Adopted—who’s pulling your strings?

“When I was a small child my adoptive mother put me in a leather harness attached to a dog lease. I had to walk at the exact pace, not too fast and not too slow, never running, hopping or dancing ahead to pick a dandelion, smell a flower, or skip a rock on the surface of a pond, and especially never falling too far behind.” Judith Land

Adoption Detective | Judith Land | Puppet

Puppets are an ancient form of entertainment using strings operated with the puppeteer hidden to an audience. The attachment of the strings varies according to the character’s behavior and purpose.

One of the greatest challenges for many adoptees is to learn how to gain control of your life when it becomes obvious that emotional manipulators are making you doubt your own self-worth and self-identity; people that pull your strings without good intent, intentionally attempting to undermine, confuse, and bring you down; often starting out with flattery before using your insecurities and vulnerabilities against you, coercing you into proving your love and devotion by doing chores and favors for them.

Emotional manipulators have no desire for authentic communication. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing that control and influence others in an unscrupulous way through fear, obligation and guilt. They are emotional bullies lacking love, empathy, guilt, remorse, or conscience that use mental and emotional abuse to serve their desires for power and control. They know your weak spots. They tell you how lucky you are, and then act as though you’re a burden, making you feel guilty and indebted. They destroy your self-esteem and question your validity. Whatever you do is wrong. 

Any problems you experience are your fault. If you’re upset, your expectations are unjustified and unreasonable. They say that you are too sensitive, over-reacting, and lost your sense of humor, leaving you doubting your own behavior. Gaslighting is the oldest trick of manipulation. Giving you the silent treatment increases your anxiety, desperately waiting for a reaction from them, whereby they sow the seeds of doubt that erodes your ability to navigate daily life. They never take accountability for their own behavior. Don’t expect an apology or expect them to change their ways. If they are upset, you are responsible for their bad moods and obliged to fix them.

Breaking the cycle of manipulation requires awareness and emotional distancing. Boundaries and hard lines are important, especially when you need to sustain a relationship with family members. Buy yourself some time when you need to regroup and determine the best way forward. Establish boundaries and stick to your standards. Remember that nobody can manipulate you without your consent and cooperation. Don’t try to beat them at their own game and don’t let things drag on too long because you may be compromising your health, identity, and future. 

Sometimes the best strategy is the exit door. Always aim for the best…

Judith Land


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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5 Responses to Adopted—who’s pulling your strings?

  1. Lara/Trace says:

    Oh God, Judith, I wish this wasn’t true, but it is true for me as well.

  2. Joy Smith says:

    Dear Judith I have just come across your blog, and ordered your book. Can’t wait for it to arrive and curl up with it over Christmas. Blessings Joy

    • Judith Land says:

      Thank you Joy. I hope my book opens new horizons for you. Life is challenging for adoptees because they have more things to think about and more personal issues to resolve. Destiny is not always preordained. Life is about making choices. Our lives are the sum of all the choices we make, the bridges we cross, and the ones we burn. Our souls cast long shadows over many people, even after we are gone. Fate, luck, and providence are the consequence of our freedom of choice, not the determinants. When justice is served by following our principles, making good decisions brings us inner peace. Most things of value in life take time and commitment to complete. Every great story on the planet happens when someone decides not to give up, but to keep going no matter what. It amazes me at this point to know that I have communicated with readers in 193 countries. Judith

  3. Wow I didn’t know grow up knowing I was adopted and this happed to me. I now know it’s because my parents compared me to them. If it didn’t make sense to them then they’d discount my feelings and ideas…damn…

    • Judith Land says:

      Janeen, Thanks for sharing your ideas. Comparing children and parents is like the sun and the moon. They both shine when it’s their time. Everyone has a difference style and grace. Each child is unique and capable of learning. We teach children to color inside the box and encourage adults to think outside the box. Making mistakes proves we are trying. Our souls are not defined by the opinions of others. Life is an endless trial. Storms make trees take deeper roots. Even a small glimmer of hope, tantalizingly far in the future, can help you overcome the anxieties and traumas of daily living.

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