“Adoption and Behavioral Foxhole Syndrome”

“Some children still continue the historic tradition of hunkering down in a safe place to avoid unpleasant situations, predictable confrontation, and the emotional pain of reality.” Judith Land

Adoptees suffering from “foxhole syndrome” believe that if they hide in a safe place and keep their head down they won’t be noticed. In their minds, surviving adversity entails more than getting through the initial crisis. They must also cope with the aftermath of a series of distressing, heartbreaking and harrowing events that are worrisome, agonizing, and difficult to reconcile. Hoping to escape a troubled past that is complicated, and avoid the strain and anxiety of post traumatic stress, the frightened child attempts to remain out of sight to avoid detection and looks for shelter in spaces that are defensible. Running for cover and seeking a safe haven that offers a psychological refuge is their way of avoiding stressful situations that cause tension, especially when there is a perception of uncertainty and risk.

Foxhole Syndrome | Judith Land | Adoption Detective

A foxhole is a hole in the ground used as a place of refuge and concealment.

Adoption is an event that can create a serious disruption of a person’s beliefs about human nature and the randomness and order of the universe. When people are afraid their hearts race and they either shoot at anything that moves or cower in the fetal position as they scramble to stay out of harms way. Unfortunately, it can be excruciatingly lonely being isolated in a closet, an attic, under a staircase, in a tree, in a darkened basement, or a lonely tavern, and depressing living with the repercussions and memories of complex circumstances and vagueness about how things stand when you are feeling isolated and alone. Adoption is an emotional occurrence with enduring consequences that adoptees have no control over, yet the outcome has profound aftereffects and significant implications to one’s values and eternal life. There is much at stake, yet no child is able to act on its own self-interest in any definitive way whatsoever—most are essentially powerless to alter life’s circumstances. They have no other recourse other than to quietly endure the interminable outcomes of the pivotal events in their life over which they have no command. They have a confined number of acquaintances, shy away from making new friends, and may be apprehensive about answering the telephone and the doorbell, even in adulthood. Adoptees characterized as self-conscious and reserved that show timidity in the presence of strangers that have been diagnosed with selective mutism have difficulty verbalizing personal thoughts that are excessively revealing, distressing, or of a painful subconscious nature. They intentionally avoid specific activities due to nervousness and a lack of confidence, stay away from confrontational situations, and shy away from saying what they think in public—hence the term “foxhole syndrome.”

Did you ever wish that you could find a small sheltered cove far from everyone where you could conceal yourself under a warm blanket of complacency to hide from the pressures of the world? Trauma causes us to step back and re-evaluate our deepest motivations and convictions as we pass through each phase of the human life cycle of playfulness, ingenuity, passion, enterprise, contemplation, benevolence and wisdom. Each phase of life has its own perception of humanity and at each subsequent stage; happiness becomes based more on internal, controllable values and less on the externalities of the ever-changing outside world, but when troubles persist, it remains uncertain at what stage of life can you expect to blossom to your fullest degree. Regardless of the life phase you are in now, does it really take a full clinical analysis to correctly identify adoption as the underlying cause of behavioral foxhole syndrome?

Judith Land


Adoption Detective


About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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4 Responses to “Adoption and Behavioral Foxhole Syndrome”

  1. Lara/Trace says:

    Thank you for putting this into words, Judith. It’s all true. (What hurts is many adoptees do not even recognize this behavior.)

  2. Judith Land says:

    Dear Lara, Recognition and acknowledgment of difficult issues is the first step to a better life. When we find ourselves isolating ourselves from friends and strangers and repeating the same maladaptive behavior over and over again we become stranded in a boring routine that produces a humdrum existence that is self-defeating; behavior that zaps our vitality, distracts us from our goals, and moves us further away from a contented life and the things that we really want. We are all exposed to unavoidable difficulties in life that we must eventually learn to overcome; it is normal to be challenged by difficult and awkward situations and occasionally make decisions or act in ways that leave us with feelings of regret. Cultivation of friendships is important in order to thrive and prosper and live a stellar life. Positive communications and positive outcomes generally result from the sharing of good ideas, respect for the opinions of others, and resolution of differences when addressed in person. I hope everyone involved with an adoption that is plagued by fear and pessimism and the lack of confidence leading to hesitation learns to develop the ability to see the value of language and personal communication. It is through our persistence in our beliefs and perseverance in the face of hardships that we learn to overcome sorrow and develop our stamina and endurance to gain the confidence needed to conquer apprehension and timidity that gives us the fortitude and horsepower to carry on in the face of adversity.

  3. Judith Land says:

    It’s a beautiful picture, congratulations. The posting has been removed.

  4. Very insightful. Thanks for sharing.

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