' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: When lying becomes a defense to hide the real person

Sunday, March 1, 2015

When lying becomes a defense to hide the real person

Lying is a subject that I write about gingerly, but it is an issue that I had to deal with as my daughter often simply could not tell the truth--either to me, her natural mother; her adoptive parents, and even friends. Recently this came into FMF's mail box from an adoptee I'll call Anna:
"i read a piece on first mother's forum where you discussed adoptees' lying and playing fast and loose with the truth - in particular, making up fantastic stories. i have done this. i can't speak for anyone but myself but i can tell you why i have done it -it's a test, plain and simple. not so much to see if you will believe me or the story, but what you think of it in the first place. you and anyone to whom i'm telling the story. 
"for instance, if i tell you a story about my having done a compassionate act, then i can get your reaction to me, you can judge me, without really judging me, since i never really did it. i can test you from a safe
distance. if you were to say to me, doing such compassionate acts is a waste of time - then i know, for the future, to not share that side of myself with you. that is of course only one example and the story does not always have to star me to be effective but it is motivated by the need to test."
Anna goes on to say that if she is dealing with a coworker whom she suspects doesn't like her, or is judgmental of her, Anna makes up stories as a way of "creating smoke and mirrors," so that the individual is not really dealing with her, Anna, but with the fabrication of her. This false story she has created is a way of making Anna feel safe."this is something that i have never really talked about with anyone, save a little bit with my husband, now a few years back," she goes on to say, adding: 
" i haven't lied like that in a long time but in a way i do miss it, it definitely seemed easier than genuinely dealing with people. this uneasy feeling is not even necessarily focused at my birth mother - she is at a 'safe' distance, for now. i gained a lot of attention in school, being relatively  good academically and ok to look at, and i could not deal with that attention, so i had several strategies of pushing people away, including sleeping in class, arranging my class schedule so that i was not in classes with others my age, etc.  lying was just another layer of defense and i took that skill with me into adulthood for some time." 
Anna wrote that she did not initially feel threatened by meeting her birth mother, as she was on her  own and free from the restrictions of her family, and so:
" i didn't feel the need to create a false persona with her or her family.but i did continue to resort to lies which amount to a bit more than the proverbial little white lie when the going had gotten tough - when other people became too close. i haven't needed to examine anyone's motives or test anyone in a long time through the use of lies, and now when people become too close or ask questions, bring up subjects that i dont want to answer or talk about, i usually say something like, "i really don't enjoy talking about my family" or "i really don't like this subject" which is still off putting i'm sure but that is the way i feel about it. it happens quite a lot, actually... 
"i find that women seem to want to divulge their histories, about their parents, siblings and kids, upon making new friends and while i enjoy hearing what they have to say i really don't like talking about my history until and unless i am more comfortable, and usually that never happens. i'd rather focus on work, if we are co-workers, and our thoughts on the work, or if i'm in a club then i like to focus on the task or hobby at hand, or something silly or entertaining. i guess maybe my lies were meant to at once keep someone at a safe distance but not to push them entirely away, and that seemed to work when i was in high school, and somewhat in college. i couldnt have dreamed of saying something so bold as "i dont wanna talk about that" when i was younger, certainly not to anyone my senior, and i wouldnt want to put off someone my age  either who was a potential friend. at this point in my life i'm thankful for having only a small amount of friends. :) i guess my lies were pretty unbelievable..." 
As someone who was on the receiving end of lie after lie from my daughter, I found Anna's email enlightening. But that does not change the fact that dealing with someone who lies a great deal makes having a solid relationship with them nearly impossible. And after a while, that was true with my daughter. Who was she? The nice person I sometimes talked to? Or someone making up a story that was completely unbelievable, and if so, why was she doing that? And to me? And to her adoptive parents as well? 

A psychologist who specializes in adoption issues, David Kirschner, discovered that the adopted children he was treating had a rich fantasy life, reflected in personality tests, that were usually spun around two sets of parents, one good, one bad. “There were also elaborate themes of loss, abandonment, and rejection; and the child’s behavior problems often included lying, as they felt they had been lied to; stealing, to compensate for the theft of their identity; and truancy or running away, a symbolic effort to find their biological roots and an environment in which they felt they fit and belonged,” he writes. One of his young patients told him that he was going to keep some secrets….“’I’m going to leave you real curious, and hanging, like I was left…curious…with a hole in my head.’” [1] 

When I asked the late B.J. Lifton [2] about lying, she replied in an email: “Since adoptees grow up with falsified birth certificates and secrecy about reality, in the minds of some there is no border between truth and lying. They have no true narrative, so they can make up anything they want. They are ‘free spirits, not entrapped by roots,’ as a birth cousin suggested to me.”

Free spirits they may be, but when a web of lies hides the true self, one doesn't know who one is dealing with. I realized pretty quickly that I dealt with my daughter's stories with a great deal of skepticism, as did my husband and a friend of ours who filled in the role of the good uncle. Talking to her about her lying didn't help at all; she would listen, but nothing ever changed.

If someone makes up stories all the time, an honest relationship is impossible, as the skein of lies hides the true self and has the effect of pushing away the people who would like to be close, exactly what the individual may want--and so desperately need. Does this happen to all adopted people? Of course not. But for those it does, it seems to be rooted in the experience of how adoption is handled today, with secrecy and lies, with the pretense that one's origins are supposed to be of little matter. They matter. They matter a great deal.--lorraine

[1] Adoption: Uncharted Waters, A Psychologist’s Case Studies (Juneau Press, 2006),  pages 7-8.
[2] In addition to Lost & Found, B.J. Lifton is the author of two other books about adoption: Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter; (New York: McGraw Hill) 1975;  Journey of the Adopted Self  (New York: Basic Books), 1994. 

