Vulnerability, Gratitude, Adoption…Oh My!

About 20 years ago, long before I ever was a therapist, I was IN therapy.   The therapist I saw at that time introduced me to the idea of choosing a word that I could emulate and that would be something I could hold onto when I was feeling most fearful of the next layer of healing.  I chose the  word COURAGE.  I just decided that in order for me to get through life, I would need courage.   I then began thinking of an affirmation to help guide me.  I wrote down this phrase, “COURAGE IS THE ABILITY TO WALK THROUGH FEAR WITH FAITH.”  At that time, I had no idea I would 1) Ever really be OK and 2) become a therapist to help other people be OK.   It took a lot of walking through fear to get to where I am today.

When I was in Austin, TX we kayaked out to the Congress Bridge to see the Bats of Austin.   The group I was in Austin with was the same group I had been together with at the Beyond Adoption: YOU retreat.    It was so wonderful to be with people who I love completely.  I have created a deep bond with them and in particular the women who I kayaked with.  Here are 3 of us waiting for the BATS to fly:


L- Kristin Jones who is a therapist at Tradewinds Counseling

center – me, Janet Nordine, therapist of this blog Experience Courage

R – Kate Murphy who is a therapist at

Not pictured here, but also part of our “Bat Women” group Pamela Cordano  also a therapist.  Also not pictured is Anne Heffron who should be part of this picture

(photo credit Lesli Johnson )

What are the odds that we are all in the same profession, we are all adopted, that we met and that we have forged a meaningful friendship? I have no idea, as I am not an oddsmaker, but I am just glad it has happened.

When I think about this day and night of kayaking, the feelings I had, the thoughts that came to mind and the people I got to do this with, I am filled with GRATITUDE.

Gratitude that it happened.  Gratitude for my body for being able to kayak and be strong.  Gratitude for the bats.  Gratitude for friendship. Gratitude.

This brings me to what the topic of this blog post is to be about: Vulnerability and Gratitude.  AND, being adopted.  

Gratitude when you are adopted is a tricky emotion and expression.  There are many who want to tell you, as an adoptee, that you “Should be so grateful that a good family took you in, ” or that “you should be so grateful to be adopted as your life would have been hell otherwise,” or “you should be so grateful that you are the person you are today because you were adopted.”  Please stop shoulding all over me.

I often do feel true, real and heart filled GRATITUDE.  Gratitude that I get to see a beautiful sunset.  Gratitude that I get to do meaningful work.  Gratitude for my faith in God.  Gratitude for those in my life who are true friends.  Gratitude for the opportunity I had to kayak with people who have my back.   The deal is, I get to CHOOSE what I feel Gratitude about…..Know one else.  And, I think, because I have had those sentences spoken to me by people and strangers in my life, it makes me feel weird when I tell someone whom I love how truly thankful, grateful and heart-filled-with-gratitude that they are part of my life.  I am letting go of the weird, and I am just going to tell people of my Gratitude for them.   Yep…that is my plan.

VULNERABILITY is also scary when you are adopted.

Let me share a story.  So, I recently sent a text message to some people who have changed my life.  Seriously:  Changed. My. Life.   Not just kinda did a good thing for me, or sent me flowers, or gave me some cookies, but freaking changed my life.  (Big time…I hope you are getting the BIGNESS of what I am sharing)

In my message, I expressed gratitude and said how I felt.  I shared why they affected me for the better…. Kind of like Wicked:


This message was vulnerable and open.

This is how this message sending felt:

Type message.  Re-read message.  Decide message is “send worthy.”  Hit send.

Wait about 4 seconds and adoptee brain says, “HOLY CHICKEN COOP, BATMAN, YOU HIT SEND!!”

Adoptee brain then goes into panic mode that I have said too much, been to open, over shared,  was weird,  and the list goes on and on and on…… If you are adopted, you know what I am talking about here.   It is FREAKING EXHAUSTING.

What I realized, is that this type of thing NEVER happens for me if I am not being vulnerable.   If I am just saying how I feel, but not going that one step deeper, I am A-OK.

But, because I was trying to express something so deep and so real, I felt like I was standing naked in a mall parking lot.  Vulnerability does that to an adoptee.

So, today, I called one of these people.  Just to be sure “we are OK after my message yesterday, right?” I was told, “We are more than OK.”    WHEW.

Funny thing was, I knew we were more than OK.  I totally knew it, but as an adoptee, I had to check to make sure there was not going to be rejection.  Which, or course, there is not going to be, but…that little fear monster is still there waiting to pounce!   As an adoptee, the path of vulnerability is full of fear of rejection.

One of the things I believe is that you can’t get to Courage without walking through Vulnerability.    So, I will continue to walk.

So, I say to myself – I fully commit to vulnerability.  I fully commit to expressions of gratitude.  I fully commit to continuing to experience courage.

And, as an adopted person, I may still need to check in from time to time to see how I am doing.  That is called reality.


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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

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