Nu comme le jour où je suis né

Month: March 2015

Naturism as Therapy – Psychological Alchemy

Sun-baked Alchemist

I have spent a good part of this winter involved in the real work of healing the soul and psyche – my soul and psyche. As my last two posts have indicated, naturism has played a significant part in this work. The photo to the left was taken by my wife. I didn’t realise it right away, but this particular image taken not long after dawn with the intention of showing that with the return of light, there is a return to life, a rebirth of self as a more conscious being. The puppy is an extra treat. It is my landlady’s puppy, Taco.

The image and the process made me think of alchemy, the ancient art of turning something almost worthless into something perhaps more precious that gold. I will be using this same image repeatedly, editing the image to reflect the content and intent of the posts to follow as I explain this alchemical process.

In November, 2012, I began a series of posts that looked at the stages of alchemy from a psychological viewpoint. I want to return to that series of posts once again, revisiting and revising where necessary so as to fit better with my current understanding of the human psyche and healing. Why? The key lies in the content of this old post – the call to me as a therapist to take care as I return to work again as therapist, begs me to take head of these words I said in my original post:

There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.”

Below is my first post looking at the first stage, the stage called “nigredo.”

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The dark night of the soul, this is something that is intimately known by all who suffer depression. The dark night of the soul is what we meet when we enter into midlife crisis. Each of us senses a darkness, a place of shadows from which we want to flee. This depression is not “organic,” a depression that is chemically induced. This depression and darkness appears to be something “out there,” something to which we feel we are victims. Typically, we run like hell trying to escape, trying to hide from the darkness. Drugs, sex, money, work, new places, new hobbies, redecorating our homes, a new car, a new spouse: we try anything to banish that darkness. But, the darkness refuses to be banished. This is the dark night of the soul, or at least our introduction to that darkness.

If we are like many others, we head to a doctor’s office for some pharmaceutical relief; or to a psychotherapist’s chair for some answers, some other strategies to banish the darkness. We do this only as a last resort knowing that if we don’t do something we will descend into insanity or commit suicide. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it is real.

Alchemy announced a source of knowledge . . . which yields a “bitter” water by no means acceptable to our human judgment. It is harsh and bitter or like vinegar, for it is a bitter thing to accept the darkness and blackness of the umbra solis and to pass through this valley of the shadow. It is bitter indeed to discover behind one’s lofty ideals narrow, fanatical convictions, all the more cherished for that, and behind one’s heroic pretensions nothing but crude egotism, infantile greed, and complacency. This painful corrective is an unavoidable stage in every psychotherapeutic process . . . it begins with the nigredo . . .” (Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, paragraph346)

So, the pain serves as an impetus to finally do something about the pain when all other avenues prove fruitless. So, one enters into psychotherapy. However, before the work can even begin, there is a need to create a place for the work; a safe, even sacred place. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, there is the need to build a sense of safety in the relationship as well as place. The therapist needs to become aware of the boundary limits (or lack thereof) of the person and to build a sense of trust in that person as well as to have the person enter into a trust relationship with the therapist.

As time goes by, the two begin to test each other, test the boundaries of safety. And when there is a sense of safety, the belief that the container of their relationship has become sacred in its own way, then the work may begin:

In the early period of analysis, the primary work is the establishment of the boundary, the analytical temenos, in which the analysis is to take place.” (Hall, The Jungian Experience, p. 78)

There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.

Naturism as Therapy – On A Personal Note

Embracing the rising sun

One of the things that has led me to believing that naturism provides a portal into self-healing has been my personal experience. Long before I was aware of the world of therapy, back in the days when I was a teenager struggling with issues of sexual abuse, incest and other issues that came out of living in chaos; I had stumbled upon my sanctuary in nature. My home was filled with siblings where there was no place, no space, no time that could ever be considered a safe place in spite of all efforts. One day in desperation, I fled into the pastureland that was near my family’s home, a place that had several treed areas within which I could hide and find silence. The discovery of that space changed my life, perhaps saved it. It wasn’t long before I would retreat into this safe space with a book of poetry that was a gift from my maternal grandmother before she passed away a year earlier. As the temperatures warmed in the spring that began to turn to summer, I found sitting against a tree even more comfortable without the confines of clothing. There was something so innocent and pure about being alone with a book in my hand and my clothing set neatly nearby. It was as though in removing the clothing, I was removing all those things that had stained my soul, wounded my soul. For the first time since early childhood I felt I could finally breathe freely without fear.