DOWNTON ABBEY UPDATE: Last week Lord Grantham figured out that Marigold, the baby that his daughter Edith has brought into the main house, was her child, but no fireworks ensued. The baby is there, the story is out that the single Edith has taken her on as a "special case," and the family can move forward without scandal. Lord Grantham spoke to his wife, Cora, about the child, and she said, yes, he was right, but it was Edith's secret until she wanted to tell everyone. He just said he was pleased to be in on a secret in the house, as he usually is excluded. Last episode of the series tonight, but I suspect the Marigold issue is largely done and over. At least she is with her mother and kin. We'd have to wait until she comes of marriageable age to see how that would be handled. Anyone see the movie Belle? 


Adoption: Uncharted Waters
"Dr. Kirschner provides a realistic view of the tide of anger rising up when a child is not able to develop trust within the adoptive family. He points out how sealed records can actually thwart the new bond between the adoptee and his or her adoptive parents. When parents and society tell an adopted person that their records will always be sealed and that they will never be honest and authentic, it can breed an anger that knows no bounds."-Mary Payne at Amazon

Found: A Memoir
"Expanding on her previous titles (Blackbird; Still Waters), in which she related the traumatizing experiences of being adopted twice before reaching her teen years, Lauck begins her story a decade later. After years of therapy, Buddhist practice, her brother's suicide, two failed marriages and motherhood, she rejects her old vision of comparing the past to "radioactive waste" that must be buried. Despite early indifference to finding her birth mother, Lauck comes to see the woman as key to releasing deep pain, sadness, and rage. Lauck's spare narrative concentrates on emotion, occasionally expanded with clinical explanations of mother-child bonding and Buddhist perspectives on inner growth. But she shines when she allows the abandoned child to peek out. Lauck searches out her birth mother and finds her deceased birth father's family, completes the circle, then moves on. People who have struggled for a sense of belonging or with anger and grief will find wisdom, comfort, and guidance in Lauck's discoveries."--Publisher's Weekly 


  1. When I saw the title of this post, I knew I had to read it immediately. I've been delving into adoption matters quite deeply for the past three years, but this is the first time I've seen the issue of lying come up, yet I recognize that lying has been central to my experience, especially with my adopted son. He has lied for as long as I can remember (we adopted him at 9 mos., and he's 41 now). In fact, I'd say that probably half the things he told me were lies, large or small. Many, perhaps most, of his lies were to avoid getting into trouble: No, I didn't take the $20 out of your purse. No, I didn't steal this remote from a friend's house. Others were intended to get something. Probably the most disconcerting lie was his telling me he had cancer and needed $9,000 to pay the doctor. As usual, I initially believed him and was shocked and worried. I offered to go with him to the doctor. No thanks. I asked for the name of the doctor and was given a false one. He didn't have cancer, and to this day I have no idea what he wanted the money for. I suspect he owed it to someone, and I'm probably better off remaining in ignorance. But that was years ago. Now I suspect he tells me what he thinks I want to hear, and I respond as if everything he says is true. I haven't seen him in six years, and though I've tried many times to open a dialogue with him about his adoption and childhood, like Anna he obviously doesn't want to go there. The situation is a bit different with the son I surrendered to adoption 47 years ago and found three years ago. We have a loving relationship (not without many difficulties, too complicated to go into here), but all I know about him are things he's told me. I assume most of what he says is true, but sometimes it feels as if he's exaggerating and telling me what he thinks I want to hear. In the beginning he talked a lot about money, assuming, I suppose, that the money he'd made would impress me. I come from a family of teachers, and while we were solidly middle-class, having lots of money has never been important to me. I was actually disturbed by his emphasis on it. Now that he knows me better, he talks more about how he wants to help other people. The money talk is still there, but now it's coupled with plans for starting a wellness center for recovering addicts or rescuing Asian maids from servitude in Indonesia. His ambitions may come to fruition; I hope they do. But I still wonder how much of what he tells me is the literal truth and how much is hyperbole. Sometimes I worry that I'm being too skeptical with him. I know I was often too credulous with my adopted son. I had to learn skepticism with him the hard way. It helps so much to know that lying is a not infrequent trait among adoptees. It helps me to respond with less anger and more understanding. I wonder if this tendency is permanent, so ingrained as to leave the adoptee unaware of what he/she is doing? Is it something we, as parents, should shrug off or confront? I would like to hear what others' experience with lying has been and how they've dealt with it.

    1. "It helps so much to know that lying is a not infrequent trait among adoptees."

      Um, I don't think it is a common one either..... I'm very honest, probably to fault.

      I would like to see solid research that indicates adoptees lie more than non-adopted people do. I doubt we do.

      Now, my mother has lied to me. My best guess is that she didn't want to be seen as the bad guy, so she threw my father under the bus. Unfortunately for her, she didn't realize that I acquired her statements to the maternity home and adoption agency, which back up my father's side of the story....

      Does my mother's behavior now reflect the behavior of all mothers? No. So, let's not jump to the conclusion that adoptees tend to lie more than everyone else simply because it's anecdotally true for some.

