From Turning Away to Turning Toward: Adoption as Radical Hospitality

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This paper, combining theoretical ideas with passages of personal memoir, focuses on the journey that both adopted children and adoptive parents experience: going from the inner state of turning away to the inner state of turning toward, and from the experience of “nowhere-ness” to the experience of “being at home.” Using the terms “hypotonia” and “hypertonia” in their psychic context, the paper describes a unique form of attachment that characterizes children who have undergone severe primary trauma. Instead of a constant movement between a state of connection and a state of separation, in this case there is a negation of both. Since hypotonia is not a state of separation but of non-connection, whereas hypertonia is not a state of connection but a state of adhesion, both hypertonia and hypotonia imply an attack on bonding and linking. The paper suggests understanding adoption as radical form of hospitality, one that challenges the borders of the host’s mind and body, but also allows, through this very challenging, letting both the strange and the stranger in.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalPsychoanalytic Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • adoption
  • early trauma
  • homelessness
  • hospitality
  • psychic tone

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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