Currently for the project working with Lacan’s concept of ‘The Gaze’ – the awareness that you can be viewed from the outside and how that makes people anxious because it takes away some of their autonomy in a sense – makes them a little incongruent with themselves because of this external gaze, making them aware that they are objects to others – and on the other hand the ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ that Carl Rogers says is one of the reasons therapist and client relationships work – that the experience of being accepted is helping people examine and accept themselves.
Applying these theories to women in a social nudity setting as a con and pro voice respectively in my opinion reveals that they both have something to add to the debate but also that the fundamental qualities of this Mirror Awareness that Lacan speaks about is probably not so fundamental, or at least not so absolute. I believe that it is the quality of the gaze, the regard, even when it is mostly neutral, that makes it a positive and healing experience or a negative and alienating experience – many of the models I have talked to say that the fact that they are just models – good models maybe but not irreplaceable – even though it sounds like a devaluation, actually find that it gives them freedom and puts them in a mindful state where they experience what is and accept it while still being very present in the moment, and naked both physically and mentally.
This leads me to think that the ‘fear of the gaze’ is perhaps a cultural construct to some degree. The experiences of the models and also the naturists, seem to show that there is a level of Buddhist truth to the concept of Dukkha – the slight, ever present unease or annoyance when we wish things were different, and that peace and happiness is not so much getting all that you want, and arriving at that point on the horizon. No, it is an acceptance of what is, leading to an absence of unease, an absence where happiness emerges as a negation, an absence of all the things that should be different.
And it’s this experience, this meditative being-there, that I wish to convey to people – both in experience products related to art modelling, naturism and mindfulness, but also in a more general debate about ideals and bodies and goals – we get so much further by being kind to ourselves and to each other. Whether that is in front of the mirror, with a partner, in the locker room or when walking down the street. What is there is what is there and that’s alright. Really, it’s okay.
In case anyone wants to read about how a starting point of acceptance is good for change too, weight loss for instance, take a look here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar06/health0306.htm
And everyone have a good day!
Not all mirrors are bad…