      Adoption reunions usually stir up emotions, whether they are expressed or not. I wish the post expressed the

    2. What about this; I am a recovering addict and went to prison.I had tried to remain sober for years, years of abuse had taken its toll however. My husband of four of our sons had died. I did well and then would fall once again. It took alot of counseling and forgivness and acceptance and finally a spirtual awakening. I did ask to go to prison instead of another long term treatment facility. I just knew I had the willingness to want to be sober, however my coping skills with everyday life were nil... I have over 6 years sober. I dragged my kids thru my recoveries and my relapses...SELFISH. When once again my children were placed in care one of the foster parents told my son that he was now her son and that she adopted him.. She lied. She even went as far as to quote in a local newspaper about "her son" and that she had adopted him all the while receiving checks once she assumed guardianship from my sons deseased fathers survior benifets. Sha tattoed his name in bold letters on her ankle. When I came back home I found all this out by my other sons. As long as I didnt give up on God myself and my recovery I knew some justice would prevail. I am not saying I was a good mom.I did and do love my children and I always had hope of regaining my guardianship. No I dont think I deserved it. That I am told is why they call it grace. I never lied to my kids about who I was or wasnt .It took my son the actual checks in his name right before he turned 18 to realize she had lied to him and many others....He finally was able to forgive me. It took solong and I am thankful. Now I am not saying that I am not thankful for her caring for him .However foster means to guide not to steal.

  2. Seriously? S o now adoptees are lying fools? Come on! I did not make up stories, did not lie to get attention. Did I lie when I was a child to get out of trouble...yes. Think most kids do that, know all my friends did and they were not adopted! Somebody who makes up stories and lies are often doing it for attention. The few people I know that do it in my life, I believe have some sort of personality disorder and NOT one of them is adopted. Can SOME adopted people have a problem with pathological lying, probably. Would like to compare it to the rest of society...and adoptive and birthmoms too. Never lied to my bmom, I suspect she may have lied to me...to protect herself.

  3. As I said, I approached this gingerly, and the post is largely taken from a lengthy email FMF got from an adoptee--who does seem to think that her adoption played a huge part in the game she played with the truth. Not all adoptees turn to lying, nor do all mothers; but the situation as it is set up is practically designed to encourage it.

    1. i am the original author of the email to Lorraine. she is correct in that I think my adoption played a huge part in my stretching the truth. i do think the situation is definitely designed to encourage it. additionally i think it may be designed to encourage lies from adoptive parents while raising their kids, and sometimes trends have a hard way of changing after that kid is an adult.

      i was moved to the send the email to Lorraine to aid the process of understanding,
      between adoptees who do lie and those mothers who cannot fathom why, or, worse, who blame themselves. Upon reading her description of her daughter's tall tales, I felt an immediate recognition of the impulse, the desire, to cover one's tracks, to protect, evade, distract... not as some have suggested, to get attention. and not for personal gain. maybe i am mistaken but from what Lorraine had described in a previous posting, her daughter's lies were not designed to be malicious, and i didn't read that she faked a disease in order to extort money - they seemed one offs - fabulous tales about why she was late, what happened to her on the way to meeting even if she was not even late - these types of lies smacked of deferring attention and i identified strongly with that. that need to just be normal, not have so many expectations upon me as soon as i walk into the room. i guess i was also hoping to communicate the idea that while such distancing behavior is hurtful, as i now understand, it is not necessarily meant to be, at least i can say that in my case, it was not aggressive at all.

      i am not defending my actions. but i do not think that telling a story about how a movie started half an hour late at the theater instead of on time, is a capital offense. maybe i'm jaded, but i think it is unrealistic to expect absolute honesty from anyone all the time anyway. i am frankly suspicious of anyone who claims never to have lied, ever. i don't think telling tall tales is a gateway to breaking laws and evading taxes.

      are broken promises lies? i make few promises and have never broken one. i think that is important. whereas i am tolerant of fabrications and lies from others - how could i accept my inlaws if i didnt absorb that stuff? and none of them are party to adoption - i don't take to broken promises so well. i bring this up to point out... i do have a working morality, even when i lied frequently it doesn't mean that i didn't try to do more right than wrong. i was and still am loyal, thoughtful, caring, sharing.

      i am not a psycho nor am i pathological, i don't have a personality disorder and i'm not bipolar... most people who know me would classify me as a person of integrity and i'm held in high regard. was i a liar when i was younger? yes. did i stop it cold turkey? no. it was a process. i'd love to take credit for the change but I think my husband's love and support saved me, quite honestly, and my relationship with him has been very healing of wounds from both families. i cannot imagine how my life would have been by now had i not had the safe space he has given me.

      if i could give advice to those mothers who seek it on this issue, and desire closeness and more trusting from their kid, it would be this: if your son or daughter strikes you as telling tales which in the end result in little harm
      to yourself, and are simply tales, consider the possibility that he or she is feeling a need for more privacy and/or perhaps less pressure. additionally, be forgiving and open - admitting you're not perfect and sharing your imperfections, insecurities, might go a long way towards creating closeness, especially those where your child is NOT the center or part of the root cause of those insecurities.

      please accept my effort to communicate and share in the spirit it is given, if it is helpful, then i am glad to have shared. my story stands on its own and does not make claims about other situations or statistics or research.

