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  • Writer's pictureAnne Heffron


On Instagram, I asked adopted people what emotions they did not like to feel.

Here are the responses (the screen kept jumping around as I copied what people wrote, so if I left off a response you made, it wasn't a conscious decision--let me know and I'd love to include what you said in this list): 


I struggle with anger and sometimes with joy.

Unwanted. It's different than abandoned or ignored. Unwanted feels like you're never sure you're invited to the party but you go all the same. While there, you realize it's a bring-your-own-chair event. You have no chair, no formal invite despite a door being unlocked. 

Beautiful example using the chair. I think so many can relate to that! It's like you're always having to excuse yourself for being there despite no chair waiting for you...we have a right to and a need for a place amongst humankind. 

I always intentionally minimize when I'm good at something. (Whatever that feeling is.) Like I can know I'm good at something, but if someone tells me I'm good at something, I unintentionally divert the attention elsewhere.

Despair, hopelessness, anxiety, panic. To be trapped.

All of them. Only allowed to be positive. 

I guess anger as I don't know what to do with it so I just sit with in until it goes away.

Attachment feeling.

Longing--for my mother who lives over there (finger pointing to the right) but wants me to stay (finger pointing to the left). 


Not wanted. 

Excitement. I have struggled with showing any sort of excitement and later realized it was due to things constantly being ripped out from under me out of my control so brain conditioned itself not to get excited for things until they are actually happening in that exact moment. No earlier.


Anger. And fully full sadness--too deep, too scary!

Just found out tonight my birth father died. I only met him once. I really don't know how to feel. I didn't even know how to feel about him when he was alive. It's very numbing.


What emotion is it when you can't handle being around people when they are in a bad book because you are sure it's your fault? Fear? I don't know but silent treatment and moodiness are like the WORST things for me. They send my nervous system into a spiral.

Happiness. Calmness. Honestly, the minute things start to feel good, I don't let myself enjoy that. I have to keep myself on edge for the next disappointment or what I am going to so or do "wrong". I am never doing things "right" according to everyone else, so how can I allow myself to feel peace of mind?

Being out of my body when I am with other people.

I'm a chronic self-sabotager. So I feel most comfortable in the negative emotional space even thought I hate it and yearn to be out of it. It is what I know. What I am scared of most is happiness, comfort, peace, love, wholeness, security...honesty!

Love. I don't trust it because I thought I knew what it was, but I realized after 50 years I have no idea.

I avoid feeling abandoned and rejection. Joy is tentative.

Rejection. I try to not let that impact me. I reframe it or ignore it.

Anger. Shame.

Sadness. If I expressed it, I was dismissed with, "You have nothing to be sad about."

Grief all of it. 

Rejection. Abandonment. Both of these are like kryptonite. 

Rejection sensitivity is strongly tied in with ADHD--I didn't realize this until last year at the age of 54.


Anger. Whenever I can't label what I'm feeling in the moment, it always turns out to be anger, and grief is always underneath the anger.

Grief to me meant just work harder and be busy...stay in chaos so I avoid.

What's a feeling? I don't know that I let myself fully "feel" any emotion, especially negative feelings. Eventually, I get angry and blow my top but then I go back to people pleasing and self-blame. I take criticism pretty hard. I feel like if I'm not perfect, I'm not lovable and will be rejected/abandoned. I prefer to keep my distance than get hurt.

I don't like to feel overwhelmed and scattered or embarrassed. 

To a certain degree, all of them...But learning to let go and fully feel my feelings.

Being rejected again.

Vulnerable. Never again when I was younger and I was surviving in that orphanage and then being with an AM that had me begging for her to show me one ounce of emotion and love, withholding things on purpose. I'm happy to say I'm independent and taking people under my wing.

I'm not sure that I'd say I'd discourage myself from feeling any emotion necessarily...but what I've realized at 48 years old is that a lot of the relational patterns I had in the past even up and through some of my 30s were just me choosing people who chose me, whether those people were actually good for me or not. Being CHOSEN was such a strong pull that I overlooked soooo many signs that I should not choose that person back. There was always the fear of "if I let this person go, will anyone else ever chose me?" Of course, this was all subconscious, and I'm just starting to unravel it all now as I learn about adoption trauma. 

Grief. Happiness. Belonging.

Rejection and abandonment.

Grief and rejection.

Discourage myself from dealing with inclusion--I talked myself into believing I never was wanted or fit in and any attempt to try from the outside--I rejected or ran from.

Rejection and abandonment. While also struggling with feeling love and attachment. It's a vicious cycle sometimes. I'm getter better but it's still hard. And I know hunger is not an emotion but I feel like in my world it is, and it's very emotional for me. I get very anxious and scared feeling it.