Today, I begin each day with time outside when the weather permits, or indoors, with nude meditation. I track the breaths in and out and watch as thoughts arise and fall with similar patterns as my breathing. It is a time when my ego gets to rest while the psyche investigates the shadows that wait for their turn to be shown into light and to be recognized. Morning coffee and conversation follows as I sit with my wife while still clothing free. Then, the spell is lifted as we have our breakfast before heading out for a beach walk which require at least a minimalist bathing suit. The beach walk is another form of meditation as ten kilometres of walking on sand or in the surf at the edge of the sea over a period of two hours finds us back at our starting point. Then, usually, we go into the sea for another half hour to cool down. For me that means removing my swimming briefs as soon as the water’s depths allows. The briefs become like a torc worn on my upper arm as I float free in the sea. Back at the casa, a quick shower in the garden beneath a hose is typically followed by a sun bath where my wife tells me the heat of the sun cooks the devil out of me.

This is just part of my naturist day, a day in which the work of welcoming light and consciousness becomes almost a ritual. Now in my 65th year of life, I find myself at peace with myself most of the time. There is no question that naturism has been a key strategy in my own journey to the healing of my soul and psyche.

Naturism as Therapy – Look Into the Shadows

Descent into the Shadows

My wife was creative as she directed a photoshoot at the edges of a mangrove swamp. The trail was closed due to safety conditions, a trail just outside of the Desires Clothing Optional Resort just two kilometres from our home in Puerto Morelos. The image was just what was needed for this post.

All valid therapy models require us to look deep within ourselves to figure out just what exactly makes us tick, to explain why we do what we do in spite of our best intentions. A few models simply see the whole operation as simply an exercise of behavioral reprogramming through negative and positive reinforcement stimuli. A few assume that our ego’s “will” is enough to have us change our belief systems. It is rare that we have and use models of therapy which includes the personal and the collective unconscious, the world of “shadow.”

Depth psychology, whether one uses the Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Archetypal or a blend of any and all modes that has us include connections with shadow through dream work, sand play, active imagination and association tasks. Depth psychology (I use a predominantly Jungian model) asks us to enter into our inner world, almost an alter universe, that is populated with powerful energies – archetypes – and begin a heroic journey of “self” discovery.

To include naturism in this model somehow seems to make a lot of sense to me, for the journey of self-discovery must include the external self, the ego self, as well as the hero of the inner journey. Hiding ourselves (inferiority complexes, negative body concepts, etc.) behind clothing sets us at a disadvantage. It is as though we make a deliberate attempt to disable ourselves through denial of our body, our sexual body. We have a magical belief that if we hide the sexual self from our own eyes and the eyes of others, we become more saintly thus more worthy of being healed. Of course that is “ego” talking and ego is not all that well informed or reliable for it is ego that has us arrive crippled at the therapist’s door begging to be healed.


Naturism as Therapy – Honesty

Playing with shifting sand

Relationships are like sand castles, they are constantly shifting and changing with the wind, the rain, and the tides that sometimes engulf us. One of the significant things to realise is the fact that all relationships that we engage in have one thing in common – ourselves. When we are not fully conscious (and to tell the truth, no one is fully conscious), the unknown about ourselves finds a way to be the wind, rain and tides that act upon our relationships. What is vitally important for us to do is the work to uncover, unmask all that is hidden within. We have to risk being vulnerable as though walking through our relationships stripped of everything behind which we hide and protect our soft and vulnerable center.

Not only do our unknown aspects of self work to stress our relationships, there is always the unknown aspects of the other, our significant other, having the same effect upon our relationships. The result is that relationships are never as stable as one believes, especially as one ages and changes on the individual level.

