Trust is the ground of all later development and it is focused entirely on the mother.
The psychological implications of circumcision may be profound. Erik Erikson has established that the first and most critical task of psychological development is trust (Erikson, 1950). He states that trust is the ground of all later development and it is focused entirely on the mother. Dr. Rima Laibow, a psychiatrist in New York, who has invented a mode of regressive therapy, points out that because the mother has been the entire universe to the infant since its life began in utero, it is imprinted to experience all pleasure and all pain as flowing from the mother. Mother controls all. Dr. Laibow states:
Clinical work in Dyadic Repair and developmental psychology make it clear that information encoded in utero and later, is retained in somatic, cognitive and affective storage. An infant does retain significant memory truces of traumatic events. When a child is subjected to intolerable, overwhelming pain, it conceptualizes mother as both participatory and responsible regardless of mother’s intent. When in fact, mother is truly complicit, as in giving permission for unanesthetized surgery, (i.e., circumcision) the perception of the infant of her culpability and willingness to have him harmed is indelibly emplaced. The consequences for impaired bonding are significant (Laibow, 1991).
Dr. Laibow states that such a trauma creates an “enormous obstacle to the development of basic trust between mother and child” which must be acknowledged to the maturing child if healing is to occur. She goes on to insist that if circumcisions are to be performed, they should be done only with the use of anesthesia (Laibow, 1991).
One of the most forceful statements opposing circumcision for its possible psychological repercussions was made by Dr. Benjamin Spock in 1976:
“I am in favor of leaving the penis alone. Pediatric opinion is swinging away from routine circumcision as unnecessary and at least mildly dangerous. I also believe that there is a potential danger of emotional harm resulting from the operation. Parents should insist on convincing reasons for circumcision and there are no convincing reasons that I know of “(as cited in Wallerstein, 1980).