November 17, 2011

Interview with Jasmine of Weaving Love Untangling Confusion

One of the Interview Project's goals is to get us reading outside of our usual blog circles. That was definitely my experience this time. I met a very kind blogger whose writings I don't know that I would have come across otherwise. As you'll see, I think she took a big risk throwing her name into the virtual hat to be paired with a random blogger. I hope you'll take in her interview with an open mind and give her a respectful welcome in the comments.

Jasmine, who started writing at the beginning of the year at Weaving Love Untangling Confusion, is an artist, a wife, and a mom to two children. She was adopted as a baby after spending her first four months in an orphanage and grew up in a closed adoption. She reunited with her first parents five years ago.

The unusual twist in her story, which is also the focus of much of her blog, happened this year when her (adoptive) mother passed away. As she was intensely grieving, she and her (biological) father became very close and genetic sexual attraction entered into their relationship--an experience she notes is "rare, but very real."

The term "genetic attraction" describes an intense attraction between two people who are (knowingly or unknowingly) biologically related but did not meet until adulthood. "Genetic sexual attraction" (GSA) is that, but with an added sexual component. Jasmine wrote to me that it is "a natural response to a broken situation" when biological family members have been separated, whether by closed adoption, the use of donor gametes, or other reasons. One helpful description I came across is that there can be very intense emotions that can happen in reunion, including a need to bond and connect. In some cases, for some people, the only way the adult brain knows how to categorize those intense emotions is as attraction.

Reading through Jasmine's blog, I really came to admire her bravery in sharing her story so honestly. That takes guts. And as someone who frequently fails in self-care, I was so impressed by her unwavering commitment to find healing, health, and wholeness for herself, her marriage, and her bio family relationships after a tumultuous and confusing year.

And now for the interview:

You write very honestly about a difficult and personal subject. What motivates you to "go public" with your story?

Because GSA is so intense and so confusing, I needed a space to sort through the feelings. It is not easy to bring up in conversation, that you fell in love with a long lost relative, especially if that person is your biological dad. It falls under the incest taboo, and socially we know that that this life changing impact is something to keep secret. The secret was adding more stress and making it more difficult for me. I have support of a therapist, but needed a way to reflect what was happening on a daily basis. Journaling became that outlet for me. I decided to open a blog, and remain anonymous to give myself full permission to disclose my journey. Once I started to write, I immediately began to feel lighter. The pressure of holding it all inside was making the situation worse. My hope was that writing as I was going through this, others may understand the phenomenon of GSA. The writing first helped me, and secondly, I receive e-mails from others saying how thankful I was able to put into words what they felt inside but could not express. When I open my journal I told myself to be prepared for negative comments from people who do not understand or have a need to project their negativity about incest without understanding the confusion about it. I now have over 16,500 people who have came to my site, not one time did I receive a negative e-mail or comment. I rarely receive any comments, which is OK with me, but continues to tell me that this is a subject matter that is still under a vial and not easily talked about. It is worth bringing to the table and allowing others to hear and understand GSA, especially those in an adoption triad.

I watched the 2010 Current TV documentary you linked to and thought it was really interesting that at the end so many of the interviewees advocated for open adoption as a way to prevent GA/GSA. What are your thoughts on that?

One theory of why GSA is so happens is because of a phenomenon called Westermack Effect. The Westermarck Effect is a phenomenon which has been observed in individuals who spend large amounts of time with each other under the age of six. People who are raised together, regardless of relationship, tend to become desensitized to each other, and they will not generally develop sexual attraction to each other later in life.

In contrast, siblings who are raised apart sometimes develop a sexual attraction to each other when they meet later in life, developing what is known as genetic sexual attraction. Researchers on the Westermarck Effect have also found that the six year old cutoff is very important; children who are raised together after the age of six do not demonstrate the Westermarck Effect, indicating that it has to do with early childhood development.

I also wonder along with the Westermarck Effect that not only living in close proximity of each other, that there is also a humanistic, biological drive to bond closely with kin because of primordial survival imprinting. Simply, we are just made to want to bond and be close with our lineage for survival reasons.

Open adoption allows for the biological connections to continue and satiate that importance of early childhood bonding. If the Westermarck Effect is true, then GSA can be prevented by allowing the separated to continue to see, smell and touch each other appropriately in those early imprinting years. Open adoption is the only way to allow for this to happen.

