04 June 2012

Psychological Impact of Circumcision

Circumcision by David Gollaher, 2000, Excerpts

As a Jew, Freud himself had been circumcised as an infant, though he subsequently left religious faith far behind. What intrigued him were connections between cutting the penis and his burgeoning theory of sexuality, including the relationship between childhood trauma and later neurosis. Circumcision is perceived by the child as an aggressive attack on his body, which damages, mutilates and some cases totally destroys him.

The most ambitious attempt to find a transcendent psychological basis for circumcision was a treatise written in the early 1950s by the distinguished, and later notorious, psychotherapist Bruno Bettelheim, a self-styled Freudian who would become world famous for his interpretations of fairy tales and myths. “Whatever the origin and meaning of circumcision may be, it must originate in deep human needs, since it seems to have sprung up independently among many peoples, although in different forms.” Moreover, even in places where the practice appears to have spread by diffusion, he reasonably noted, people would not lightly take up such a radical and risky operation. It was “a strange mutilation,” all the stranger for being “found among the most primitive and the most highly civilized people.” Thus, he concluded, circumcision “must reflect profound needs.”

Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma by Ronald Goldman. Arguing that the violence of the operation disrupts the mother-son bond shortly after birth, Goldman asserts that American men on a massive scale are afflicted by post-traumatic disorder. The lingering aftershocks of circumcision, he writes, include low self-esteem, avoidance of intimacy in male-female relationships, disregard for women’s sexuality, and most alarming, a pandemic of violence in America’s high rates of assault, rape, and murder. Both rape and circumcision involve sexual organs and violence. Rape perpetrators’ motivations and excessive, inappropriate anger reflect feelings of having been victimized themselves. It can be argued that in a broader sense, circumcision [what’s done to children] could be considered to be a form of rape [they will do to society].

The Painful Dilemma by Rosemary Romberg [1985], nurse and alternative-child-rearing advocate, concentrating on the violence circumcision visited on male infants and its possible psychological aftershocks which she strongly believes contributed to an increasingly violent American society.

No comments: