Whether there is really a “primal wound” that occurs after a baby is separated from its mother at birth is a popular topic for discussion in adoption circles. The theory of a primal wound is not reserved exclusively for babies who are adopted. This theory also includes children who are separated at birth from their mothers due to serious medical issues and/or prematurity.
However, the premise of the primal wound was conceived by adoptive mom and therapist Nancy Verrier due to the experiences she noticed raising her two daughters. One daughter was her biological child, and the other was adopted. Raising her daughters, she noticed a difference in the way her adopted daughter responded to her, and ultimately related it to a primal wound from her early separation from her birth mother.
Some like to dismiss the whole theory by saying that Nancy Verrier was looking for excuses as to why the one daughter reacted to her differently. It is unlikely if you have ever met Nancy Verrier that you could dismiss the theory that easily. She simply does not appear to be a victim who needs excuses. Nancy Verrier is a gutsy, yet soft spoken woman who exudes strength of character and a caring nature.
Her motivation in writing about a primal wound that adoptees experience was not to enable adoptees to be stuck in a helpless victim role for eternity. In fact, she admonishes adoptees to take charge of their lives and learn how to heal. She believes that there are ways to help repair the wound of separation that she believes adoptees experience when taken from their first mothers at birth.
I have spoken to her about how her book is perceived and I can tell that it bothers her somewhat that her motives for writing the book are so often misunderstood. She knows that reading The Primal Wound is difficult for birth parents, and yet believes that it can benefit them, and adoptive parents in dealing with their child.
Adoptees seem to regard the theory in three main ways:
1) They dismiss the entire theory and think it is nonsense.
2) They embrace the theory wholeheartedly and believe it explains so much of their pain in life; or
3) They embrace part of the theory and feel that although it explains some adoptees, it does not fit every adoptee. However, it makes sense to them.
Nancy Verrier believes that birth mothers can help their children heal at reunion. Her second book, The Adopted Child Grows Up – Coming Home to Self, offers ways for adoptees to heal, and offers advice to birth parents on how best to help their children at reunion.