What is your reunion with your first mother like? Have the recent shifts in with your first father affected your relationship with her?

When I hired a private detecitve, I was originally seeking for my birth mother first. He found my birth father, and then stopped searching for me and I never heard from the detective again. I found my birth father in September of 2005 and met for the first time in January 2006. He remembered where my birth mother lived, they were high school sweet hearts, and went to her old house to find her mother still living there. He gave my maternal grandmother my contact information to give to my birth mother. I anticipated to hear from her within days from my bio-dad's visit. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and a month turned into years. In August of 2007 my family, including my almost two-year old daughter and my son now five was moving from Michigan to Florida. While packing and preparing for the trip I received a phone call from her. The week before we moved to Florida, my birth mom discovered I have been searching for her for almost two years. She called me one night as I was packing. It was our first conversation. The dialogue was powerful when we discovered similar paths in life. She is an activities director at a nursing home, the same town where my adoptive parents live. Because of moving so far away so quickly we decide to meet that week. We both drove an hour and a half to meet at a mutual place. I also met an aunt and my maternal grandmother. I was happy to see her, but also a bit reserved. I felt that in that two year time frame she knew about me and didn't reach out, she told me her family kept the information away from her and then after two years decided to tell her about me.

It seems when I am in a huge transition like a move, life likes to throw more on top of me, thus my birth mother contacting me that week. Or when my adoptive mom died, I develop GSA for my birth dad.

Two months after I moved, my adoptive dad became ill. His brain developed brain lesions that aggressively and swiftly took his life in two months time. He died Jan of 2008. It seems when I connect with my biological family I am grieving a significant death. I loved my father very much, and his death was hard on me. Since I have always been closer to my dad, and my adoptive mother has always been distant to me, I think I was able to trust and connect with my biological dad easier. I wasn't as guarded.

My birth mom and I continued to talk every so often and write. When I would come back up and visit, I would try to stop by and see her. It was hard, my adoptive parents had a hard time accepting that I sought and found my birth family. So there was not an open dialogue of how I was managing my feelings.

She is very sweet and tries very hard to establish a relationship with me. She is also extremely sensitive and cries often with me. Sometimes it is just too much.

She was so happy when I invited her to come to dinner to meet her long lost love, my bio dad. I was not prepared for them to rekindle their love and start dating again.

She does not know about the GSA with my birth father. I feel since they are dating, it is up to him if he wants to or not. I don't want to be a jealous angry daughter to throw that at her and have her deal with the jagged pieces. I feel that is unfair to her.

I was so angry at her for coming into what I thought was a solid relationship with my biological father and breaking that down. I am now coming to realize it is up to him and I how we would continue the relationship. Just like it is up to her and I how we would continue a relationship. I do not want to relate to them as a 'couple.' It is just too confusing now and I have so many other feelings to work through.

I also do not want to be the one they come too when they have problems in their relationship or if the relationship ends they triangulate me. I think that is why I am keeping my boundaries so strong around this.

I feel betrayed at her for dating again my biological father and yet understand it is not a betrayal towards me. I have some more deep work to do to try to figure this all out and what it means and how I will go on and continue to relate to both of them. This is probably where I am most stuck now. How to go on from here after the GSA happen. Do I tell her my story?

Many adoption bloggers often say that it was only online that they were finally able to find support from people who really understood them and had similar shared experiences. Has that been true for you, or do you also find support offline?

YES! I have never been on a forum before and open chat room. I do not like to private message much, I rather use the old fashion phone or better yet visit face to face. Once this all started I needed desperately to understand what was happening to me, and gain a mentor to help me navigate through. When I found the GSA forum, I began to find a community and a family to understand and hear my story. Better yet, I found elders who have gone through this and help mentor me through some very painful moments. If it wasn't for the forum, I don't know how I would of navigated through without doing much damage to myself and my family by not understanding what was happening and just reacting to my feelings of wanting to bond inappropriately. The forum gave me insight to the reasons why and tools to support this life altering affect.

I have the most amazing therapist, whom I have had a ten year therapeutic relationship with episodically. He knows my story of adoption, abandonment issues, and when GSA happen he could help me understand my needs to heal those wounds, but keep me in check at the cost it will have.

