Psychoanalytical Association


Some Kazakh Customs in the Light of Psychoanalysis

This paper looks at three traditional Kazakh child rearing traditions and examines them from a psychoanalytic angle. The data for this paper comes from individual and group therapy processes as well as from answers to questioners given to various subjects. There are people from different nationalities living in Kazakhstan, my focus here is only Kazakh traditions. The three Kazakh child rearing practices are: 1- The tradition of a 1,5 or 4-5 year old boy touching his penis and then giving the «smell» of his penis to an adult or an adult touching the little boys’ penis and taking its «smell».


There is a term for this tradition among Kazakhs: «Allowing a boy’s tobacco smell to come out a little bit». 2- The circumcision ritual and other related customs illustrating the differences in raising boys and girls. 3- The tradition of grandparents’ raising the first-born grandchild. 1- «Allowing a boy’s tobacco smell to come out a little bit» Boys who are under the age of six or seven usually amuse adults by «giving a bit of their tobacco to smell» (especially in the southern areas of Kazakhstan where the family ties and traditions are very strong). In this tradition, the boy touches his penis and pretends to pass «a bit of his tobacco» to the adult who requests it. Or, the adult touches the boy’s genital zone and «take its smell away.» Following such an action the adult gently sneezes as if the «smell» made him to do so. But very often there is only an imitation of the boy’s movement to a requester, something like an air message.


It means that the boy himself or an adult person does not touch the penis; there is a movement towards that part of his trousers where his penis is suggested to be located. Having touched that place, the adult actually smells his own hand as if it has the smell of the boy’s penis. What does this tradition mean for the child and the adult? Is it associated with an increased attention to a man’s prominence in a patriarchal society? Is it a version of a primitive ritual of passage from childhood to manhood? Does it help the child in his role as a sexual man in the future? In order to try to find answers to above questions our first task is to study of the influence of this Kazakh tradition of «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell» on the psychosexual development of Kazakh boys and girls. But first other questions come to mind: Are there differences between the sexual development of the Kazakh boys and boys from other nationalities? How do sexual education for boys and girls in modern day Kazakhstan influence conditions stemming from traditional ways raising children? These questions are valid. But, let us leave them aside and turn to the initial questions I raised above. Can psychoanalysis illuminate the answers to these questions?


According to Freud’s drive theory, different body zones are cathexeted with libido during different phases of the psychosexual development. At ages 3 and 4 the primary body zone that is cathexeted in the boys is the penis. (3) Now let us consider Freud’s theory of psychosexual development in relation to the tradition that Kazakh boys experience when they are 3 or 4 years old. According to the answers we collected to our questioners those who request a little boy to pull his pants down and give the «smell» away usually are elderly men and sometimes are elderly women. Young men and especially young women very seldom request a little boy’s «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell». This tradition is not practiced among boys of the same age and they do not ask each other «to give a bit of his tobacco to smell». Accordingly, we came to a conclusion that this tradition is in the service of assisting boys in acknowledging the differences between the sexes, helping them to establish their belonging to the male gender and their obtaining narcissistic satisfaction for being males. First of all, it is the boy’s father’s figure (often his grandfather) and rarely his actual mother (grandmother) who is responsible for such assistance.


I mean here: Boys’ fathers and rarely their mothers are involved in carrying out this tradition. It is clear that this cultural tradition is in the service of helping Kazakh boys, in their phallic-narcissistic stage of development, to deal with their castration anxieties. Elder men who are involved in this tradition must believe that 3-4 year-old boys need to be admired for their penises in order to be happy and have a good narcissistic balance. This wise idea in the culture coincides with psychoanalytic observation that phallic satisfaction for the boys is required during such ages. I assume that when a 3-4 year-old boy removes his pants and partly exposes a body part in front of other people; he feels proud of belonging to the male gender and seeks admiration from the surrounding adults (both men and women). He also may sense the envy the girls who are present. The last aspect was emphasized by the Daryn University students when they were asked if there were any girls present at the moment when boys proudly demonstrate that part of their bodies that girls did not possess. This tradition often includes the participation of 3 or 4 year-old boys. But sometimes1,5-2 or 6-7 year-old boys are involved.