    2. Thank you Kiasa for writing.

      I think most mothers who are in reunion are guilty about the abandonment/adoption are do try to be understanding and forgiving of their children after reunion. That said, it is extremely difficult to have a relationship with anyone--even your own child whom you sought out--who you can never count on to be telling you the truth, or making up a story that is full of holes so big you can walk through them. Was she doing this to everyone --because she didn't lie jut to me--to test them? After years of such testing, one gives up. In my daughter's case, I never gave up. Oddly enough, after spinning one last tale for over an hour on the phone, she called back to find out if I had told my husband what she had just told me. I believe she knew he knew (as I did, but I listened to her for over an hour) that her story was total baloney. And that is the day I believe she finally decided to commit suicide, which she did a few days later.

      So yeah, I think this behavior that may be IN SOME PEOPLE partly the result of adoption is worth examining, rather than everyone pretending it does not exist.

      If this kind of behavior is FOR SOME a byproduct of the initial adoption, it could help END adoption. If it became known--the way that drug side effects advertised on television ONLY AFFECT A FEW but are mentioned anyway, fewer women today might be lulled into the "gift" garbage reason for giving up their children.

      And wouldn't that be a good thing?

    3. wow Lorraine, I'm so sorry... i wish I could offer you answers. i read elsewhere bits and pieces of your daughter's story and what happened is truly tragic. my heart goes out to you <3

    4. I would like to thank Kaisa for sharing her story here. It shed a light on a situation that I have been grappling with for quiet some time. My relinquished daughter lives thousands of miles away from me, yet incidentally in the same city and suburb as my raised son and his family. My daughter wanted to meet her half brothers and that brief meeting took place more than 10 years ago. I correspond with her via e-mail about 4 or 5 times a year and always send a Birthday and Christmas card as well as a gift. She generally only corresponds to thank me for the gifts a couple of weeks after they have been received.

      My husband and I go to visit our son and his family every year, and every year I notify my daughter and send her a schedule of our holiday plans, every year she says that she would dearly love to see me. My hopes are raised only to be dashed with excuse after excuse after excuse as to why she can’t make it. The excuses are very plausible; I have however come to the conclusion that the excuses are simply tall stories.

      What I took from Kaisa’s writings was this: The tall stories are designed to keep people at a safe distance but not to push them entirely away. My daughter in all probability really does want to see me but feels that she can’t (for whatever reason) when push comes to shove.

      I enjoy reading the posts by all adoptees as it gives some balance to my own narrative, and I feel that we can all learn from what they have to say.

  4. My experience with the adoptees I am friends with, and with my son, is just the opposite. They are honest to a fault, and can't abide lies and people lying to them. Having lived with so many lies and evasions about their original identity and roots, the adoptees I know personally tend to be very truthful and to value truth and integrity above all.

    Like dpen, I have dealt with some compulsive liars, not adopted, like my ex-sister-in-law, and can't stand them. I would not cut a compulsive liar who happened to also be adopted a break, because it is not a condition caused by adoption, but by some personality disorder. I do know a few mothers who have found adoptees who are compulsive liars, but I do not see this as a general adoptee trait any more than being a serial killer, Dr. Kirschner's other sensational area of "expertise". Not every personality flaw some adopted people have is caused by adoption, even though some prefer to see it that way.

  5. Incidentally, BJ Lifton endorsed Dr.Kirschner's book, and used his statistics in some of her writings.

  6. Yes, BJ and David Kirschner were good friends and she believed in his theories. BJ and I disagreed about that and some other things, but were still friends with a healthy respect for each other. I miss her a lot, more as time passes.

  7. My first thought is that adoptees have been lied to far to often to protect others in this so called adoption triad that many of us can pick it out very easily. Like I said before those with personality disorders just may...wonder if its hereditary? Have the "experts" compared it to general society?

    1. I have an ability to know lying from miles away, dpen. Yes. I believe it is a protective mechanism: many of us (adoptees) have great skill in recognizing lies and liars. We have to figure out who is safe and who isn't very early on.

      I used to get in terrible trouble for my being unwilling to play the social game and for not pulling my punches when I knew that people were lying.

      I also agree about the personality disorders fueling lying: and yes, tendency for PDs can be hereditary.

  8. How fortunate for you maryanne that you son never lied to you. But as i recall from reading here your contact with him has been very limited to a few visits after years of not seeinghim. so he didnt have much opportunity.
    some people have a different experiences in adoption than you do but you always have to tell them they are wrong for having their feelings. my son has told so many stories that are baloney to me that it is impossible to know if anything he is saying is true just like lorraine's daughter. i hesitated leaving a comment or disagreeing with you because you argue to the death tghat everyone but you is wrong. why not let others have their own feelings?

    1. Vita, everyone is entitled to their own feelings, and I never said they were not. My son is not a liar, none of my sons are, if anything they are too bluntly honest.I don't have to see my kids every week to know that. I know other mothers like you whose kids are compulsive liars. I do not say they are not. I have seen the heartbreak it causes. Often the lying goes along with substance abuse, I have seen that in family and friends, It is an awful thing to live with. I feel bad for anyone including you who has to deal with a compulsive liar. It destroys all trust and makes it hard to care about that person, also, it ruins their own life and relationships.
      You are not wrong in your feelings.

      People are different, and in different circumstances. That is not a matter of feeling but of fact. Me talking about how I feel, or what my son is like, says nothing critical about how you feel, or the reality you are dealing with, or what your son does.

      dpen, one of the things my son could not stand about his mentally ill adoptive mother was her compulsive lying and like you he can spot lies and bullshit from a mile away.
      His experience made him more honest, not more likely to lie. As to having a vivid imagination, that is what makes great artists and writers and creative people. A well person knows the difference between a creation and malicious or pointless lie.

