|Levi Eagle Feather (Lakota)|
"...We're the evidence of
the crime. They can't deal with the reality of who we are because then they
have to deal with the reality of what they have done. If they deal with the
reality of who we are, they have to deal with the reality of who they aren't."
- John Trudell
This is the first in a series
about Reactive Attachment Disorder
By Levi EagleFeather
Reactive attachment disorder, what is
it? Well... mine, is a sub-conscious and conscious reaction to the dark art  that has been practiced against my people, the Lakota, for the
past two hundred years or more. The adoption experience is the specific part of
that art which hit me.
Overall, everything has worked out
quite well for it. In harmony with a multitude of other programs, projects,
acts and policies our lives collectively have been totally altered and we now
have to live with the confusion of that change. Needless to say, the affects of
it all have been quite traumatic for a lot of people.
Many times, emotionally, mentally and
spiritually we become lost and tired within the hubbub of it all. What else can
we do but feel lost. As far as adoption goes the whole basic, being separated
from the herd to which you belong thingy. Something which we all have
experienced is pretty much the icing on the cake of it all. It not only
disrupted our natural experience of familial roots and belonging which is the
core of our birthright, but it screwed with everyone else's experience as well.
It removed all of us at the same time from that first belonging which showed us
and told us to whom and how it is that we belong. It's been very hard for me to
square myself with that even to this day!
While the boarding school process and
the relocation process do basically the same thing that the adoption process
does as far as removing one from the herd. The adoption process intentionally
is a more permanent barrier between you and your roots. When it is all said and
done the adoption process literally redirects completely the whole flow of your
life and for everyone involved. Redirected it from the original stream that was
familiar and which flowed naturally to one that is not only unfamiliar, but to
which your original flow must now undergo a lot of shaping and altering. People
sense and understand this is happening while it is happening. We sense it and
feel it emotionally and we develop memories of it.
The Mayo clinic has attempted to define
Reactive Attachment Disorder. Under diseases and conditions it says that:
"Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious
condition in which an infant or young child doesn't establish healthy
attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may
develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't
met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.
I think there are probably a lot of
people like myself. That sub-consciously and even consciously realized as it
was happening that they weren't experiencing emotional stability. Where ever it
was that they got left.
Knowing that belonging isn't there is easy to
understand. It also is easy to understand why someone might be skeptical about
wanting to have anything to do with who and what they are being redirected to.
And it doesn't have anything to do with any wow factor or how cool something
might be either.
Naturally, situations like this will affect ones behavior. The
Mayo clinic says that some of the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing a
RAD condition may include:
Withdrawal, fear, sadness or
irritability that is not readily explained
Sad and listless appearance
Not seeking comfort or showing
no response when comfort is given
Failure to smile
Watching others closely but not
engaging in social interaction
Failing to ask for support or
Failure to reach out when
No interest in playing peekaboo
or other interactive games 
was four when this all began for me. Since that time not much in my life has
been acceptable to me. In a "feeling about it" kind of way. Something
is always missing or just not quite right!
The Mayo says that:
To feel safe and develop
trust, infants and young children need a stable, caring environment. Their
basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. For instance, when
a baby cries, his or her need for a meal or a diaper change must be met with a
shared emotional exchange that may include eye contact, smiling and caressing.
A child whose needs are ignored or met with a lack
of emotional response from caregivers does not come to expect care or comfort
or form a stable attachment to caregivers.
my situation, whatever was to pass for loving and caring after I was removed
from my family came from something else entirely different. Both, the attempts
at affection and caring, were like gifts that were to be conditionally given
based on performance, mine. Their conditions were based on and guided by the
authoritarian principals of their church mostly and were backed up by what
little understanding they had of my history along with what little they had of
their own. This instead of any feeling that I belonged, or was truly wanted.
And I knew this and lived with it every second of the eleven plus years I was
there. People say that actions speak louder than words. Most of the time this
is true, in this situation, my situation, it was.
Naturally, I reacted! From the original
crying to whatever I brought with me that was me. Emotional, mental and or
physical from that day forward was not acceptable and had to be shaped and
molded. It goes from the first haircut to change the wild Indian, and on and
on. There was a lot of punitive discipline along the way and not just corporal
punishment but the good old fashioned psychological stuff.
As I grew older the corporal punishment
thing in fact became sort of like part of a sick game we had to play. It
physically hurt sure, at first. But as I grew older it seemed to hurt less and
the fear I had of it morphed into something weird for me. It turned into more
of "a bring it and fuck you" kind of thing. I remember I was around
ten or eleven. Somewhere in there. And I was tied to the telephone pole in our
yard with my pants around my ankles. My siblings all lined up in one of the
flower beds against the house watching the old man beat me with a bullwhip. I
don't remember clearly what it was all about or why I was there. Whether I
deserved it or not. What I do remember was looking back over my shoulder and
telling him "Fuck you, someday your going to get yours!" I'm sure
that that beating hurt physically. It had to have. But what hurt me more hurt
me inside. The embarrassment of being in front of my siblings probably the
So in my mind it was the psychological
stuff which screwed with my wanting to belong the most. The blaming, shaming
and shunning would work in time. Not like it was intended maybe, but it worked.
It told me that I was unacceptable and that life for me and everything in it
was unacceptable as well.
In fairness, I'm sure that I was a
fistful right from the beginning. I was a kid! What did I know about life and
living. That doesn't account for what happened to me or how it happened, or
make it right! In digging through and unraveling the negative effects all of
this has had on me mentally and learning to understand and grow out of the
emotional instability it instilled in me is part of that being right. I
couldn't dream to wish this kind of right on even the best of my enemies! So
throughout my experience I never got to any place in it where I felt
comfortable enough inside to trust emotionally. Let alone want to belong! My
belonging had ceased for all intents and purposes when I was taken and until my
children were born I was alone even in a crowd.
[Levi is a contributor to the new anthology CALLED HOME. His essay The Holocaust Self is one of the most profound in the book! ...Trace/Lara]
Nothing you did at age 11 could justify whipping in this way!ReplyDelete
Nothing you did at age eleven justifies whipping in this way!ReplyDelete
This is NOT about the whipping or the punishment injustice! This is about the inner turmoil that Lost-Birds live, the forced unacceptable child's Forced indoctrination into the acceptable white-bread, the adoptive parent's conditioning, the false personality "adopted-child-role of pretending and with age the fighting against that forced role if the individual is not too spiritually broken to realize the charade and the life of being forever lost from the robbery of childhood and time.ReplyDelete
No child deserves to be treated this way. Levi did a good job on writing this. Thank you for the comments.ReplyDelete