While speaking about premature stimulation of the psychosexual development in the first case, we can refer to a regression to phallic phase with its partial exhibitionistic drive that occurs in the second case. The term «smell» that is included in this tradition is characteristic for pre-genital age. It is considered that 6-7 year olds have a «bad» smell and the «smell’ of those younger is quite acceptable. It means that there is a prohibition for 6-7 year old boys to demonstrate partial drive. This prohibition must have helped the boys to force out their desire for incest and digest the Oedipus complex. Perhaps it also serves as a kind of prevention against masturbation or onanism. To our great regret we do not possess the data to prove this hypothesis due to the inadequacy of the questionnaire and the delicacy of the question. But I hope in the future it will be possible to study whether the purpose of this tradition is to deprive the boy’s, age 3-7 years, autoerotic satisfaction and the experience of his own sensuality. This tradition can be observed as a permissible substitution for masturbation to a certain degree, as a socially secure kind of sexual satisfaction. Yet, it is again only our supposition and requires further study.


The results of the questionnaire prove that the boys of 3-4 would proudly «give a bit of his tobacco to smell» while those of 5-7 do it with a hidden pleasure and with some confusion. As a kind of prevention of future sexual neurosis in adulthood the tradition of «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell» most likely has a positive influence on psychophysiological and mental health of the 3-4—year old boy. It is obvious visually, it is accepted in the Kazakh culture and it brings pleasure to the little boy. Proceeding from the above, we can conclude that the Kazakh tradition of «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell» influences the psychosexual development of the boys. We can suppose that this tradition promotes a positive relationship between the three generations of the children-fathers-elder men internally strengthening their sense of being males.. According to Fairbairn «thanks to the establishment of good object relations a genuine genital sexuality is achieved». (2) We can summarize that the Kazakh tradition of «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell» may mirror the Kazakh’s care about the boy’s psychosexual development and education. For example, as many questioned adult men emphasized, boys were more frequently subjected to this tradition before initiation so that to massage the penis tip and to prepare them for initiation act.


The boy feels less pain when the tip of his penis is being cut off; as it has been prepared for this operation by the massage. It is a kind of preparation for this ritual. And according to elders words the boy is sure after the circumcision his «smell» becomes better. Perhaps, one of the issues included in this tradition reflects the adults’ perception of narcissistic features in the boy’s character for nomadic way of living. That tradition mirrors the gender preference of Kazakh people in the past (in the present time this is also true), when a nomadic way of living and the necessity to defend themselves from the enemies made them to prefer boys over girls. In reading the answers to our questionnaires and in the examination of the literature we found no traditions or rituals associated with the anatomic peculiarities of Kazakh girls. 2 — The circumcision ritual and other customs illustrating the differences in raising boys and girls: Kazakh boy go through a circumcision ritual typically when they are 3-5-year old. During such ceremonies and some days following the circumcision boys are in the center of attention; the relatives and close friends give money and presents to them, continue praising them for their courage and congratulate them for acquiring a new status. At such times the feeling of envy among the girls who are present is activated.


The girls wonder: «Why is he better than me?» «Why don’t they give me presents?» Such situations strengthen the girls’ idea of males’ superiority due their possession of penis. Moreover, there are no Kazakh traditions or festivals dedicated to female initiation rituals. It is our observation that within the patriarchal society, the Kazakh women (where adults do not help girls to appreciate their belonging to the female gender) feel penis envy. We believe that their feeling of penis envy is actually activated when Kazakh girls (like Uigur, Uzbek and other Moslem girls of Kazakhstan) see the ritual of circumcision of either brothers or neighbors. The girls are usually reassured by a statement that «Grandfather God has done a circumcision in advance». The adults take advantage of the sexual fantasy of the 3-4 year-old girl when she makes an attempt to understand and accept the differences between the sexes.