    2. maryanne, No doubt you and yours are "brutally honest." That isn't what I am talking about. it's that others who comment here are always wrong unless they agree with you and you keep on being 'brutally honest' to the death. i give up.
      interesting, you didnt mention anything about how often in your life your son has been in touch with you. You've made it clear here before but i am just giving you a touchof your own 'brutal honesty,' which sometimes feels mean and demeaning to both mothers and adoptees

    3. oh sorry, 'bluntly honest.' same thing.

    4. She's in touch with him a lot, OK? More than lots of natural families are in touch with their adult married sons. Give it a rest.

    5. My son is in touch with me at least once a week, sometimes more often than that, via email. We have only met in person a few times but have had an extensive email relationship back and forth since 2002. Right now he is very busy with a new blog that I subscribe to, fighting a terrible plan to run a huge natural gas pipeline through the rural area where he lives. Although he has a different cause, like me, he is a writer and an activist as well as a computer scientist which I am not. He is an honorable and honest man. Adoption did not change who he was born to be, the core character. That is my belief, yours may differ, but I doubt that you know my son so you have no right to insult him by implying he is a liar.

      I am no more an expert than anyone else here, but I have strong opinions. Like Lo, I have been involved in adoption reform since the 70s so have seen a lot, but I have not seen everything, do not know everything, and never claimed to. Since this is Jane and Lo's blog, if they do not like what I have to say they do not print it, which is their right as blog owners.I'm sure this happens to others as well.

      If anyone disagrees with me, they are free to say so,and do, just as I am free to disagree with them. It is unrealistic for any commenter to expect everyone to agree with them or stay silent if they disagree. Blogs are not therapy sessions. I do not follow anyone around adoptionland, so have no idea what that unknown was talking about. Many people read and comment on the same few adoption blogs and they do not all agree. That does not make them mortal enemies.

      On this issue of adoptees lying, I was only questioning whether this were a common trait of adopted adults and whether it was caused by adoption, or some other problem. I'd say the jury is out on that, and I am as free to have an opinion as anyone else. Some people are compulsive liars, some liars are adopted. That is a fact. That one causes the other is a matter of conjecture and debate. If only a small subset of adoptees are liars, that seems to indicate weak causation. In this instance, I was sticking up for adoptees who are not liars, which are the many adopted adults I am friends with. Blog readers, I am not your enemy, but a mother who has suffered as much as any, but came out the other side with slightly different point of view.

    6. Jess, give it a rest? that is rich considering who we are talking about.

    7. Who implied maryanne, your son was a liar? that was the first i heard of that. me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

    8. Vita, you yourself said that since I had such limited contact with my son, he did not have much opportunity to lie to me. Which implies he would have lied, given more opportunity. Just calling an insult an insult, with the amount of protest warranted by the comment. Not too much, just enough.

    9. maryanne--smiling as i type, cuz if you got that i implied your son was a liar because he didn't have a lot of opportunity cuz you wen't in contact, all i can say is :)
      this proves the point of you twisting what people say.

      what else did i say? or lorriane. inquiring minds want to know

  9. Vita: you are 100% correct. That's why I am taking a huge break from commenting here.

    IMO, people who lie need attention. Teens, children, adults, adopted or not, people spin yarns because they need attention.

  10. I loathe to post anymore, because of Maryanne. I've had run ins with her all over adoptionland, and I don't know why. I guess she is the authority on all things adoption, and does not want to hear any guff.

    But anyway, I don't lie. Hardly ever. I think i may be borderline autistic, and that may be the reason. I did shoplift as a child! I loved stealing, and never knew why.

    I also set fires, that typical adoptee behavior. i wonder where that comes from.

    1. I hung out with kids who set fires--until I got badly burned. No scars, but I kept away after that from the gang of boys who were our next-door neighbors. One day they burned down their garage. Made a huge impression on 6 or 7-year-old me.

  11. I hesitate to reply here since this is so insulting to most adoptees. I, like the vast majority of adoptees and people in general, am an honest law-abiding citizen who works and pays taxes and treats others with respect unless they do something to lose my respect. But I suppose some would not believe that since as an adoptee I must be lying. Perhaps TSA screeners should ask if you are adopted before boarding a plane and we should not be allowed to hold jobs with any responsibility since we cant be trusted. No wonder no one trusts us with our birth and adoption records given this kind of profiling! HDW and dpen, and Maryanne I'm in agreement with you all and glad you were able to express your views without blowing your top like I just did.

  12. No one is saying all adoptees lie. I am not saying that.

    I can immediately think of many of my friends--who I know through adoption reform and simply in real life whom I trust to tell me the truth. They do not make up fantastic stories.

    However, a small subset of people who are affected by the "lie" surrounding adoption--these are your new parents, you don't need to know who the original ones were nor are you expected even to wonder--fall into an unfortunate habit of making up stories. As some who write about adoption have noted, they do not feel "authentic" so why should their stories be? I did not write this post to condemn all adoptees as liars, but to expose what some have found to be a by-product of the experience of adoption. Through FMF and Facebook and in life I have been told my several (but not by any means all!) mothers that their children have trouble being truthful.