I began to tell close friends about my story and eventually brave my way to tell my husband. Some friends listen kindly but would not bring it up in conversation. Others would be extremely supportive.

Journaling is helpful and art making.

And finding space and time in church and with my church community has all allowed for a better outcome for me.

What advice, if any, would you give to adoptive parents raising children today? What advice would you have for birth parents whose children are still young?

What I know now that I didn't know before GSA happen to me that there is a primal need to attach to your kinship. It does not mean that love is what is sought after or adoptive parents cannot provide that comfort and solid attachment. However, there seems to be a humanistic, biological drive to bond closely with kin because of primordial survival imprinting. Simply, we are just made to want to bond and be close with our lineage for survival reasons. I believe further study into this will help all in the adoption triad to understand the phenomenon, to not only support the adoptee but the birth mother and adoptive parents.

The advice I would give adoptive parents is to not feel inferior or less than as a parent because of nature's encoding for bonding with genetics. I think much of GSA is missing attachment from blood relatives, it is not about love, although it is experienced as a deep profound love. Because of GSA I have developed a stronger appreciation for my adoptive parents. I know what they provided me was love, and what GSA is a strong need to bond with kin. Passion, lust, desire, touch, sex, is not what love is. It can enhance love, but it cannot make the substance of what love is. Time, trust, kindness, reliability, honesty, integrity, selflessness, constancy and more are the substance of love. Honesty is needed for great intimacy. Although enormous emotions may throw people off balance, there still needs to be an underlying good will of love and respect.

For birth parents I would advise them to understand that adoption loss is not a one time occurrence for the adoptee. It is felt a numerous developmental stages of a life span. Being an adoptee can be confusing when one part wants to be loyal to the adoptive parents who are raising them and then one part feels driven to know and want to know their biological kin. I wish my biological parents can make room for my anger. No matter how old an adoptee is, it is not easy to comprehend why they were given up for adoption even when the story is told over and over again and it is easily justified. The adoptee needs to have the space to work through a wide range of feelings, included; love, gratitude, thankfulness, confusion, anger, sadness, mourning, happy, joy, and longing. The feelings are not set in stone, nor do they mean what the adoptee is going to feel all the time, their is just a need to experience all and more these emotions to comprehend what happen.

If someone were going to read just one Weaving Love, Untangling Confusion post, which one would you want it to be? 

I can't seem to keep it at just one. 

Hmmmmm, OK, I guess if you want to hear about my story, I would point others to My Story.

If they are looking for reasons why and want more basic information on GSA I would point them to Skin to Skin Contact.

But my favorite posts are:
Do you have a favorite non-adoption blog or website?

There are non-adoption blogs out there? Just kidding.

Art Therapy Reflections
Creative Every Day


Many thanks to Jasmine for answering my questions so thoughtfully (and doing a lovely job with her interview of me). You can read her interview of me here. Be sure to also read more of the 120+ adoption blogger interviews being posted as part of the Interview Project!


BumbersBumblings said...

Wow, very interesting! I have never heard of GSA before. Thanks for the education and sharing your story! Helps reiterate that open adoption is a more healthy option.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I hadn't heard of GSA either. Thank you Jasmine for being brave and honest enough to share your thoughts and feelings. I wish you strength and peace as you find your path.

Maru said...

I had never heard of GSA before. Great interview! Very educational. Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing your thoughts, for your honesty, and Heather, for asking the right questions.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

This is a completely new topic for me. Thank you for this explanation of how/why GSA happens and your honest experience of how it's been for you.

Judy said...

Fascinating interview. Thanks to both of you.

Andy said...

Great interview and now I have yet another blog to read!! This interview project is filling up my reader!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an interesting interview! I am definitely adding Jasmine's blog to my blogroll. Glad she is sharing her story!!

Momo said...

Great interview and I, too, appreciate Jasmine's openness and honesty about this topic.

Mrs. Jones said...

Thank you Jasmine for your honesty and openness about your experience. This must have been difficult to articulate, on so many levels. Thank you for trusting us with your story.

Anonymous said...

I found this while blog hopping from the portrait of an adoption 30 posts in 30 days series. I really am enjoying this whole project. Just FYI, the link to Jasmine's "My Story" page didn't work.

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