They increase the girl’s lowered self-esteem as though she has an anatomic «deficiency» by implying that God has taken a part in the ritual of initiation. On the surface this explanation is meant to equalize the boy’s and the girl’s rights. But actually it influences girls in a negative way. For instance, a boy of 1-3 in the Kazakh aul (village) is allowed to go about without pants. It cannot be considered as a common case but such boy will not appear as an object to be reproached. But a girl of the same age is not allowed to be naked below her waist, otherwise she will be punished. This implies that it is shameful for a girl to demonstrate that she possesses female genitalia. The Kazakh tradition of adoring men and degrading women can be also found in another area. For instance, the titles connected with kinship are different according to the child’s gender. While in English and in Russian the children of a son and of a daughter are equally called «grandchildren», in Kazakh the word «nemere» (a grandchild) refers only to the child of a son. The daughter’s children are called «zhien» which can be translated as «nephew».


Accordingly only son’s children are considered as heirs and descendants of their grandfathers. Furthermore, children of a daughter belong to the family of the son-in-law and such children are not perceived as true grandchildren. 3 — The tradition of grandparents’ raising the first-born grandchild: There is a tradition of giving the first-born child to his/her grandparents to be raised. Most of the survey participants were given to their grandparents during their first year, after their first 6 months; upon reaching school age many of the children were returned to their parents. Often the children were given to the paternal grandparents. In years past families lived together as one large unit, but modern Kazak families live separately so the first born grandchild lives with the grandparents sometimes near their own parents but sometimes in different regions or villages. The parents are allowed to see the child, but often the mother is not allowed to call her child as her own, but rather as a relative (sister, aunt), she has no maternal position in the child’s life; for the father, it is not so strict if the child is with the paternal grandparents.


Psychoanalysis has emphasized the importance of mother-child relationship in the psychological development of the child. What happens if the primary object (the mother) is removed and the child is raised by others? It is presumed that the substitution of the primary object becomes the cause of certain psychological events in the child’s internal world. Does this Kazakh tradition create a sense of injury due to the mother’s betrayal, fear to face vagueness, s/he does not know what to expect from future alarm associated with new life circumstances? Here we are not speaking about the child’s conscious thoughts or emotional experiences, because when s/he is given to his/her grandmother s/he is too young to realize the events which are taking place and/or to express his/her thoughts on this matter.


We have noticed that even the child has good relationships with grandparents, the separation from the primary object induces trauma in the unconscious. Sooner or later derivatives of this trauma exhibit themselves in the child. In our practice we had patients from different ages and sexes who were first-born children and who sought help due to different problems. Our psychoanalytically oriented work with them usually showed that their sufferings were connected with their early separation from mother, anger toward the mother and/or the wish to be united with her. Case # 1:. Mr. N., age 30, Kazakh, unmarried. He exhibited an inability to develop trust in women. He gave the following information: He lived with his grandparents ever since he could remember. After their death when he was 23 years old, he returned to his parents. He had good relations with his father but he had permanent conflicts with his mother. When his mother prohibited him to marry a girl he loved, he left for Almaty from the countryside where he used to live. In the big city he met many girls and wanted to marry some of them, but always felt deceived by them in one manner or other. N. gave up any contact with them.


Now he was tormented by a question: «Are they all bad?» «Is it my fate not to find a woman I can trust?» Our work together made him to realize that he was still carrying a sense of being injured by his mother who had given him as a child to his grandmother. For the first time he experienced this feeling was when he went to the elementary school. He hoped that his mother, a teacher, would take him home and they would stay together. It was a great revelation for my patient to realize that he had been keeping a sense of being injured by his mother for many years. Developing this insight eventually allowed him to change his relationships with women. Case # 2: C., age 18, arrived in Almaty to go to an University. There he met his mother who had given him to his grandmother when he was one year old. Then she divorced her husband, the patient’s father, and went to Almaty. Analyzing the patient’s stories and pictures together with him we unearthed his secret desire to stay with his mother while, on the other hand, he could not leave his beloved granny in the village. His conflicting desires led to a serious quarrel with his mother and this in turn was the reason for his seeking therapeutic help. Case # 3: T., the daughter of her grandparents who was legally adopted by her grandparents at an early age, from early childhood knew who her actual parents were, but she feared offending her grandmother. At present she calls her mother «sister» with whom she has a very tense relationship. As the patient gained insight about her conflicts her irritation and depression decreased. Case # 4: A is a 35 years old man and the father of two daughters.