    My daughter's fabrications stemmed, I believe, from not only adoption but also being abused by her grandmother's live-in partner, as lying (since they are told to keep the abuse secret and feel guilty about it). We spoke about it when she was a teenager living with us, which began the summer she turned 16, her adoptive parents and I spoke about, but she was unable to stop. It was sad, and of course we all had to work very hard to figure out when she was telling the truth and when she was not. Of course some of her stories were so fantastic one could eliminate them right at the get-go. Yet she would deny it to the end...until later she would say: I never said that.

    When she finally came clean about the sexual abuse in her last year of high school, everyone had a hard time believing her--her adoptive parents most of all. But on this she never wavered, the story was not "enriched" with fantastical and unbelievable embellishments, and I believed her. Her adoptive parents had a much harder time. Of course, she was told by her abuser that it wasn't really incest because "she wasn't really a member of the family." And when she was in a group for teens affected by incest, she was told the same thing--that man really wasn't her grandfather. (Her adoptive grandfather had died by the time I met her, and she spoke fondly of him.)

    I write this not to denigrate people who are adopted, but to shed some light on a problem in adoption that few want to acknowledge. Again, this is a small subset of people who are affected this way.

    Because a predilection to alcoholism runs in many Slavic peoples (like my own Polish tribe) does not mean that I am an alcoholic.

    Adoption is a phony system based as it is on the lie of expecting a child to be "like" their new family, pretty much chosen by random, even if they are picked out of pictures, and that expectation is a lie.


    1. I was adopted and I spent my entire working career in advertising sales. I can assure you that their are liars everywhere.There are liars that are millionaires. There are millions of CEO's who are liars. There are Doctors who lie. Men who lie and cheat on their wives. Wives that lie and cheat on their spouses. Bosses lie, co- workers lie. Teenagers lie. Priests lie.If you were to broaden your field of study you would see that lying is a common tool people use to get what they want or don't want.To say that lying is a problem with adoptees, not all, but some is making a broad assumption based on your relationship with your daughter and some of the people that you have talked to. I think one of the myths that haunts adoptees is that we are a bad seed. Suggesting that adoptees are prone to lying supports that myth. I have spent my whole life being honest to debunk that myth. When I was selling advertising I was always having to prove it was the truth. Maybe my adopted family was different because If someone saw me with my parents or a picture of my parents and me and my brother they automatically said, Did you adopt or were you adopted. Because no one looked alike.

    2. Lorraine I would agree that your daughter's sexual abuse probably had something to do with her tendency to lie. It must have been so hard to live with that and to have to pretend it did not happen. You also said she suffered from seizures and I have known a couple of people in that situation and it is sometimes hard for them to remember events clearly and sometimes things get very confusing as to what really happened. Not that the people I know make up fantastic stories, they don't, and I can certainly understand your frustration with your daughter on that matter.

      The thing is I don't think lying is something that is a trait or a tendency for most adoptees, although I would say if someone has been bounced around in foster care for years and finally adopted at a much later age that they are very likely to have some major trust issues and other problems. I agree with anonymous above that adoptees are often perceived as having problems that don't exist and are often viewed with suspicion, i.e. the bad seed for instance, which can be hard to overcome and which should not even be necessary. And anon is right lots of people who should not lie do, and very few of them are adopted. People should be seen for who they are not as part of a group labeled with misconceptions. Perception is everything sometimes and we all know that the less competent BS artist at work is often advanced over the more competent hard working but less "political" co-worker. If someone is not outgoing and extroverted people say things like "you have to look out for the quiet ones" or "still waters run deep." If someone were to bring up some negative behavior and link it to any other minority there would be similar reactions from the members of that minority. Saying not all ______(fill in the blank) are like that and some of my best friends are _____ does not change or undo the perception that is created by the initial statement. Many people base opinions on the equivalent of sound bytes and so seeing a comment somewhere about adoptees can set up a perception that has nothing to do with any adoptees that person may ever encounter.

      I do agree that for many of us adoptees our pasts were kept secret from us and often lied about in the mistaken belief we were being protected and I am thankful that appears to be changing now with present adoptions being more open with at least information. So yes many of us had all sorts of scenarios in our minds about what our origins could have been that we did not know and it was not easy living with that but that did not lead to making things up to tell other people.

      One last comment to Denise below where she said that she believes many adoptees are secretive. I'm not sure if Denise is a birth mother, but if she is, I think that some adoptees may not talk a lot about their past with a birth parent for several reasons and mostly to try to keep from hurting that birth parent, assuming there is a good relationship to begin with. You don't want to talk about how great it was when you were growing up since it might make the BP think you are saying you are glad they were not around or rub it in that they missed seeing these things, and if it was not so great you don't want to make the BP feel guilty about it. So if you avoid talking about it you are perceived as being secretive when the motives may have been to protect the birth mother/father. Something to consider.

  13. Lying is not something that only adoptees do. APs also do it (hide documents, do not even tell children they are adopted, etc.). Mothers do it.

    Yes, there is a rich fantasy life for adoptees in childhood, but most children fantasize about belonging elsewhere. The problem is that adoptees *do* have another family out there, and as others have said, our identities are locked away and hidden from us. When we try to access that information, the lies can keep piling on: from APs, from intermediaries, and so on. Our entire lives are based on lies.

    I am another extremely honest adoptee. I have been plagued by my mother's lies for years, and our reunion is not in a good place as a result. I know she does not only lie to me, either. Lying is part of her coping (or not, as that may be) with anything she deems unpleasant. While I understand her situation, I cannot condone her lying or pretend that the lies have not had a huge impact on my life or the lives of others around us.

