Sunday, 24 January 2010

Why Do Mad People Like To Get Naked?

I've tried googling. Everything is from the Outside looking at the Pickled Toad. The connection between madness and nakedness is taken for granted. But no-one seems to have ever asked "Why?"

The simple answer is that it makes one feel better, of course. But still, why?

The casting off of complications, becoming a baby, a forked animal, a simple being unencumbered symbolically as well as physically... Or perhaps a statement to society - a cry for help, a definitive burning of the brogues or boats or scuds or pants.

I might try to write an essay on this, since no-one appears to have done so (as far as google and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and a few more texts etc have served me fruitlessly).

Any suggestions, personal reminiscences, or off-the-wall theories welcome.

Take care all, I'll leave you with the last snow picture of badness. Dx


Hannah said...

christ that looks cold!

there's getting naked and then there's getting naked and torturing the naked body in the snow.
A punishment against the body for it's vulgarity perhaps? (not that i'm suggesting your naked body is vulgar David!) correction for acts that have been committed by the body? a cleansing process of sorts?

I agree with the idea that naked = freedom from everyday trappings and conformities, but I think there's something in what is then done with that nakedness.
Nude frolicking about the house or in a hay meadow sounds quite freeing and pleasant, but the cruel stinging of ice especially in certain nether regions only brings to mind a form of self harm?? Similarly dunking oneself in a scalding bath and watching the purpling skin as it retaliates...
Hann x

David said...

tip=dip. And summer of course.

David said...

Thanks Hann - great to see someone answering the question.

A couple of points though - the snow is funnily less cold than taking my four-times a day tip in the stream at Wern. Strange but true.

I agree, it is a form of 'self-harm' but so mild on the scale that it hardly qualifies. I mean, pushing needles through nipples is barely self-harm either, but slicing arms to pieces is.

No need for cleansing on my part btw! I feel my soul is spotless on that score.

I do like very hot baths too - but again, just a mild extreme of experience - not something that affects the morning after.

Again, thanks a lot for a thought-out response.

I still want to know WHY! Anyone following, take your cue from the first comment.

Love all, Dx

Differently Sane said...

Mania induced overheating?

If you're not conforming to society's rules, then why conform to any of society's rules?

Why not? - connected to the above, maybe you should be asking why non-mad people don't get naked...

Or possibly something to do with the sensory overload often accompanying the stranger experiences associated with 'psychosis' - after all many on the autistic spectrum can be quite particular about the clothes they wear/don't wear because of the feel of it. Lack of clothes = one less sensory input (touch).

With AN cold = extra calories being burned - which probably also complicates the matter.

Take care,

David said...

It's true and not-true that one doesn't feel the cold. One just doesn't care.

I like your other points too.

I've been jumping the tracks and looking for answers in ritual, religion, nakedness, etc... but keep getting side-tracked by pervy witches, etc.

I'm serious though - there is a big hole in the googlesphere on this topic. A true example of the horse's mouth being silenced.

Take care Diff, I've been 'enjoying' (I know that's the wrong word) your cuntface posts. You've described it viscerally well - one shudders when reading.


Kate said...

I too nearly went down the religious ectstacy/mortification route but as an ex-anthropologist, I remembered all the cautions about infering anything about individual psychology/psychopathology from group or culturally specific behaviour.
I think the answer lies more in the flouting of social convention/relieving of restrictions hypothesis. Let's face it, when one is manic, one doesn't give a shit (nakedness is rarely practised by those with a neurotic/anxious form of 'madness').
Sorry I can't be of much more use but I will pursue this subject until I can come up with something more sunstantial.

Scream said...

Well I told my counselor about one of my escapades and she asked me if it felt good. I said yes, so she said good.

Then later in the session she giggled a bit and said "isn't it cold in the mountains this time of year?" I said yes and then we both giggled quite a bit.

A different therapist said to me something to the extend of: of all the bad things you can do when you are manic hiking in the nude isn't so bad.

Scream said...

