“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. 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 | Adoption Detective | Judith Land

“A behavioral syndrome is a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, and behavior that are correlated with each other and a specific condition. The term foxhole syndrome was first used in World War I when millions of soldiers dug holes and trenches in the ground for protection, believing that if they stayed in their ‘foxholes’ they would remain safe.” —Judith Land

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. They are self-conscious and reserved and show timidity in the presence of strangers. 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. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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One Response 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.)

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