He lived in the southern Kazakhstan. He sought therapy in connection to moving to another job. Here we present only a fragment of his story which is associated with the tradition of the first-born child being given to grandparents. In this case the patient is the one who «lost» a child. This patient’s oldest child, a daughter, is five—years-old. She was «taken» by the patient’s mother. In order not to get upset himself and not upset his mother and daughter he goes to see them very seldom, once every 3-4 months. He usually brings some presents, sweets or toys, to his daughter: His mother does not like it when he pays attention to his daughter; the mother feels offended. Due to this reason the patient asks his younger daughter to present the items to the older one as if they are from his younger daughter. But he also asks his younger daughter to tell her older sister that the presents are really from her father. He is not allowed to communicate with his daughter as her father, and his wife is completely prohibited from being a mother to the child, she cannot hold or care for her. It is known that the mother of that child is actually viewed as an estranged woman by this child. While speaking with me when this patient brought up the story of his elder daughter his mood was ruined, he became silent and we finished the session.


He did not appear the next day and a day later he came in as drunk. Even I thought that his drinking was due to the previous session’s emotional experience I refused to accept him. He came back after six months with apologies and stated that he had been seeing his daughter more often and that had been thinking about ways to take her back. These brief examples illustrate the extremely dramatic consequences of the tradition of a child being «submitted» to his/her grandparents. It is well-known that the child fully depends on his/her object in satisfying his/her existence, physical well-being and psychological needs. Extreme dependence makes the child’s dependence unconditional. The object relations of the child are focused on the existence of the object. So the loss of the object is more destructive in childhood. In this paper we have touched only upon this aspect, namely, the child’s mental trauma due to loss of the object. When an adult person loses an object s/he does not lose everything at the same time, s/he keeps relations with other people. For an adult, relationship choices remain and the individual can prefer one over another. A child does not possess choices. According to Fairbairn the child has no alternative for accepting or refusing the object; it is like a choice between life and death. The child cannot process the loss due to the weakness of ego. (2) According to the results of the questionnaires, the child’s grandmother is usually in the position of superiority, none of the family members (the child’s siblings or own parents) have the right to criticize the grandmother’s child; the tradition is supposed to be good for the child.


The eldest child, by virtue of being raised by the grandparents, gains a position of superiority, and is catered to as such. This child has more rights, freedoms, is the first to be served and allowed treats or indulgences. This grandchild can sit at the table with older relatives; ride on the shoulders of uncles, privileges that his/her birth siblings do not possess. So it is this superficial side of the relations which can be manifested in the conscious as the actual sense of superiority. Interestingly, it must be noted that almost all of our respondents acknowledged their feelings of envy toward their siblings who are raised by their own parents. The second serious trauma experienced by children who were given to their grandparents to be raised by them can be found at the moment of their separation from the grandmother and joining the mother. If «any frustration in the object relations are functionally equal to the loss of the object and as the actual loss of the object results in a serious depression», as Fairbairn writes, then a double loss of the object by the Kazakh first-born child can be considered as a main trauma which causes their depressive states. (2) At present there are no notable psychological differences between the children «submitted» to their grandmother’s care and those brought up by their own parents.


We suppose that this is connected to the fact that children of the both groups have established libido relations with the following object. At the same time we can assume that the destruction of libido relations at a later age of the children who have been submitted to their grandparents have a weaker position and therefore their inner struggle with this situation can be reactivated when they face crucial difficulties. We hope further research can add more clarity to this problem. It would also be interesting to study inner psychic processes of both the mother and the grandmother. For example, we know the cases when such grandmothers became able to nurse, they had chest milk again. We hope the ever increasing psychoanalytical observations and articles will serve for reflections and preventions of mental injury to both children and parents. Thus there are great tasks facing developing clinical and applied psychoanalysis in Kazakhstan. Literature: 1. Сидоренко Е.В. Методы математической обработки в психологии. С.-Петербург.: ООО «Речь», 1996, 349 с. 2. Fairbairn W.R. D. A revised psychopathology of the psychoses and psychoneuroses. — «International Journal of Psycho-Analysis», 22, 250-279. 3. Freud S. On sexuality. Three essays on the theory of sexuality and other works. — Penguin books. — V. 7 — 1981. Supplement 1. About questionnaires. During the last four years there have been 19 group trainings with students of psychology and school psychologists in the Kazakh and Russian languages.


