“Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful… Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person.” [Pope John-Paul II, Love and Responsibility]
I bring back the words of Pope John-Paul II that I had quoted in part five for a reason. Our response to nudity is bound within the collective unconscious response of our societies. For many in the western world, there is a certain deafness to the words of those who are charged with the authority that dictates what is moral and immoral behaviour. Clearly, the leader of the Catholic Christian church states that nudity and immodesty are not one and the same. Rather, immodesty is a “function of the interior of a person.” And it is this interiority which is the focus of psychology.
Depth psychology, whether it be Jungian or Freudian, focuses on what is to be found in the psyche of a human, beneath the layers of persona, beneath the layers of clothing that costumes and lends authority in the collective society. Each human wraps themselves consciously and unconsciously in layers of deceit, self-deceit and conscious deceits to mislead others about the vulnerability of self. Humans not only are beset with body-image issues, they are constantly wrestling with negative images of the self that lays underneath the skin.
In spite of all the books, prophets, church leaders and repressive leadership that is more concerned with power and control of others in an attempt to deflect the individual uncertainties of those with power, the fact that every human is born without clothes is vital to understanding what it is to be human. Catholics, Protestants, Jewish and Moslem people, take your pick of any guiding belief system – everyone is born naked. And in every belief system, the new born babe is viewed as perfect and uncorrupted. It takes time and the influence of the world to change the infant from beautiful perfection into a neurotic individual that is cloaked in shadows, masks and disguises.
Waiting . . .
For the next few parts, I want to focus on the developmental realities of humans as the move from infancy into adulthood. There is much we have learned along the way, and all of it is valuable in spite of the fact that developmental psychology does not give the complete story and evidence of what it is to be human. I wont be going into prenatal, post-conception issues at this point but will focus on the psyche from the moment of birth, when the nascent human slips out of the darkness of the womb into the light of creation as an individual.
As much as some psychologists would have us believe, a newborn child is not born as an empty-headed entity just waiting for life to write, to program that newborn, or as it is often called tabla rasa. In spite of any observable signals or evidence, each child appears to be unique and comes with a history, and not just a history of life within the mother’s womb. Rather, there is depth to the infant that has nothing to do with that infants awareness of self or other. This depth can’t be written off as simply instinctual programming. Parents know this, especially those parents who have had a number of children. Psychology, however, is hesitant to deal with this preferring instead to work with scientific models, statistics and case studies that are more sociological than psychological. Psychologists become enamoured of their models and leave aside all that refuses to fit into their models. And to make matters even more confusing for anyone truly interested in following the psyche of the infant, there are dozens of models of human development to choose from – take your pick. But, rather than get lost in the minefield of politics in developmental psychology circles, it is necessary to leave theories aside and watch the child and the child’s parents in order to get some sense of what is going on.
Newborn – like all, born naked and vulnerable
I want to start with this simple, perhaps too simple approach – the infant exists in an embryonic state of darkness feeling no separation from the mother, no awareness of mother or self as separate entities. Is there awareness at all? Physiologically, yes. Psychologically? Here the answer begins to get complicated. I would say yes, there is a psychological awareness that is totally unconscious of itself at the personal level, but at one with the mother and the world within which the mother finds herself, a collective level of unconscious participation.
With the emergence from the womb, all that begins to change. With the lights coming on the senses begin to work with the heritage of the collective unconsciousness and the evidence that is presented by the senses to have an infant become self-aware. That emergence is done stark naked.