The Violent Act of Infant Circumcision

Compiled by Pat Törngren

This discussion took place between myself, and Dean, the founder of the South African anti-circumcision group "NOCIRC SA", in December 2005. Dean and I were discussing the story of a late primal buddy of mine. Mark had relived his circumcision trauma in Primal Therapy, and was interviewed by a South African magazine on the subject in 1987 (see "Mark's Story" below).

Pat: Dean, I saw what you wrote to the anti-circumcision support group ( interspersed below ) and I would like to respond.

Dean wrote: I experienced a recurring nightmare of a darkness of a great magnitude coupled with the belief that I had done something so bad that I could never rectify it, and perhaps this was some kind of punishment. It was a darkness where the whole world collapsed around me and somehow I felt I was to blame for it. There was also an associated process of emotional detachment that took place after it, that is impossible to describe.

Pat replied: It's a terribly sad fact, but frequently when a child is traumatised, they "believe" that it is because they are "bad" or have "done something wrong". This is a universal phenomenon. So baby boys who are circumcised will probably unconsciously believe that all that physical pain was caused because they were somehow "bad", and as you say, "to blame".

Dean wrote: On several other lists that deal with circumcision I have seen this thread come up over and over again.

Pat replied: The same thing happens with people who were sexually abused at an early age. The underlying, often unconscious feeling is frequently, "This happened to me because I was bad". Often, they not only take the blame, but also protect and excuse their abusers.

Dean wrote: It is no secret that the unconscious stores traumatic events and replays them over and over again in order to come to terms with them.

Pat replied: That's right. The unconscious brings it up to try to resolve it, by making it conscious. The fear and the repressed pain try to keep it unconscious, so the person becomes internally split and at war with themselves, till they can start facing the pain, and dealing with the trauma.

Dean wrote: With traumas that are preverbal (i.e. before talk and rational thought) they are played out deeply within the realms of feeling. Trauma's during the fist few days after birth, like circumcision, register as deeply disturbing forces of seismic proportions, and since few ever even consider circumcision to be traumatic, it is left untouched and unprocessed. It becomes a very dangerous and volatile thing that is often then projected outwards...

Pat replied: Yes, that is done by feelings of anger and aggression against others… Dean wrote: …or it can be projected inwards.

Pat replied: Right, that is done by self-blame, or actually becoming physically ill, as the anger that should be expressed outwards, may be turned inwards against the self.

Dean wrote: That outward projection is nowhere more obvious, in my opinion, than in the warring intentions of aggression and control displayed by America; the only country in the world to have been involved in a war in some way or another during every one of the last 50 years. The Middle East has a long history of war, aggression and control also. To me the connection between circumcision and violence there (whether terrorist or state-sponsored) is obvious. The three biggest players there currently are circumcised as infants - America (90%), Israel (100%) and other Arab neighbours (100%)…

Pat replied: That is a very interesting point. All kinds of physical violence in childhood are predictors of a violent or war-like society ( Alice Miller , James Prescott and Lloyd deMause have all made that point ). A high incidence of trauma at birth and later the hitting of children are also predictors of a violent society. Pain is pain and trauma is trauma. The tragedy of circumcision is that the tiny newborn victim has no way of knowing why he is being tortured in this way.

Dean wrote: …Angry Little boys with broken toys intent to break (or control) everything else around to play out their trauma....

Pat replied: There are two things we can do with overwhelming trauma - act it out, or use it to do something to change the consciousness of the oppressor. The members of this group belong to the latter group, because they have begun to face their trauma, and are not acting it out by being violent to others.

Dean wrote: When a child is held down forcibly and genitally mutilated he (or she) experiences a sense of powerlessness and a complete lack of control that is unimaginable. Worse still, there is no way for them to rationalise the procedure into a positive experience, like many of the men who are circumcised as young adults or teens within cultural settings. The whole process of torture removes any concept of being able to exert control over ones body.

When the child is so young that they can't rationalise, nor ultimately remember the experience, the lack of control registers deeply within the unconscious. It is for that reason that I believe men circumcised as infants can often aptly be described as 'control-freaks.' And if you look at the consciousness of the nations that circumcise as infants there is often an underlying obsession with control - a way to balance out the complete lack of control experienced during the mutilation and never fully processed in order to allow for healing. When we feel powerless as children we seem to grow into adults that once in a position to exert control and power do so with a great ferocity.

Pat replied: I agree. I think if we want to have a non-violent world, we have to start by no longer acting violently to vulnerable newborns. We need to birth them gently, nurture them gently, and definitely not sexually mutilate the most sensitive part of their bodies. According to Prescott, if we let children begin life with pleasurable body feelings rather than painful ones, we can begin to build a peaceful world.

MARK'S STORY: Below is the relevant part of the magazine article we had been discussing, which was published by Personality Magazine:

Mark said: "I think it is terribly important that people should know about the pain and trauma experienced by a baby during circumcision. I was born into a family who circumcise their infant sons for traditional reasons and, until fairly recently, I never questioned the practice.

"However, throughout my childhood I had a 'waking nightmare' that I never understood. I would see myself lying helplessly, gazing up at a group of smiling monsters who were standing around me and staring down at me. I was completely at their mercy and I knew they were going to torture me - but I never found out how.

"Then some years ago, while I was undergoing psychotherapy, I began to spontaneously relive the nightmare in its real context. The 'monsters' turned out to be the male members of my family. They were holding my penis and were about to cut it and I started to actually relive some of the pain, shock and, worst of all, the terrible sense of betrayal of my circumcision.

"I was having psychotherapy because of sexual problems which made it almost impossible for me to have a relationship with a woman, but I never guessed where the problems had originated. After reliving the trauma of my circumcision I had my first successful relationship with a woman.

"What horrifies me more than anything is that my well-meaning and smiling relatives had no idea of the pain they caused me or of the scars it would leave on my mind. I don't have a son, but if I ever do have one he will not be circumcised. I have promised never to do to a son of mine what was done to me."

Mark is one of a growing number of people who are questioning the practice of circumcision.

(PERSONALITY, October 14, 1987, p. 36)

NOTE: There is now a group of Doctors Opposing Circumcision in the USA.

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