    It is terrible to know that someone is lying and to watch them self-destruct--no matter who it is--if you love them, or if you wanted to love them. Sometimes the liars get in too deep, and I believe that for some people who tell lies, there is a point of no return. They would rather jettison the person lied to than face the truth, or as Lorraine said, they simply deny what they did with "I never said that." It is a terrible cycle.

    When I found my father's family, his sisters and his friends told me, "He had no patience for two kinds of people in this world: cheaters and liars." Hmmm. My "kindly honest" (highly respectful and loving, not brutal) parent is my father: our personalities are very, very alike.

    Add me to the list of people who comment here infrequently, thanks to certain people who find it amusing to ridicule or browbeat others for word choice or about how they feel. Their Schadenfreude is hollow.

  14. I am curious to know three things:

    First, why is it that when we talk about a generality regarding adopted persons, that adopted persons get defensive? After all, no one said ALL ADOPTEES LIE. It was a response to an email. And, maybe you don't lie, but I know plenty of adoptees that do! And not the pretty white lies that everyone says (your dress is "urp" beautiful).

    Second: I have found that this type of behavior goes to second generation (grand children) as well. The lie to test has become anathema to my life. I despise an outright lie. So, if you want to get to know someone - questions and honesty are part of life. What is so hard about that?

    Third: If you don't lie to any one, and they lie to you constantly, how are you supposed to trust anything that they say? Just saying....

    For those of you that know anything about me, you know that my world has been filled with lies by my daughter. She lied so much about so many things, that I became jaded and mistrustful of her. I met other adoptees that were the same way and have discovered that my grandson is much like his mother.... always telling you what he thinks you want to hear to get "things" from you then treating you badly.

    That being said, for those that are scrupulously honest, my sincerest apologies for your being offended. However, you are not the be all and end all of adopted persons, as I am not the be all and end all of First Mothers.

    Can we please discuss this with open minds? I know mothers that lie so much that they really don't know the truth anymore. Does that make me think all mothers are like that? Not on a bet. It works the same with anyone.

  15. My son told me all kinds of stories when we first reunited, and when I found out they weren't true, he said he wanted to impress me. First, he pretended to be religious because he thought I would be. I'm not. He told me he was in the military because he thought I'd approve. I didn't care one way or the other. When he lies (I mean out and out, not just storytelling), it's always to protect himself. He's lied a lot in his relationships/marriages.

    I don't think all adoptees lie. I know a lot of adoptees and I believe many are very secretive. Which stands to reason. How could they not have trust issues? Just my two cents.

    1. I agree with you Denise. It seems Lorraine's story is about an adoptee's reasons for lying about identity (as opposed to lying for personal gain, for instance) and that the lies stem from trust and rejection or abandonment issues. Anna seems to have grown out of it but admits to residual trust and rejection issues. Not everyone is going to handle those feelings the same way so naturally not all adoptees dealing with those feelings will lie. Such feelings can complicate reunion in whatever form they take. - NJ

    2. Denise, I know a lot of people with trust issues - I am paranoid about my privacy - but I don't lie about stuff to cover up my stupid crap. This is not an excuse, no offense, for being a compulsive liar.

  16. There have been times when I have filtered the truth from my birth mother. I told her largely what she wanted to hear about my upbringing and opinions. I did this to spare her pain. She had been through enough, and didn't need additional disappointment in me. I thought that hearing about some negative childhood experiences would make her feel worse about giving me up. But then she started attacking me for talking about how great my childhood was, as if me saying I turned out fine without her was an intentional insult. So I don't know. What is the best truth to tell? Am I liar?

    And I agree with the other adoptees here, that it is demeaning to now add yet another pathology to the list of things that might be wrong with us. It seems there is something always wrong with us. Do some birth parents and adoptive parents have a need to look for things that are wrong with their adoptee children? Does finding fault in us add justification to their own negative emotions?

  17. Okay, seriously? The fact is that a greater number of adoptees will lie to their first mother than say kept kids. Check it out - research behavioral modification and adoption. So, while I don't consider them "liars" per se, I don't make excuses. Also, it seems to me that if you are going to rip at mothers, do it somewhere else. I get that adoptees are hurting - geez, try being one of 7 children and the ONLY child dumped into foster care and left without a family for DECADES......Then being the foster kid that lost her child to adoption because she was a foster kid and having that kid come back into her world to screw her out of hundreds of dollars, her dignity and screw up her life because the adoptee could. IS this really a contest?

    People, the truth is that adoptees are taught to lie. They are taught by the system that hides the truth. Adoptive Parents that lie to everyone in an effort to "spare" their adopted person the indignity of having to explain why they are brown and everyone else is white. By society that lies to pretend what they went through was good.

    Mothers lie to protect themselves from being treated badly by the ignorant a**es that force them into an untenable situation in the first place. Then to protect themselves from a lifetime of pain that no one can fix.

    But to come here and claim it is all about the adoptee is nuts. No offense meant. But really? The email was an adoptees take on why they are compulsive liars (that is what that is called by the way). It was not an excuse, just an explanation. Why can't we accept that for what it is and stop pretending that none of us has told a "lie" to hide something from someone else and that adoptees don't lie to mothers for whatever reason?

    Just a thought here......

  18. Like many, this topic struck me.

    Unlike others I did not think you were making a general blanket statement about all adoptees but I understand how adults who were thought to be swappable objects from one mommy to another might think that. They grew up being treated like blank objects, not people, so I can see how they could easily assume they were all alike. Society said/says they are.

