” It is natural to carry these inner emotional response patterns and feelings as a child, however the adult has the capacity to shift them. All children are energetically drawn to love their biological parents even if the relationship is difficult. If I can’t openly love you, I’ll remain attached in another way. I encourage you to openly address your suppressed emotions around being an adopted child.
Without realizing it with your conscious, rational mind, you are likely feeling energetically excluded from your biological family system. Your biological family is likely feeling your exclusion as well if they have not openly expressed their grief and sadness over giving up a child. Energetic healing does not mean you have to physically connect with your biological family. I realize that frequently this is not possible or desirable.
By this point you are probably saying, “What if I know nothing about my biological family?” or “I know very little about my biological mother and father! Where does that leave me?”
Energetic healing work and systemic family constellations have revealed many of the dynamics that emotionally impact the adopted child and their biological family system. We don’t generalize these impacts but certain patterns do begin to develop and they are revealed by one family system after another. You don’t need to know everything or anything about your biological mother and father to thrive and do emotionally well in life. However, you do need to develop a healthy relationship with them where an unhealthy relationship presently exists.
Adoption links four family systems together in their fate and the adopted child is energetically placed in the middle. There is the biological mother and her family system, the biological father and his family system, the adoptive mother and her family system, and the adoptive father and his family system. A symbiotic relationship is established that impacts everyone involved. Adoption is somewhat like a marriage in that the families unconsciously choose one another for an energetic purpose.
What did the biological parents and their family systems energetically want to experience? What did the adoptive parents and their family systems energetically want to experience? Separation and exclusion may be the theme for these family systems for this lifetime. Adoption provides the opportunity for this spiritual development and growth. There is an opportunity for each individual to experience both the pain and the healing.
Adopted Child in the Midst
Although the adoption impacts all of these family systems, the energetic wellness of the adopted child is mainly linked to the relationships with their biological mother and father. The emotional wellbeing of the child is linked to both. The child is 50% biological mother and 50% biological father. Children thrive when they can fully take in the love of the biological mother and father. That means that they accept themselves fully inside. The emotional impact of the separation from the biological mother and father at birth or in early childhood is imprinted on the cells of the child. This is no different than any child that experiences a separation or bonding wound with the mother in utero, at birth, or in early childhood. This is the energetic emotional healing work that needs to be addressed.
Avoidance Doesn’t Work
If the biological parents are rationalized in the head and avoided emotionally, with the emotional impact of separation buried within, the separation wound will continue to grow over time. The child will struggle in some way if they avoid this deep emotional baggage that is being carried. Like any heavy piece of luggage you carry, this emotional baggage feels heavier and heavier over time the longer you carry it. Frequently, it’s not until adult maturity that the individual feels the urgency to do something about their emotional baggage. In many situations, chronic symptoms or conditions are the catalyst to finally explore.
If there is no energetic healthy emotional relationship established with the biological parents, this is where the healing work begins. This healing work involves acknowledging what happened around your birth and early life, accepting life just the way it was for you and your biological parents, developing compassion for your biological parents and the emotional journey they were experiencing, and gaining compassion and self-love for yourself and all others involved. This flows when you develop a strong healthy boundary with others to keep out those you want to keep out and porous yet soft enough to let those you love in.
No Physical Connection Required
The adopted child does not need to physically connect with the biological parents for healing to occur. The biological parents may even be deceased or transitioned to the other side, and yet energetic healing can occur. It is essential to understand that you are responsible for this healing work to take place. Realizing your inner woundedness is the first step.
You have the capacity to shift the inner images you carry about your birth, your childhood, and your biological parents. Healing is having gratitude for being given life and letting the rest go. Your biological mother and father want to be taken into your heart. They want to be acknowledged, respected, and honoured. You can’t fully take in your life force energy until you take the love of biological mother and father into your heart. For the adopted child, healing is a slow loving movement of the soul. You create a new healthy relationship where an unhealthy one previously existed and you shift the emotional environment around the cells of your body.
Adoptions are Systemic
What about the biological parents who gave up their child? The individuals who gave up this child will begin to thrive in live and be open to living life more fully when they accept and agree to their fate. Adoption is a spiritual decision made long before coming to birth. Understanding adoption energetically means looking to the big picture. Adoption isn’t only about the adopted individual, the biological parents, or the adoptive parents. Giving a child away is not an individual decision. It’s a systemic decision. It is a much greater collective soul movement than the individuals involved. Adoption is about a number of souls choosing to experience the human duality spectrum of rejection and acceptance. Separation or exclusion will be a continuous theme throughout the adopted child’s lifetime, and for all the others involved, until they do their energetic emotional healing work.
These energetic entanglements around adoption can flow transgenerationally from the grandparent generations down through the biological family as well. Someone may have encouraged or forced the woman to give away her child and that might be the biological grandparents. The adopted child may be energetically entangled with the biological maternal grandmother for instance. This is stated without blame or judgement, just a statement of what is in the family system. There may be shame or guilt carried in the family system. There may be sorrow. All of this yearns to be healed.
The Parent/Child Relationship
In many past blog posts I have mentioned the relationship between the child and the parent. The parents you chose for this lifetime are the perfect parents for you, otherwise you wouldn’t have all the gifts and talents you have today. Your parents provided you with the opportunities and direction to spiritually develop and grow to reach the development goals you wanted to experience in this lifetime. The adopted child chose these particular parents and the experience of being given away. This was a spiritual decision before birth. You found others who wanted this experience as well.
It is inevitable that the adopted child will experience a separation wound with their biological mother. As I mentioned above, that is the first wound that desires to be healed. There is usually a disconnection with their biological father as well. He is likely excluded from the family system. That is the second wound that desires to be healed.
If the adopted child has rejected the biological mother, biological father, or both through avoidance or open exclusion, this rejection creates more wounds that seek to be healed. In rejecting a biological parent we will often energetically merge with them as well. Merging with biological mother, biological father, or both creates more wounds to be healed and energetic entanglements to separate.
You can tell if you have rejected your biological mother or father in the way you describe them or if you avoid them. Is your description of them generally loving or judgemental in some way? You can tell if you have merged with your biological mother or father in the way you describe them and through your behaviour and actions. Are you like them in some way? Are you following a similar path in life? Do you say things that they would have said? Is your family system experiencing similar issues? As you age are you becoming like your mother or father?
When a child merges with a parent they need to separate from the entanglement and set up a strong healthy relationship boundary for themselves. The child needs to pass any shared or carried burdens or fate back to the parent. The child needs to learn to address any abandonment issues felt in childhood. If the adopted child is now an adult, they will need to learn to self-soothe themselves in stressful or emotional situations and learn to self-parent themselves. The emotionally healthy adult develops a strong sense of self and is able to maintain it with constancy even when stressful situations occur. The adult adopted child can seek no more from either the biological parents or the adoptive parents. Only love and compassion should stand between them. This is no different than the journey of any child.