NAKED BEFORE GOD
By Daniel D. Ziegler

"I wanted to shout from the rooftop, "I CAN PISS!" I thanked God
I could piss."

Chapter 3 NUDISM: From Sin to Therapy to Normal  

"I have a small penis...." This was my reply to my friend Nancy who told me
that she could never go to a nudist park because her breasts were too small.
* "....and a big belly," I added. " If I can get up the courage to go to a nudist
park, you can too."

This has since become my standard response to people who tell me that
their bodies are "not good enough" for them to ever try nudism. Usually when
I say this to anyone, I get a nervous laughing response. But at the same time
they are laughing, hopefully they are beginning to realize that whatever they
consider to be their 'flaw' is no worse than mine or anyone else’s. Later,
when they have an opportunity to see hundreds of naked bodies, they will
begin to see the tremendous variation among them, and what they once
considered their flaw will be just one of the many variations that bodies
come in. And, most importantly, they will stop comparing themselves to
others. That is the therapeutic power of nudism at work.

It is interesting to note that many individuals whose bodies come the closest
to resembling the ‘perfect bodies' with which the advertising and fashion
industries bombard us, often have the most difficult time trying nudism. While
they seem to have above average bodies, they also appear to have below
average self-esteem. Perhaps these individuals, many who go to extreme
measures to maintain their shape, identify more closely with their bodies
than those of us who have learned to live with ourselves just the way we are.
We have accepted and, in a sense, transcended our physicality and regard
ourselves to be much more than just bodies. We see our value as human
beings, as personalities capable of interacting with one another, not only at
the physical level but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.

The key word here is "accepted" or self-acceptance. Self-acceptance--not
just at the physical level, but the emotional, mental and spiritual levels as
well--is the difference between someone with low self-esteem and someone
who is confident, assured and self-actualized.

Although the advertising and fashion industries thrive upon our general lack
of self-esteem by selling us products that supposedly improve it, they are not
to blame for it. I feel that many of our negative attitudes about ourselves stem
from traditional Western religion. As opposed to Eastern thought where
God, man and nature are seen to be one, Western thinking places God at
the top, nature at the bottom and man struggling somewhere in between.
God is good, nature is bad, and it is our physical nature, our bodies,
inherently bad (according to Martin Luther and others) since Adam's fall, that
pull humankind downward into sin. Not only are our bodies bad, sinful or at
the least disgusting, so is every pleasurable act associated with our bodies,
especially those associated with our sexuality and the natural functions of
our sexual organs.

These negative attitudes, particularly dealing with our sexuality, are so
deeply ingrained in us that while we accept violence, including the worst
violation of human rights possible--murder--on TV, we don’t allow showing a
mother nursing her baby because the bare breast is associated with having
sex. It is in fact against the law in many cities for a mother to nurse a baby in
public. This, indeed, is a sick state of affairs brought about by traditional
religious thinking that is based on fear, power and control.

This kind of negative thinking about our bodies, particularly our sexuality, is
responsible for much of our shame and resulting low self-esteem. It has left
behind a trail of psychological disorders that prevent us from functioning as
wholesome human beings. A host of problems including sexual disorders,
eating disorders, communication problems as well as such conditions as
shy bladder and even constipation and hemorrhoids can often be seen
stemming from shame and disgust directed toward the human body and its
functions.

Nudism can be of great therapeutic value with many of these disorders. I first
became aware of this a number of years ago after a personal experience. I
had been going to a nudist park only a couple of months when I realized that
an aggravating problem that had plagued me for years was suddenly gone--
without me consciously having done anything about it.

I had been raised in what I would consider a fairly typical lower-middle class
household. Our family attended church just about every Sunday and at least
in my very early years, observed all the traditional teachings and customs
associated with covering of our bodies. It was alright, for instance, as
children, for my brothers and I to see each other peeing or naked taking a
bath, but beyond that, to see a naked body or to be seen naked was a sin. It
wasn't so much what was said that implied that nudity was a sin, but more so
of what was practiced in our household. My parents, for instance, always
closed the bathroom and bedroom doors and were never seen naked.

Perhaps the problem existed earlier, but at least from the time I started
school at the age of six, I remember being faced with the difficulty, if not
impossibility, of urinating in a urinal in a public restroom--obviously because
others could possibly see my penis. School is my first memory of this row of
strange white, pee smelling porcelain monuments that stood nearly as tall as
me and offered no privacy for what until now was supposed to be a private
act. What happened with peeing in the toilet--alone? Who changed the
rules? What was more confusing was that this was in a parochial school of
the same religion that taught us that seeing someone else’s private parts or
being seen by someone else was wrong in the first place. I had the not so
uncommon problem of having what is referred to as a shy bladder.

