Archive for the ‘nudity’ tag
I chose this photo which was taken in Cuba for a number of reasons of which the first is simply because I like it. I took this photo in 2004 using an weaker digital camera from that time which was my first relatively decent digital camera; not a DSLR, but good enough to give some very good photographs regardless. A second reason for the photograph is the mixture of darkness and light and the suggestion of fire, of heated passion.
Midlife is a confusing time. With so many years devoted to making a living, raising a family and being part of a community in a socially meaningful manner; the discovery that there is something missing, a hole in the psyche, has one respond in a variety of ways. For some men, it is a denial of the emptiness as they throw themselves further into community activity, filling every possible moment with their career or with causes. For others it is a return to a mythical past filled with motorcycles or sports cars, sex, or being a fashionista. Yet others try to fill the hole with drugs, alcohol, religion, some New Age spirituality or sex. For a few, the event causes them to sit back and look at what has happened, to begin listening to the voices and studying the images that are emerging – for these, midlife is seen as an opportunity to discover self.
Sexuality is necessarily one of the roadblocks that appears in the process regardless of the response one takes to the crisis of midlife. Responses can vary from a complete absence from sexual contact with others with its wrestling with the self that comes with the denial of the sexual component of one’s being. The denial can push “natural” sexuality so far underground that it emerges in unconscious pathological behaviour. Or in an extreme response in the opposite direction, one can become obsessed with sex, so obsessed that everything and everyone becomes charged sexually and have the conscious self become overly sexually active as if one needs to constantly add another conquest, another unique experience in an endless race to satiate the demanding drive. Either of these extremes lead to a collective attitude towards sexuality that is negative. And, the unclothed body becomes the target of these polarized attitudes.
“. . . it is almost impossible to avoidseeing it through the larger moral prism of nudity. As the historian Rob Cover (2003) has noted,“nakedness across a vast array of representations in the history of western culture has been inseparable from sex and sexuality, and has been hence located adjacent to the indecent, the obscene and the immoral” (Cover, The Naked Subject,” 2003, p. 55)
Of course, I am a part of the western culture and I have had, and continue to have at some level, some negative response to the naked body. Some bodies get my imagination going and others are met with a neutral response. In terms of other people, I don’t assume that seeing the naked body is an invitation for sex, nor do I assume that the person with the naked body is obscene or immoral. What I continue to hold, somewhat, is questions about my own appearance as an obscenity or my own immorality.
If others see my body will I be judged as uglier, as lacking or as too hairy, too short, to stout? Will others compare me to other men regardless of age, compare me to some ideal that I have never met regardless of age? I think I am a bit fortunate in being close to the norm in body size and type with the exception of excessive hair all over my body. I could do with losing a bit of weight and toning my body to be more muscular and less soft. But that is not too much of a concern. What is my one body-image concern is body hair. And like many in the western world, I have a few strategies to ease my own angst when it comes to that body hair. I guess, for the most part, I have accepted my body as it is and feel relatively good about it.
But when it comes to the question of the unclothed body being an obscenity if seen by others. I don’t see others unclothed as scenes of obscenity unless there is a perceived deliberate attempt on the part of specific others to perform acts in public that are overtly sexual in nature. Even then, I often view these as sad affairs rather than evil affairs. Yet, I still have a worry that I will be seen as a dirty old man if I doff all my clothing at a beach or walk unclothed in my back yard. I worry about offending others who might accidentally see me, or cause embarrassment to those close to me because of what “others” would say. What I do affects not only myself but those in my orbit. And so, I hide as much as needed. And in the process, I feel as though something very valuable is missing, something that has a holistic healing power.
This blog site is more-or-less an exercise in self-directed therapy. Here I take down barriers to the inner core of self that I manage to find in an attempt to become more authentic in my relationships with others, and especially in relationship with my own self. With a few carefully orchestrated attempts I have included what I could best call “nude therapy” into the mix. For several months I was able to set aside time several times a week for my “nude therapy” within a small enclosure that ensured complete privacy while in Costa Rica. The experiments focused on being unclothed and allowing the sun access to my skin. There was no “social” aspects, no public exposure nor fear of public exposure. I was able to protect my ego’s fear of being seen as a dirty old man. Now that time has passed since those experiments, I am able to reflect back on the experience and evaluate the experience as being very beneficial to my well-being. Because of the experience, my book, Through a Jungian Lens: Sol and Luna, which was published a few months later, was able to reach dimensions my previous books couldn’t achieve.
And now, I am left wondering about the present and my growing desire to again experience nudity as therapy, perhaps as a partial way of being. I wonder about how much of this is perverseness and how much of this is authentic need for my soul. I don’t have the answers so I still live with the questions.