    I am not an adoptee. I am a mother that surrendered in 1986. I have many friends who are adoptees and most, to my knowledge, have not lied to me or in their reunions. However, I do have two friends who are adoptees (both dx'd as "borderline personality disorder") that introduced me to some of the most outrageous lying and manipulation I have ever seen in my life. Another online friend, an adoptee, wrote an incredibly shocking blog about her natural parents that was later proven to be entirely falsified. So, I do have some exposure and yet do not brush a broad stroke. I merely found the post interesting and enlightening and possibly helpful to mothers who have endured this.

    While my own daughter (found ten years ago) has not welcomed reunion, I do not feel she has lied in her few communications. Rather I feel she has withheld. She never opened the door to lies...at least not to my knowledge I hope some day I get to know her better.

    Finally, it would not be the least surprising to me to have adoptees be prone to lying about themselves.. All many adoptees have known, from the day of their birth, is legalized lies foisted upon them by agencies, adoptive parents, vital statistics. We constructed their lives around lies. What more do they know? We did this, we modeled it for them.

    We need and can do better by our natural mothers and children. Tell the truth in adoption - both the possible good and the documented bad. Give adoptees their OBCS and treat them like adults - not objects with falsified transfer of title. Until we do, I am not sure how we can expect more of them than we expect of ourselves.

  19. I'm adopted and I'm not a liar. Beyond the "no that doesn't make you look fat" type anyway. I do not believe I am honest because I was adopted. I'm honest because my (adoptive) parents raised me to be honest. Are there some people that lie even when the truth would serve them better? Of course. Does abuse tend to cause lying? Of course. However either I am the most odd adoptee in the world, or these generalizations are horrible. Maybe it was because I was told I was adopted as soon as my parents felt I was old enough to understand. Maybe it's because they didn't lie to me. I asked what they knew of my bio parents and they told me what they knew without embellishment (ages, ethnic background, education level and did not guess or theorize why I was put up for adoption). Maybe it's because I'm one of the lucry ones in that I vaguely resemble my dad through coloring and some generic features that I'm not automatically assumed to be adopted. Maybe it's because I grew up secure and loved and instilled with values and traditions I "took" to. All I really know is that adoption was never that big a part of my "story" until my bio mom made it such. Generalizations are dangerous and far too easy. Case in point: how many first mom's would appreciate me saying all first mom's are needy, emotionally manipulative, and borderline stalkerish just because my bio mom is coming off that way? I've met one bio/first mom and that's her (and on line only....though she has started up again) and know better than to judge all moms that way. My mom (adopted) is absolutely wonderful. I wouldn't call all adoptive mom's wonderful though because I've only met one. My nephew is autistic and there is a saying: "if you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism". I think that applies here as well to all parties.

  20. I grew up abused where lying was the norm. I lied until my early adulthood. It was what was expected, to hide who you were to be what they wanted you to be. When I finally gained the courage (with help my husband) to leave the abusers behind, I learned that honesty was my true nature. What freedom that was!

    I can't accept a liar into my life or into my heart. I can't go back to that type of life or be something that is now alien to me. My relinquished daughter has done nothing but lie to just as her adoptive parents have done. I have sympathy for her, but cannot connect any longer. When she told me to go away I believed her. When she asked me back I didn't.

    I had to shed my narcissistic mother and become an orphan to live a life of truth. Sadly, I believe my relinquished daughter will need to shed her two parents and her biological mother and father to become someone who lives in the light of truth and not in the expectations or hurts of others. I hope she learns as I did that being an emotional orphan may seem terrifying at first, but as time goes by it can become a blessing. Never a day goes by that I don't thank God and the Universe for the people in my life that love me, even though my parents failed.

  21. Gosh, guys, I like this blog most of the time but it drives me nuts when some readers get way off track. Most adoptees don't lie; we get it it. Now write about why some do lie and can their first mothers help them.

    1. Because it's pathologizing adoptees.

      If you agree that most adoptees don't lie, then why is there a need to separate adoptees who lie from the general population of people who lie? Some adoptees lie because some people lie.

    2. Thanks Gs, that cuts right to the core of the matter in simple language anyone can understand.

    3. Gs... i am the author of the original email, please see my explanation up near the top under a comment from Lorraine.

    4. Adoption itself creates the pathology in some.

  22. Maybe we should stop a moment and consider the sad fate of many non-human primates raised as pets and laboratories as an animal model for what happens to adoptees? The theft of the mother and natural families, as well as the natural environment is a huge trauma, and to survive in the new, unnatural environment, which may resemble the natural one to a certain degree the motherless primate has to develop behaviours fit for the new environment, the results vary: Some are nutcases, some are violent nutcases, some are nutcases playing well with other nutcases and others are astonishingly normal, even after 30 years in isolation. If that is the case with non-human primates, how much more would we expect a similar outcome with the human ones? The adoption trauma is like a car crash, not everybody comes out the same way.

  23. We have heard from several birth mothers and adoptees who are chary of commenting here about their experiences in reunion, or not, because of the criticism of others. Going forward we will do our best to keep First Mother Forum a place where first and foremost, natural mothers can feel comfortable being honest about their experiences without the often harsh criticism that often follows.

    Adoption will always be a highly charged topic with deep feelings from all involved, but we will do our best of keep this forum open and welcoming to mothers who have relinquished children to adoption.

    This blog itself--based on an email from an adoptee, after all--is a good example of what happened, and why a change in policy is necessary. Thank you for understanding.



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