I lived with this problem, like many other mates do, avoiding urinals, waiting
until there is no one else in the men's room or going into a booth even if it
meant waiting in line. This is an extremely frustrating problem because we
see many 'normal' males having no problem 'taking a leak'. Sometimes,
frustrated, we try--standing there faking it by continuously pulling the flush
handle. After a couple minutes of pure hell, watching out of the corner of our
eye while two or three 'pullers' and 'shakers' relieve themselves, we walk
away with a bladder ready to burst, strategically planning our next trip back--
hopefully alone.

In school, I would avoid the restroom at the beginning or end of recess
because those were the busy times. Instead, I would walk in from the
playground at a time it appeared that everyone else was out on the
playground and the restrooms were empty. On a couple occasions, I
remembering wetting my pants out on the playground and walking straight
home wondering how I was going to explain that to my dad. Ball games,
concerts, plays, etc., were always a problem--sometimes avoided--because
of 'my problem'. It was hell, as any one with a shy bladder knows.

There were a couple times in my adult life that I almost sought therapy for my
shy bladder (by this time I knew what it was called, having read about it in
Ann Landers or some advice column). But I guess I never actually sought
help for it because I felt too embarrassed about it, and because of the
stigma attached to 'being in therapy'. And, by this time, I had developed a
pretty elaborate system of dealing with it using my avoidance and timing
techniques.

I had been visiting the nudist park for about six weeks when one day I
discovered I no longer had a problem. I had been using the urinal in the rest
room at the park successfully since that seemed only natural to me--after all,
we were all nude, what difference did it make if anyone saw me? With a few
successes at the park, I decided to try using a public restroom urinal at a
restaurant. SUCCESS! All I had to do was pretend I was at the park and that
I and everyone in the restroom was nude. A few successes that way and
then I no longer had to do any pretending. I WAS CURED! What a feeling
that was. I wanted to shout from the rooftop, "I CAN PISS!" I thanked God I
could piss.

My shy bladder no doubt came from shame and guilt--the shame with which
most of us grow up. It affects people differently, so not everyone has a shy
bladder, but we all have some issue or issues that stem from the shame of
our bodies that we learned. I say "learned" because we are not born with
shame. It is taught to us. Even when efforts are made to avoid teaching
shame to our children, it seems unavoidable to some extent because of our
society's ingrained attitudes and because of our customs.Once I arrived at
the realization that my body was NOT sinful or shameful, I was still faced,
however, with the feeling of inadequacy, of not 'measuring up' to male
standards as imposed by a culture that views bigger as better. As a
teenager in the locker room after gym class, I became painfully aware that I
simply wasn't 'hung' like a lot of the other guys. This no doubt contributed to
my shy bladder problem. This was also a major concern of mine before ever
visiting a nudist park. What would people think of me? Fortunately, listening
to something inside me urging me to go, I finally said to myself, "What the
hell. I'm going. Even if it's only once." Needless to say, it turned out to be a
very rewarding experience, helping me overcome my hang-ups of sin,
shame and inadequacy.

The psychologist Abraham Mazlow once made a simple statement to the
effect that nudism--that is being naked in front of other people--is good
therapy in and of itself. I highly recommend an excellent book entitled
Therapy, Nudity and Joy by Dr. Aileen Goodson that deals with the topic of
nudity as therapy. It also contains a brief history of naturism and nudism in
Europe and the United States. For me, as well as many others, nudism has
gone from being a sin, to being therapy, to becoming normal.

Fortunately nudism can be used as effective therapy with situations like
mine, but it is also unfortunate that it even has to be used as therapy. It is
only by not regarding nudity as normal and healthy in the first place that many
of these disorders exist, thus creating the need for therapy. I cannot say this
strongly enough, if nudity were considered normal in our society, many of our
problems, including much of our low self-esteem stemming from shame and
guilt, would simply not exist.

My friend Nancy overcame her shame, guilt and fears of not "measuring up."
She did visit the nudist park with me and learned that her problem was not
her breasts but her perception of them. Nancy now likes her breasts. They
are just right for her. As for me, I have a small penis and a big belly, but they
are just right for me--and so are urinals.

*There seems to be a difference between how men and women express
their fears and concerns that their bodies are not perfect and therefore they
cannot visit a nudist park or be seen by others. Perhaps this a reflection of
our childhood training and/or our society's 'gender expectations'. Men have
no problem expressing their concerns that they might get an erection--a
macho symbol (and something that rarely happens)--yet they are almost
never heard saying that they are afraid they won't 'measure up'. Men's fears
of inadequacy are usually covered over with statements like, "I'm not
interested in nudism." or "I'd rather watch football or go fishing." Women, on
the other hand, are usually less afraid to express their fears of inadequacy,
such as my friend did when she said her breasts were too small.
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LESS-ONS FOR TRUTH
Reclaiming Acceptance of our Original State