The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none. Carlyle
In 1955, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham created the heuristic tool, the Johari Window. The purpose of the “window” is for all of us to gain a higher level of self-understanding. The Johari Window has four “panes”.
Pane #1 – The “Open Window-” This element involves facts and information that are known to all, including ourselves. For example, our name, marital status, and profession encompass details that are readily accessible to the outside world.
Pane #3 – The “Hidden Window-” This involves information that we know and understand about ourselves but is hidden from others. For example, a woman may have a strategically placed tattoo well hidden by her outfit while she retains perhaps rueful knowledge of its acquisition.
Pane #4 – The “Unknown Window-” This includes information and questions that no one, including ourselves, can access or answer. The unknown information may be hidden in our gene pool or in facts about our upbringing that we cannot bring into awareness. To give a whimsical example, imagine an intelligent, attractive friend who has had a string of failed relationships: twelve divorces and nine other times when her heart has been broken. Neither she, nor her legion of peers, can understand why this is so.
But what about Pane #2? That window is referred to as our “Blind Spot,” and it possesses information that others know and recognize about us, but we do not perceive or realize. For example, a middle-aged man with a bad comb-over believes that his receding hairline is being successful masked while others are snickering. We all have areas of weakness or lack of awareness that escape our recognition.
So today’s newsletter will explore our “blind spots.” What personal tendencies keep us from succeeding in life? What distances us from others? In short, what is holding us back?
This is a very difficult exercise that I am proposing. Mark Twain wryly observed, “Nothing so needs fixing as other people’s habits..” Over the years, I have described a therapist’s role is that of a “professional mirror holder” rather than an advisor. Today, I am asking my readers to gaze into their own metaphorical mirror and fearlessly examine what they see. Mr. Twain reminds us to turn his quote around and look, instead, inside.”
Let’s consider a few examples of “blind spot” behavior. While we may see ourselves as the entertaining life of the party, we may fail to recognize that our humor is at the rude and painful expense of another partygoer. While others laugh, the victim of the clever story has been embarrassed and humiliated. And the butt of the whimsy, while smiling nervously, will remember the slight for a long time. The jokester sees himself as amusing, but he is “blind” to the realization that he has lost a friend or distanced himself from others.
Consider another scenario. Perhaps, a sincere woman offers helpful advice to a co-worker in front of other employees. While her intent is to improve her colleague’s work performance, the other person feels shamed or discounted. If the co-worker has the courage to share her feelings of embarrassment over being publicly corrected by her colleague, the offense may be compounded with a remark such as, “I was only trying to help.” Once again, while the “helpful co-worker” is feeling unappreciated, she is “blind” to her own insensitive timing and chosen setting for her unsolicited and unwelcome remarks.
Finally, accept that the actions of others that really wound us may be the same behaviors that we engage in ourselves.
The examples can go on, ad nauseam. Consider a few of your own. If you do, have the insight to ferret out ones that involve your own “blind spot” and not just the offenses of others. As you come to recognize that you have given unintended or, worse, purposeful offense to others, resolve to stop doing that.
People in our lives are our mirrors. They are there to reflect our blind spots. Castillo