The Vulnerabilty and Power of Naked Conversations

Why does the thought of nudity appeal so much? Obviously, if you’re naked, I might be able to have sex with you. That’s a fairly stable evolutionary poke in the midbrain that isn’t likely to die out anytime soon.

Nudity – or nakedness – also evokes a sense of vulnerability, and its converse – power. Nude power-dressing would involve incredibly heavy mascara and a strategically placed large gold medallion perhaps? We clothe ourselves to fit the situations in which we expect to find ourselves: work, a tennis court, drinks with the mates on Friday evening, a day in the veld, meeting the mums from school. Our clothes help us to fit in; meeting other’s social, personal and economic expectations of appropriateness.

Without our clothes, we are exposed. Movie producers of the more schlock horror genre tend to convey a significant level of helplessness as the soon to be gruesomely murdered heroine tiptoes over a creaking floorboard, candle held high so that her shift is completely transparent, whispering in a defenceless and tremulous voice, the terribly futile question: “Who’s there?”.

As clothes do for our physical person, words do for our sense of identity. Through conversations we convey power, threat, confidence, sexuality, position, wealth, expectations, understanding. Susan Scott (author of Fierce Conversations) said that “you don’t have conversations about the relationship: the conversation is the relationship”. Seeing that we are in relationship with everything in our world, how we communicate about those things defines the boundaries of acceptability, whether how I live upholds the system. Our words can build defences and images of ourselves and others. We can hide behind them, or strategically shield others, co-creating their worlds.

Our reluctance to have naked conversations stems also from the responsibility they carry. If you are clothed in Kevlar, unless I carry an axe in my back pocket, it will be difficult to significantly wound you. If someone has the courage to speak unembellished phrases to me, I must adopt utter care, compassion and gentleness in accepting their naked truth and conveying mine. In the immutable paradox of life, souls laid bare through honest words are simultaneously the most powerful and the utmost vulnerable of tools at our disposal.

Words filter our reality. They convey and mould all that exists in our lives. Just as the image of relaxing naked into a bubble bath of steaming water is intended to convey peace and serenity, conversations stripped to that same vulnerability of stark revelation and bare truth hold relief. They deliver certainty. To be able to say what we really think, instead of what might find the ear of our target audience is refreshing. To share an opinion, knowing that it will be received as one view among many, and suddenly I’m contributing to a solution instead of skirting around the problem. We’ll be doing our bit to save wildlife too, as elephants will no longer have to squeeze themselves into hopelessly inadequate spaces in tiny rooms. Expressing what is of deep value to me, and listening to others do the same, rather than toeing the line of shareholder and societal demands, expands the possibilities of crafting fitting strategies for the chaos that currently embattles our personal lives, business, and our world.

This level of conversation requires courage of generous depths. It challenges all known norms. It will invert the status quo. It unleashes power in individuals and groups that shifts the balance of the world. Each time we speak our deepest truth, we give permission to others to do the same. To speak – even to myself – what I know in the deepest recesses of my being to be my truth frees me up to be, to act, with conviction, with energy, with lightness and fun, no longer exhausted by the need to bear the weight of a lifetime’s unspoken stories. It frees me too, in knowing that in Love, I will hurt no-one.

What tale of the future might we create out of such naked conversations?

About Julie Courtnage

With training in environmental science, I facilitate 'naked conversations' about sustainable wellbeing. Using facilitation techniques, systems thinking, art, music, writing, movement and photography, we explore the active creation of our uniqueness - personal and collective, as individuals, organisations and society - and our relationships with others, with sustainable wellbeing, and with genuine happiness. This journey of creation is a journey of Love. And fun.
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