If one person due to some reason or other, usually a crisis of some kind, decides to risk doing the work to unearth the unknown lurking within each of us by stripping away all the defenses, lies, and magical thinking that we have used to protect ourselves; the other has no choice but to respond to the changes in their partner in the relationship regardless if the relationship is to a parent, a child, a lover. All with whom we engage in relationship are buffeted by the changes within us. But how that “other” responds to our changes is not always for the better.

We see that in the world of naturism and nudism. Where one person frees themselves from the bondage of clothing, from fear of being exposed and vulnerable, there is a response in the others with whom that person is in relationship. Some decide to abandon relationship. Some decide to go on the offensive as though to save the person from him or herself. Some decide to risk opening up themselves having seen something in the other that seems to be about healing. Why are the responses all so different? It is encoded in their original relationships as an infant and child to parents and others within the orbit or those early years. Where there is a refusal to do the work of individuation, the responses are fear responses, fear based on both personal and collective shadow factors.

Using active imagination while risking a state of undress opens up portals to the inner self that have been barred for too long. The role of active imagination in therapy has a positive history in helping a person to heal themselves, to heal their soul and psyche. The role of being nude, especially outside in sunshine, adds a physiological dimension to the act of healing. Learning to be comfortable with one’s outer self, the physical self, goes a long way to enabling one to learn to trust and accept the inner self. In my opinion as a therapist, and my experience in doing the work of healing the self, naturism is a powerful and positive component of therapy.

Naturism as Therapy – Dawning of Consciousness

Baptised by the sun

My time in Mexico is drawing closer to the end. Just over three weeks remain for me to enjoy being outdoors without the need for clothing. The past two months have been an incredible time for me as I become more self-aware and other-aware. Though I get up before dawn each day, I have not gone down to the beach to great the sun as in this photo taken by my wife about a week ago. Being nude on the beach close to our casa is a very iffy proposition which requires a longish walk to get away from early morning beach traffic – so many want to greet each sunrise here on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

Instead of being at the beach to honour the appearance of the sun each morning, I am able to be in our garden fully nude. Typically I time my meditation so that the first rays of sunshine to enter the garden area will touch me, illuminate me. It becomes a very spiritual time for me. It is as though I am having my body filled with light and warm that comes out of an inner peace. My wife and our landlady who owns the house in which we occupy her deceased mother’s art studio, both honour this time as they quietly do their things, sometimes passing by me in the process. I would have never thought that this would have been possible three years ago when I first “intentionally” adopted naturism as a mode of therapy.

In the past I have talked about experiences using nudity as therapy, including references to literature on that topic. I sense that it is about time that I returned to this theme for future posts here. I am hoping that rather than having a focus on the nudity that can too easily become fixated upon displays of genitals, the use of judicious editing of images will convey honest nudity in a manner that allows the words to be heard. I don’t want the images to get in the way, but I do think that images are vital in the process, a means of having the walk and the talk become one.

Building Sand Castles in Mexico

Sand castle by the sea

The last photo for the book was taken from a series on building a sand castle on the beach here in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. With the last photo selected (not this photo), I wrote the last poem which then freed me to begin the layout and editing process. I am excited on the way it has all unfolded over the past two months. I am hoping that I can have the book published by the end of March or in early April.

Now that the Naked Poetry project is finished, I am busy with preparing Jungian psychology presentations that I will present during the month of March in Puerto Morelos. Of course daily beach walks and skyclad sunbathing will remain high on my list of daily routines. We are having our friends, a neighbour couple from our home community in Canada, come to spend the month of March in Puerto Morelos, a great opportunity to add another dimension to friendship.

With only a month until our return to Canada, our thoughts are already turning to our training and preparation for our autumn project of walking the Camino de Santiago. I am sure that I will be writing more about that over the next six months until we begin a two-month long adventure in Spain and France. Who said life after 65 is boring? As long as a person remains young at heart, and takes the time to play (and perhaps build sand castles), age is just a number.

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