Clinical dimensions of “nakedness”

(Yesterday’s posting was about the subjec of nakedness in the book of Genesis.) The notion of nakedness and vulnerability is also relevant in clinical work. In one of my first cases as a therapist, a young man in his thirties had recurrent images of nakedness in his day to day life, often looking down to see if he was wearing his pants in public. He knew this was “crazy” but he also knew that it was clinically significant. He also quickly saw that this disconcerting imagery was related to several significant recent losses in his life—he had become estranged from his family, he had serious doubts about his childhood faith, and he has resigned from his job. Furthermore, he was feeling estranged from his friends. He had been cast adrift in his life. He had shorn the trappings of the middle class life that had been bequeathed him and he felt vulnerable, he felt naked.

The clinical work involved helping him to embrace this nakedness, to avoid the temptation to immediately “prozac’em”, and to explore the depths of his despair.
It amounted to holding his hands figuratively, allowing the grace of God to envelop him, and to facilitate rebirth. I offered comfort and direction as this young man dwelt for a while in what T. S. Eliot called, “the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain, and therefore the fittest for renunciation.” Metaphorically speaking, I was a midwife. Or, a metaphor I like even better, I was a witness to a death, burial, and resurrection.

The theme of nakedness is so relevant to the work of a minister. Frederick Buechner in one of his books (and the specific title escapes my memory) wrote of the need of a minister to find the temerity and courage (and grace) to first “disrobe” his congregation before he could “clothe” it with the Grace of God. He explained that God’s Grace only comes as one is disrobed of his/her pretenses, illusions, false gods, and hypocrisies and that a minister who is not willing to address this facade cannot offer any genuine Grace. Without this disrobing there is only an easy believism that really doesn’t believe anything, there is only a religion of convenience. And, I might add, no minister can accomplish this task if he/she has not been disrobed himself/herself and does not experience recurrently from time to time.

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