Oof...all of them. But abandonment, rejection, and the leading up to that because I can sense when it's coming a visceral reaction. Which seems to be getting a little worse with age. I cry writing this.

I struggle with anger and sometimes with joy.


Anger mainly and sadness.


Grief. Grief is hard. 

Pretty bad separation anxiety and fears of being accused of stealing and being cheated on.

Rejection and abandonment in relationships. Not friendships though. 

Rejection, loneliness, fatigue, dependence, grief.

So many that were already listed, but trust is always a struggle. 

Rejection...I push people away any time I feel any kind of rejection...most of the times it's in my head.

Belonging, being needed, but also rejection and abandonment.

Hunger and rejection. Also, not feeling I'm important, which is a hard one! 

Overwhelming fatigue from what took me until 38 to realize was grief compounded by my family punishing me for not knowing how to handle grief as a young child. Still do not know how to deal with grief.

Hope. A foundation of hopelessness makes all the other emotions like joy and rejection even more horrifying. This is a new realization. 

Uh, all of them...

Rejection and embarrassment. 

Rejection. Terrified of it. 

Not belonging/loneliness. Also grief.

Yikes. I have difficulty feeling much other than panic, anxiety, and fear.

Loss is an encompassing grief that transports me back to my forced adoption separation when I was just a baby. I have a memory of it in my body I am certain, 39 years later.

Anger. Dependence. I don't know what the feeling is, but trusting care or comfort is super hard, too. 




I don't like feeling numb. I really try not to feel anger but it's so difficult.


I cannot accept a compliment to save my life. Like I am gracious to the one complimenting me, but it's like I can't possibly believe it to be genuinely true. I also don't accept gifts well, like I worry I owe something now or whatever. I don't really know what this it...

Grief. Family members. Friends. Pets. It breaks open the door to the primary wound that I have spent all my life trying to heal from. Knowing it's coming for things like old age or illness is almost worse than being blindsided because I know what's waiting for me on the other side of the loss.'s karma.

Feeling anxious, an outsider, not fitting in or belonging.

Abandonment, rejection, and loneliness.

The shame is pervasive and creeping. All my feelings are valid and I try to let myself feel them as best I can, but shame has a way of sneaking other stuff in with it. 

I guess I agree with most here that all emotions are hard to feel fully. Particularly rejection and potential abandonment...but also the possibility of "positive" emotions. It's painful and I don't know why. 

This post, the combined responses, is its own story. Can you hear it aching to be told, to be fully expressed and to be witnessed?

Each answer is its own doorway, it's own potential meditation into the life of the body.

Pick one that makes you uncomfortable, maybe it's the one you wrote. Your head will try to step in, tell you stories, tell you to run, go blank and tell you nothing, that you have nothing to offer so go clean the frig instead.


Let your body talk. Let your body know you are listening. Think about grief, for example, and really pay attention to what your body feels. You are safe. These are feelings, not an actually building that's about to crush you.

If, actually, it's an actual building that's going to crush you, do this with a therapist.

Your body will tell you a story. Listen. Write it down. Ask your body if it has more it wants to tell you. Ask and listen. Ask and listen. Give yourself the thing you have most needed: to be seen and heard.

You are not bad you are not bad you are not bad you are not bad you are not bod.

Your brain may tell you that you don't have words to describe what you feel. Of course you don't have words! You have never fully immersed yourself in this culture before! Make up a language. Figure it out. Play. If a best friend was sitting across from you and asked, again and again, please tell me what you want to say, you'd figure it out. You'd say something.

Help is a fully developed sentence.

You are a human being having a human experience. Write it down so you can find yourself. Share it so you can find your people.

What scares you may well bring you into the best parts of you and life. Any person group of people could have made a list similar to this, I'm guessing, and that's what often confuses people about adopted people. Why do you keep insisting you're different? the world asks. We all suffer.

The yes but part has something to do with, yes but, chances are good you got to catch your breath after you were born and have safety and connection better wired into your brains. Yes, we're all running the same race, but my brain thinks the track is going to disappear from under my feet at any moment so I'm trying not to panic while you get to focus on your form.

All of this is to say, it occured to me the other day I'm living my dream life. I do and say what I want. I feel strongly about fully investing myself in the questions that most interest me: How do I feel safe in the world? How can I bring forth what is inside of me? How can I help others bring forth the jewels they carry within? Again and again and again, the questions bring me to places I want to run from, but I'm learning that impulse is often opportunity knocking.

Go for it, Opportunity says. Love is on the other side!


If adopted people do not tell themselves and the world how they feel, how will we ever stop this practice of separating mothers and children and pretending all is well? We felt one way and our people told us we were wrong--we were not grieving, we were not afraid, we were not hungry--we were lucky, we were safe, and everything would be AOK if we'd just be a little quieter, smaller, easier to be around.


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