Oh also many years ago I met a guy who said the the voices in his head told him to get naked and jump in the baptismal pool at a church. So he did and he got sectioned for it. When he talked to me about it he was questioning why the voices told him to do that.

Scream said...

Portrait of Imogen Cunningham - Nude on Mt Rainier

David said...

Kate - you're a wise woman. And love the ?typo? of sunstantial! :-) Really love it.

Scream - tell me WHY it helps you. I think your therapist was a good one btw - reminds me of my CPN. And again, thanks for the Imogen Cunningham link - I've been enjoying looking her up tonight.

Take care all and everyone, Dx

la said...

Ha, I had a similar thought to Hannah when you posted your 'Christmas card' - there's getting naked in the snow, there's taking a photograph of you getting naked in the snow, and then there's sending out with seasons' greetings. None of which is nec bad, you understand!

But, trala, to answer your question I think we need to differentiate between eccentricity and disturbed behaviour, joyful mania and distress, the relative privacy of your own back garden (or a lonely hilltop) and the crowds in the Co-op on a Tuesday afternoon. "Mad" is much too general.

And, as has been said before, if you lived in Finland or one of the Baltic states or Russia, or anywhere stripping off and self-flagellating with a birch twig is a national past-time, no-one would raise an eyebrow at you rolling around naked in the snow... in the right circs. (ie. not in front of the primary school gates at picking-up time.)

I'm fairly certain there was a naturist (at least 'back to nature') element to Nazism, too. (As in 'The Nazis - endorsed by Mother Nature.)

As for the why, what everyone else has said. Clothes are how you represent yourself to others, form/control your image, etc. And it's chaffing. Imagine - God forbid - if you had to wear a suit and tie everyday. You might feel your cuffs are manacles, your collar the yoke, your tie a noose, yadda yadda. So stripping off is liberating. It's self-expression. It's being yourself.

la said...

Urgh, that was long and full of typos. Apols.

David said...

Strange - I used to have that suspicion about the nazis too. Apparently they suppressed the nudist movement until about 1942 when they relaxed the rules. (I could make some obvious remarks but don't feel like going down there today).

Agree, obviously the terms 'mad' etc leave something to be desired, but a title along the lines of Why Do Manic People Sometimes Like to Get Naked in Circumstances Private and/or Public Some of the Time wouldn't quite have the same ring.

You all know what I mean - I am just wondering on the why - what is the imperative? Shedding significators? Donning the last symbol? A sensual thing?

Personally there is something to do with physical freedom accompanied with a sense that I could devour the world in one gulp... but that doesn't help me much.

The odd thing about those states (manic) is that one's brain gets the memory-toilet paper out and gives itself a good wipe after the event.

Some of those old theories about mania being akin to dream-states feel quite true to me.

Oh well, I should stop gassing and try and get my thoughts in order!

Take care all, Dx

la said...

Yes, I googled after I posted and read 'Hermann Göring had single-handedly written his own strict anti-nudity views into the Gleichschaltung.' And frankly if you looked like Goring you would, wouldn't you? I'm personally gratefully history has been spared shots of him in the all-together.

Sorry if I seemed pedantic earlier. I was thinking of the woman who was wandering about my road naked a while ago (and also a friend's sister who was sectioned after taking her clothes off in the street.) Def no joy in it. So what's the link? Is the motivation the same?

Naked hiking makes perfect sense to me (weather dependent.) Altho the straps of your back pack would chafe...

Right. You get your thoughts in order. Hope to see them in CiF soon.

I'll go back to hoovering (fully clothed.)

David said...

I like pedantry! I think part of the sense that the nudist movement and the nazis are conflated in my mind is the Riefenstahl's Olympia - all those tiresome naked athletes. And it's probably fair to say that what was suppressed in reality was simultaneously celebrated in the name of art.

More tiresome german pictures (mildly nsfw)

Back to the important issue of the day!

I think the questions of appropriate setting and joy/enjoyment/distress are ancillary to the main point. Whether it is the high street or the wilderness, whether accomplished with elation or misery, what is the underlying impulse?

