Dissertation Title:

What Mother Knows: A Depth Psychological Study of the American Circumcision Decision


Elizabeth Perry

Date, Time & Place:

January 29, 2022 at 10:00 am


Concerned with the unheard, unconscious, embodied experience of mothers impacted by circumcision, this research takes a depth psychological, somatic approach to examining American mothers faced with the circumcision decision for their sons. In an attempt to understand the lived experience of these mothers, this study explores the archetypal, patriarchal, thematic material constellating in the dynamics of circumcision, its shadows, and its traumatogenic effects. Using a cooperative inquiry methodology, 8 American mothers conducted the inquiry in cycles of action using storytelling, meditation, and felt sense expressions to access the somatic unconscious, followed by cycles of Council-style reflections and group shares. Findings revealed problems with consent presented by medical providers to mothers in a clear, concise manner; pressure on mothers to make a choice about circumcision, whether for or against; mothers being silenced and disregarded; and prolonged grief and traumatogenic effects suffered by both mothers and sons. The research substantiates circumcision as a cultural complex with shadows creating a split in the psyches of mothers and advances the critique of circumcision as impacting all members of society and affecting all relationships. The findings elucidated the archetypal plurality of psyche, evidenced in women’s complexes, their visceral embodied experience of circumcision, and their transformational journeys whether or not circumcision was chosen for their sons. The analysis of findings illuminated the strength, resilience, anger, grief, and trauma carried by mothers and the value of this study’s opportunity to lend their hearts and voices to the question of circumcision, potentially shifting toward repairing the split in the psyche of the archetypal feminine.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology emphasis in Somatic Studies, S, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Ifat Peled
  • Reader: Dr. Christine Lewis
  • External Reader: Dr. Ronald Goldman
  • Keywords: Circumcision, Somatic, Cultural Complex, Archetypal, Feminine, Mother, Baby, Voice