The Experience Recovery
I’m lying comfortably on a mattress in a dimly lit room, recalling a small dream fragment. A fledgling therapist is giving me suggestions, asking me to pretend to be various elements of the dream in conversation with other parts. For instance I’m the mattress, and I’m telling the door of the room what I’m thinking and feeling. The therapist is learning “Gestalt.” A more experienced therapist is supervising as five members of my group act as therapists to the other five. We’re all learning Gestalt.
I close my eyes, and suddenly I’m no longer on a mattress. I’m lying on a cold hard metallic surface, and I seem to be paralyzed. My arms are pinned to my sides and I can’t move – not even a wriggle. As if in a lucid dream, my adult mind realizes that I’m strapped to a surgical table by means of a fabric strap that extends across my torso and arms from a strong-point on one edge of the table to a ratcheted crank on the opposite edge of the table. My adult mind is able to observe and understand what is happening – but is unable to control the events that I’m experiencing
Suddenly a figure appears in my line of sight. I recognize a man’s head wearing a white cap and white surgical mask. “Aha!”, I think. “He’s a doctor and I’m in a hospital. Could this man be my father?” The question seems absurd, since my father, Boris Podolsky was a physicist – not a physician. But somehow the rationale behind the question made sense at the time of the experience.
The masked face disappears, and a moment later my body is racked by intense pain. From head to foot I feel like I’m on fire. Only later did I understand that an infant’s body doesn’t localize pain. The ability to localize the experience of pain requires a little more neurological development than most infants have at the age of eight days (my age at circumcision).
And only much later did I learn that, until recently, most surgery on infants was performed without anesthesia, in the mistaken belief that infants don’t feel pain. The reality, of course, is that infants feel everything more intensely than adults.
By now, of course, I’m screaming – not just in my memory, but in my adult experience. My therapist-in-training doesn’t know what to do, so he calls on the supervising therapist for assistance. She knows what to do, and assists me in extricating myself from the remembered ordeal by holding and soothing me as though I were still that tortured infant.
It is a reasonable instinctual expectation, on the part of an infant, to be met with gentleness, love, and maternal bonding during the beginning of life outside the womb. The mere absence of such a response has a profoundly detrimental effect on the development of a child’s brain. To be met with torture is much worse – truly devastating. Such an experience leaves a child in a state of perpetual terror – unable to completely trust his very existence – permanently hyper-vigilant – and, in my case, unable to trust men prior to age 32, at which point the experience above restored some of my ability to develop relationships with men.
More On the Subject
No one is more eloquent than Stefan Molyneux on the subject of circumcision. And it’s not my intent to repeat here the things that he has discussed at length in his philosophical podcasts on the subject. I wrote this little article solely to explain that some of us remember the event, and I for one can personally attest to the severity of the experience and the damage that it inflicted on my life. I wouldn’t wish it on a dog – but then dogs aren’t getting circumcised, are they? Only humans do that to one another.