I took this older photo from 2006 in order to continue the series about naturism. But before I go further, I want to be upfront and say that in this series of photos, judicious cropping has led to the illusion of my being fully in my own skin. It’s not true. I cropped the swim wear in each photo to give an illusion. Obviously in each photo I was not alone and someone else was taking the photographs with my camera. And because of the fact of the presence of another person, I find myself, like the vast majority of North Americans, uncomfortable in my own skin concerned about my less than perfect body. I wouldn’t think of going “au naturel.” And so, I ask myself “Why?”
Well, I have convinced myself that it is “selfish” of me to not care about the sensibilities of others. I have told myself that I would embarrass those closed to me in any given situation, embarrass strangers that would accidentally see me. Being seen unclothed in a public place, even at a beach in Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere would be an intrusion into the space of others, an assault on their own concepts of self and others. And as I continue to think about it, there appear many layers of “reasons” for my feeling uncomfortable in my own skin when others are present. I want to include a few words here that I found on another site while researching the psychological aspects of naturism:
“Progressively, over the centuries, society has developed the use of clothing as a mask. Clothing was originally used and designed to protect people from the elements of heat and cold, to stop themselves from getting burned or frozen. It was also used as a method of adornment to enhance attractiveness and for ritual and ceremonial reasons. In the latter centuries, people developed a cultural dependency on clothing. Clothes became a mask and a prop for perceived personality and character deficiencies.
“We frequently see people who would not be seen dead without their clothing on. Clothing is often used to portray an image that is different from the person’s perceived inner deficiencies. It is a form of artificiality or masking that they outwardly project to cover up any personality or emotional defects they think they have. People tend to feel that by hiding behind clothing they can metaphorically cover themselves and deny others exposure to the inner-self they perceive to be crippled. The need to do this most commonly occurs in people with low self-esteem.” (Naked Beneath Your Clothing)
Again, the masking of the self, the portraying of an image that would be more socially acceptable, one that would leave me safely protected from the collective. I know that I have a lot of scars and messy aspects and I desperately want to hide them so that others will like me. I hide my true self. But that hiding can only go on so long before one is forced to expose one’s true self. I have no issue with seeing others in their own skin, something which isn’t so rare in other countries such as India, and in IndoChina. Seeing others in their own skin in North America is also not an issue for me other than me berating myself for lacking the courage these others demonstrate in being comfortable in their own skin.
The journey of individuation forces one to become honest with one’s self, and in turn, that leads to a transparency that forces one to be honest with others. I am not really there yet though I yearn to be there, need to be there in order to feel whole, to feel a sense of real holiness. This blog space is one place where I feel a real sense of safety, especially in allowing my inner self to be more transparent. The journey continues.
Again, I return to the topic of transparency and authenticity, something I have talked about here before. I want to talk about “natural” man as distinguished from “civilized” man. This is a relatively old photo taken in March, 2009 while spending the winter in a Mayan fishing village. I chose this photo because it is “safe” and reader friendly. The image is symbolic to me of times long past that are more about young adulthood than about midlife. I am reminded of how over the years I celebrated naturalness in the water. In today’s world there is an element of fear attached to being natural. I admit that I am quite conflicted about the being at one in a natural state, in the world. I am a naturist at small, private moments yet I must choose with care these moments because of the impact it has on others in my life. When I was younger, I didn’t care that much. Isolated beaches, forest meadows, in the privacy of home naturalism was present in small doses. My children grew up knowing the freedom of skinny-dipping and moving from bath to bedroom without body shame. We never passed a camping trip without at least one skinny-dipping night swim. Somehow, for some reason, the freedom has gone, at least in North America.
The world has changed, become more charged with sexuality. With the growing ascendancy of the right, fear is reacting badly attempting to criminalize sexuality, especially when it comes to young people. Who in today’s modern world would take a photo of their children playing in the bathtub with cousins or siblings or parents? Should someone dare this photo, it risks the photographer or owner of the photograph being charged with a criminal offense and being put on a registry of sexual offenders. Walking in the buff in one’s own home is risky as any passerby who chances to look in a window and see a nude body risks being charged with indecent exposure and being placed on a sexual offender registry.
Many psychologists say that clothing is an extension of ourselves. The clothes we wear are an expression of who we are. The Naturist’s comfort with casual nudity, therefore, represents an attitude which is comfortable with yourself as it is in its most basic state, without modification or deceit. (Indiana Naturists Blog)
Naturism. It’s a word that is not held in high regard in the western world for the most part.
Johann Lemmer, in his work, Introduction to Sexology, discusses CG Jung’s concepts in terms of sexuality and suggests that the moral issues that confront modern man are often centered around sexuality and points to the masculine and feminine images and archetypes discussed by Jung as psychology’s attempt to deal with the issues. One needs to remember that Jung’s work was built on the foundation of Freud’s work which has a significant focus on human sexuality.