What do I think it *isn't*?

I don't think it's exhibitionism - leave that to the rugby clubs and stag parties.

I don't think it has an overt sexual element.

I'm not even sure there is a distinct physical element - although the invigorating aspects certainly have a calming effect.

I'm still thinking it is about a sense of controlling oneself (and in an absurd and surreal fashion) one's universe. There can be an overwhelming sense that one is pure spirit or a flame, or distilled consciousness (or any other hackneyed cliche) - I think shedding clothes is a deeply sublimated act that symbolises shedding the body and the world.

But what would I know, I only work here. :-)

la said...

Yes, Leni is where I got it from, too. Between all the body-fascist athletes and all the back-slapping, water-splashing shirtless soldiers, she'd have you believe Nazi Germany fell somewhere between classical Greece and scout camp. All good clean fun!

David said...

K's grandfather went on a walking tour of Germany in 38 - I've got his journal somewhere - interesting read for what was in the air at the time. I'll email it if I can find it.

la said...

Pishaw! You're always showing off that your grandparents could read and write =D

David said...

I do? :-D Pshaw indeed!

Mossy Mom said...

I wish you could have posed for me in my mossy tree arch picture. It really needed a human bent over backwards with arms reaching out.

David said...

p.s. La, what did you make of the 38 travelogue?

David said...

I liked your mossy tree pictures. I think they stand well enough on their own account.

It's a funny old thing - the old hoary chestnut(s) of the male nude - I should write a long post about it really - suffice to say they feel wrong to most people. But I've got to the point where I feel the female nude is wrong, and if naked is meaningful in art, then step up to the sticking place boys and girls.

(I am not a fan of pictures of pained-looking women hugging trees and rocks).

But naturally I do love the symbolism of nakedness - I just feel at present I'm being more honest to me, the gender caboodle, and the stereotypical view of western art by being my own model for a while.

Hmmm - yes, maybe a post is brewing somewhere.

Take care, Dx

David said...

Just thinking, a few days after the question, again... Why do Non-Mad-People Not Get Naked?

Because they are so dull it has never occurred to them? Because they are not fully alive? Because they are scared of the repercussions. Because the neighbours might stop talking to them. Because it might have a bearing on their ability to get an overdraft. Because their fellow men and women might stone them to death. Because they might get burned at the stake. But basically, because they are scared, and following society's agenda, and not their own human agenda.

Just a brief thought.

Funnily, today we went en famille into a shoe shop, ostensibly to get all the boys measured. Kate had a cunning list of all the sizes of cast-downs (for non-parents, shoes do the rounds and then some - we all find the price disgusting for tiny shoes, and everyone makes sure they get use (apart from the wankers who throw them in the dustbin, not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular, but I have met the type before)). Anyway, the big boys don't need shoes for another year. We have a stock. But the smallest did. So we looked. Asked. Were brought disgusting shoes, to which I replied in my most charming voice "Oh absolutely disgusting. No, they won't DO."

Then we looked at the girls' shoes. Found some navy ones with purple trim and a butterfly motif in the sale for £8. The saleswoman looked at us as if we were pieces of shit and completely bonkers for deciding to put a boy in 'girls' shoes.

For fucks' sweet sake - Jimi Hendrix would have been proud to have been on stage wearing these butterfly boots.

That's good enough for me and my missus, and by hell it will be good enough for a 2 year old!!!

la said...

The wee one running in butterfly shoes would be a delightful sight!

Is it OK for them to wear cast-offs? I never wear second-hand shoes (unless vintage for occasional use) because they mould to the foot of the original wearer. But maybe children grow out of them before that happens?

I have a shocker of a story involving an old flatmate's nudity/prudery, but would be unkind to reproduce it here.

Shall e-mail you ;)

David said...

Share for everyone, would be my instant response... But if it's private matters you need to divulge, then email is fine :-)

David said...

p.s. I gave him a special La hug or ten. I meant to email to let you know. He chortled anyway. Dx