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September 2019

Psyche (Stuttg). 1995 Sep-Oct; 49(9-10): 965-88.

[Castration anxiety and oral envy in sexual relations. Analytic studies with ethnological observations]

Gerlach A.

Ethno-psychoanalysis is the study of the unconscious in foreign cultures. It can however also be of use in understanding unconscious elements operative in our own culture. To illustrate the point, the author describes the "Koro" epidemic which occurs periodically on the island of Hainan off the south of coast of China. This epidemic largely affects young unmarried men and the author pinpoints the unconscious conflicts underlying this collective phenomenon. It transpires that the epidemic is in effect a species of rite of passage in which a group of young males make the communal attempt to overcome castration anxieties which are themselves the product of covert gender envy. In the second section, Gerlach reports on his psychoanalytic encounter with a young man in Germany displaying similar symptoms. The profounder dimensions of this condition were only comprehensible to the author on account of his knowledge of "Koro".

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