“FKK” (Frei-Körper-Kultur) or “Free Body Culture”. FKK derives its roots from the philosophical works from Carl Gustav Jung (one of the founding fathers of modern psychology) and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (German physicist and philosopher), who maintained nudity was a form of returning to nature. Specifically, it was a form of returning to the natural state of mankind, before clothing dictated our social status, and set standards of how much respect we pay to people based on the clothes they are wearing. (Celeste Neumann)
Good information, but how does that solve the moral dilemmas faced by men, women and children in both Canada and the U.S.A. And more importantly for myself, how do I navigate to liberate myself from the attitudes of those around me? I know it is my choice, that I can find the space, place and time for naturism. Yet, my choices always seem to have an impact on others, others who have meaning for me. Regardless, little by little, I am pushing back the straight-jacket that would have me wear clothing even when sleeping.
How can I explain this photo? Why did I even take it? I have to admit that I had already written a good portion of this post before figuring out what I wanted for a photo. I knew which quotes I was using for the post and had searched through my photos taken here in Costa Rica only to feel that there was nothing that “fit,” nothing that could speak for me where words failed.
So, I returned to the quotes and did some serious thinking. The first quote finally convinced me to risk exposing things that I have devalued. I knew that Jung was talking of something broader, something at the collective level. What did I share with others in the collective? What has the collective devalued that has convinced me to devalue in myself?
The answer is body identity and sexual identity. In my culture a man is considered normal or better if he is tall, light-skinned, and trim and fit. I am small: short, dark and hairy. Society has men be men with an active sex life that woos many and scoring many conquests. I only wanted to be desired by one woman. One woman finding me to be the man of her sexual dreams was my dream. Of course that only set me up for maintaining my virginity into my twenties.
So, I took this photo, an image that is explicit though its lines are soft enough to give the photo a certain artistic quality that saves it from being just another opportunity for exhibitionism. But in all honesty, can I deny the intent?
“If anything of importance is devalued in our conscious life, and perishes – so runs the law – there arises a compensation in the unconscious. We may see in this analogy to the conservation of energy in the physical world, for our psychic processes also have a quantitative, energic aspect. No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity. This is a fundamental rule which is repeatedly verified in the daily practice of the psychotherapist and never fails.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
What has been devalued in my life? Well, I guess that the answer isn’t as easy to state as I thought it would be. For so many years I devalued myself as a short man, one who didn’t fit in. I lived in redneck country when I left my youth as a city kid. I was the odd man out and soon believed that I even looked odd. That feeling has never really left me and I am just now learning to accept that perhaps I am not odd as I came to believe.
There was no question in my mind that any woman would actually find me attractive, especially in midlife. I never did understand what my wife ever saw in me. I was and am certain it had nothing to do with looks or sexual attraction. She saw something buried under the skin that was valued, likely that old expression holds true here – opposites attract – we are fully opposite (INFP versus ESTJ) in so much.
Of course this lack of body and sexual value for myself had to find another outlet. Dreams became a hot and steamy affair. The face of anima often came looking like a harlot, tempting me. Strange how all of these dreams did nothing but leave me feeling guilty as though is some way, I had cheated on my marriage. The repressed contents also found a veiled presence in poetry.
My outer life served as a reverse mirror for what was happening within. Denying self, denying need all in hopes of becoming more acceptable only served to have anima become even more a temptress. I saw myself as more and more unworthy because of the dirt within. It was only to be expected that something would break.
“The doctor in me refuses point blank to consider the life of a people as something that dos not conform to a psychological law. For him the psyche of a people is only a somewhat more complex structure than the psyche of an individual. Moreover, has not a poet spoken of the “nations of his soul”? And quite correctly, it seems to me, for in one of its aspects the psyche is not individual, but is derived from the nation, from the collectivity, from humanity even. In some way or other we are part of a single, all-embracing psyche, a single “greatest man,” the homo maximus, to quote Swedenborg.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
“The psyche of a people” is a powerful statement. When one thinks of it, it is something we have always known. We have no problem with the idea of a culture, a nation having a certain way of being and believing and acting in concert with each other; something that defies logic where one sees a large group of individuals in any particular culture. One would expect a lot more variation. Travelling has accentuated the notion of a collective psyche. And in accepting this idea, I see how my psyche is connected to the collective regardless of my sense of alienation.
Shame of body, shame of sexual desire is embraced by the collective of a conservative people. And in the collective of which I am a part, the body is best hidden under layers and layers. Even at a beach, bikinis are worn but are covered with teeshirts and baggy shorts. Shame of body, a sexual body is also hidden under layers of fat. If one can look unappealing sexually, then perhaps one will kill sexual desire within. But it doesn’t work and we cover ourselves in tattoos and ugly clothing that avoid any vibrant colours.
So we repress as individuals, repress as cultures, repress as a human race trying to proclaim that we are beings that transcend fascination with the human body and human sexuality. And in this repression, we end up hurting ourselves and others. We become tyrannical. The individual is part of the whole.
And as each of us become more conscious, we do influence the consciousness of the whole. There is real hope. Maybe I am not so absurd, not a dirty old man after all. Perhaps I am a human.