Each group has been given a number of learning and self-study purposes. In the course and at the end of the therapy, three questionnaires were filled out by the group participants. Out of 140 respondents who answered the questionnaires, 66 people said that they were not familiar with the first tradition and the other 74 said they were. The outcomes of the questionnaires were considered according to five factors: 1. The age of the child when he was involved with this tradition for first time; 2. The age of the child when he stopped «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell»; 3. The child’s feelings before and after «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell»; 4. The person who had most often asked for «giving a bit of his tobacco to smell»; 5. The attitude of those who filled out the questionnaires about this tradition depending on their sex, age, education background and the region of their origin. According to the results of the questionnaires we learned that 59 of the 98 submitted children were brought up by their father’s relatives and 39 by their mother’s relatives. We put forward a question: Is it true that submitting a child to a father’s relatives is preferable? The binominal criteria were used to prove this hypothesis. We have come to the following conclusion: A father’s line is more often chosen / children are more often submitted to a father’s relatives. (1) The questionnaire on the tradition of «pruning» contains 16 points. There were 170 questionnaires filled out. Thirteen respondents answered they were not familiar with this tradition, and 107 respondents answered affirmatively. The results have been analyzed according to the following factors: 1. The nationality and age of the questioned persons; 2. The attitude of those who have filled out the questionnaires about this tradition depending on their sex, age, education background and the region of their origin; 3. The age of the child when he experienced the ritual; 4. The child’s feelings before, during and after the ritual of initialization depending on the age of the questioned person.


The questionnaire «The Tradition of Submitting the First-born Child to the Grandparents» contains 19 questions. 163 questionnaires were filled out. Ninety-eight people answered, «Yes, I was brought up by my grandmother and grandfather», and 65 people said, «No, my own parents brought me up». It means that 58,6 per cent of those questioned have experienced this tradition. The following 7 factors were taken into consideration while analyzing those 98 questionnaires: 1. The nationality, sex and age of the questioned person; 2. The age at which the child was submitted to his or her grandparents; 3. The reasons which compelled the parents to submit their first-born child to their relatives; 4. Who are those relatives brought up the child; 5. The age of the child when s/he was submitted to his or her grandparents; 6. The particular region where the event took place; 7. The attitude of those who filled out the questionnaires to this tradition depending on their sex, age, education background and the region of their origin. Supplement 2. Solving the problem of the child submission tradition.


The problem must be solved with the help of Pearson criterion — χ2. However, as the number of the questionnaires is n < 300, and the probability of the choice of father or mother line as an equally probable choice is 1/2, i.e. P=Q=0,5, we can use the binominal criteria m. We produce the frequency table. Empirical frequency of father and mother life choice (n=95). Chosen father line Chosen mother line Total we formulate the hypothesis 59 39 95 We formulate the hypothesis: Н0: Father line frequency does not exceed the frequency corresponds the probability of the accidental choice. Н1: Father line frequency exceeds the frequency corresponds with the probability of the accidental choice.


We determine the theoretical frequency of choice of one of the lines at an accidental choice: ƒтеор.=n.P=95 ∙ 0,5=47,5 As ƒэмп. > ƒтеор. (59 > 47,5), we use the binominal criterion m, and not its «mirrored image» (signs criterion G) According to Table XIV of Supplement 1 [1] we determine the critical points of the criterion m for n=95:, here ρ — level of significance, i.е. the probability of the fact that considered differences significant, but actually they are accidental. When we point out that the differences are 5 per cent level significance, or at ρ=0,05, we mean that the probability of their inexactness is 0,05.


Now we do a comparison of empiric frequency of the choice of the father line with the critical points of the criterion mкр as mэмп=ƒэмп. > 59, mкр(0.05)=56,5, mкр(0.01)=58, then mэмп > mкр. in both cases. From this we can assume that the hypothesis Н0 is rejected and the hypothesis Н1 is accepted — the frequency of preferring the father line exceeds the frequency which corresponds the probability of the accidental choice ( ). We can confirm that the father line is more often chosen out of the two lines. How can it be explained — it is another question which is not the task of this problem.



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