One way to discuss the Walls We Build is through an image known as Johari’s Window. I want to use that as the starting point for this discussion on Open Self or being All Walled Off because it has some easy to understand categories about self-knowledge or lack of self-knowledge. Our culture promotes as more valuable the Hidden Self, but it comes with a cost. When we are in a long or serious life struggle, whether with physical or mental health issues; or with occupational or relational problems, we end up having few resources to turn to that know us; our values and character formed by life history. As all counselors know, a client with the resources of other caring people has a huge advantage over those who have disconnected. Sometimes disconnection is inevitable. However if we all learn to be open in our own lives, it is easier for others who need help to approach us. That is my goal in writing this blog.
The typical diagram of Johari’s window makes it look like everything is equally sectioned into quarters.
- 25% what you as well as others know about you.
- 25% what you know about you but others do not know.
- 25% what others know but you do not know about you.
- 25% what neither you nor others know about you.
Open Self-what you as well as others know about you
We know that realistically that cannot be true and in fact everyone is unique in how open or closed they are to others and how introspective they are with themselves. But the question is, “what IS the truthful breakdown for you?” Most likely the people reading this post are fairly self-aware. I don’t think many people read posts from other people unless they want to learn and grow. You probably have a good amount of openness to new experiences that leads to greater articulation, education and social connectedness. Although it is healthy and inevitable that there is a percentage in all the squares, I hope you consider putting as much of percentage in the Open Self category as is wise.
“Knowing Others is Intelligence, Knowing Yourself is True Wisdom.” Lao Tzu
The Hidden Self-information you know about yourself but others don’t
I have met people who know some information and feel very intelligent, but when they do not share it they are not being wise. “Why, you might ask, is that not wise?” The answer is that when the person dies, so does the information. This applies undoubtedly to a lot of the information you have about yourself. You must be wise how, when and where we share information about ourselves, bu
t your story of life and struggles and victories is important for someone and possibly to many people. It informs, friends and family especially, about why you do things in the way you do them.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other night and asked him why he had a blank or placid look on his face. He let me know he was really struggling with processing an extended period of “storm” in his life and he was doing the WASP thing of stuffing his feelings. We then both shared with each other what the WASP thing looked like generationally in each of our families. We had some good laughs because we both know “stuffing our feelings” was not a healthy way for people to be “present” with each other. (For those who are not familiar with that acronym WASP, it mean White Anglo Saxon Protestant.)
I think it was a good choice he made to reduce the percentage of his Hidden Self that night. It gave me greater insight into his present life struggles and his reactions to me as his friend. I now realize he didn’t have good scaffolding as a child growing up. See myblog for more information about scaffolding. Trust your gut for knowing who will care, comfort or rejoice with greater knowledge about you.
I realize that many people don’t notice the walls they put up because it has been there for decades of their life. They have become used to the construct they use for protection. It doesn’t look out of place or odd to them. The wall does not seem ill fitting, over used, or out dated. But it is! So, you may have to do some deep introspection to find out how big and high your wall is. Consider that it may have been good for when you needed protection from an older sibling who was hurting you, the kids on the playground who teased you when they noticed your ears stuck out too far, or when your dad drank too much and broke furniture, and mom got depressed. But, now there are probably people who care about you whoare second glancing at you and your wall, just as I was doing with my friend, and they stand in wonder as to why you put it up between you and them. You are valuable for your insights, perceptions and your friendship matters to others.
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out joy” Jim Rohn
Now, as an adult, the WALL serves to keep others out and you walled in. It may seem safe to not express your feelings and thoughts to others, but the potential to grow through knowledge from outside your frame of reference ends where the wall begins. I counseled a woman who was raised to believe her choices in life should be very limited and defined by her gender. Intellectually, she knew this was wrong and she had already become a very accomplished young woman. But, deep inside was the training she had received as a child and it became her own self constructed wall. Through talk therapy and EMDR she was able to break free, find her voice for her deep wants, hopes and dreams. She is beginning to see herself out from that confinement of “how a woman SHOULD act” and allow herself to make her own choices for the depth of connection she wants with other people.
If any of the people I just wrote about echo some of your struggles, call or text me now for a free 60 minute consult: 720-982-7057.
More next week on the final two categories!