“Everyone can relate to having regrets and doubts and feelings of sadness related to an adoption. Have you ever spent a dreamy afternoon scanning past experiences over and over again wondering what would have happened—if only different choices had been made—thoughts that waste valuable time and eat you up inside? Obsessing about wrong choices, feelings of hopelessness and victimization, hoping that memories would somehow disappear, if only you could just re-envision the outcome you always wanted.” Judith Land
People who become complacent or unhappy with their current lives tend to look back on their past regrets to think, “if I had just done this or that…” If you catch yourself starting to wander back into those time changing thoughts, I think it is time to ask yourself what about your life would you want to change right now and how can you in the future because the future is the only thing you can change. Wanting a change in life is fine, it’s even necessary to grow as a person, but nothing will be changed by wishing you had done something different in the past. If you feel this way, it is time to start recognizing where you want to be in life and what steps you need to take to get there.
“I have had many moments in life that I can’t help but think about how different they could have been. Thinking too much about ‘What could have been’ may actually be ruining your life. The past will never change but, the future is yours.” Judith Land
Adoptees and birth mothers sometimes experience deteriorating emotional wellness, triggered by charged memories and persistent negative thoughts, resulting from the residual after effects of an adoption that is a cause for concern. When we feel emotionally out of control due to stress and anxiety, it often leads to mood-active responses that can become disruptive and inappropriate.
When bad things happen and we perceive things in a negative way, we get stuck ruminating about past decisions and events, wondering about how things turned out, thinking about choices that were made and why they happened—or could have happened—over and over. We brood on, worry about, and deliberate about these things in our minds. We mull over and agonize about past decisions that were made either impulsively or unwisely and the consequences of those actions. We become sad when we focus on our problems, indulging in self-pity and worries. We feel bad and helpless, angry and resentful. Often, it’s these ruminative thought cycles that drive our emotions up, and not the actual event itself.
Ruminating about the negative consequences of an adoption may cause you to feel yourself losing control. There are even times when you’re tempted to roll on the floor and scream at the top of your lungs. When emotions start to feel overwhelming, pause. Take a couple of deep breaths so your emotions can get a rest and start to calm down. Consciously bring those intense emotions down a bit, so you can carefully choose what to do next.
It can seem counterintuitive to accept the things that are bothering us, but indeed, it is good advice to “accept the things that you cannot change” when you want to control your emotions. No matter how upset we become, our emotions can’t change things that are unchangeable. So ask yourself: What part of this situation is unchangeable? Remind yourself to accept those things and focus your effort on the things you can change for the better. Strive for the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Use self-restraint to maintain your composure and stay calm.
Another strategy is to redirect your thoughts by getting up and doing something different, and changing your surroundings. This approach helps give you a moment to reset and take your thoughts in a new direction. Infuse some positive emotions into the situation to beat back those negative feelings. Look for the silver linings in whatever it is that’s bothering you. Improve your communication skills and advocate for your needs in your relationships with others. Infuse some positive emotions into the moment with something funny or inspiring. Positive things can often deflate even the most intense negative feelings. Stay calm and exercise self-mastery by doing something that generates happiness like watching a funny video, so you can start feeling yourself again. If you still feel all riled up, try exercise as an effective way to boost your mood. The greater the intensity of the workout, the greater the impact on your mood. The physiological changes that happen in your body make exercise a great solution for intense emotions that you’re having a hard time handling with other strategies.
Time is the allegorical father of truth. If the nurturing goddess Mother Earth and the elderly Father Time allow us to achieve inner peace by reuniting us with significant others from our past, embrace the opportunity, and remind yourself that emotionally you’ve never really been apart. This is what life all comes down to at the end of the sidewalk.