Do you really know yourself? Do you know everything there is to know about yourself? Do you know
everything you are capable of?
Do you, for instance, know that you snore loudly when asleep, and that this is the real reason behind your wife’s recent decision to divorce you? It’s not that she has fallen in love with someone else, but rather that she can’t stand your snoring any more.
Would you be shocked to know that she once considered the idea of putting an end to her misery by using a pillow to permanently silence you?
Many years ago, something happened that made me realize that I was capable of committing premeditated murder – something that I had, up to that point, regarded as really devilish.
One night, my wife was awoken by noises in the sitting room. She woke me up. We soon realized that a thief was inside the house. I woke up my two brothers-in-law who were staying with us. Together, we rushed to the sitting room to try and catch the thief.
We were just in time to see the thief jump out through the window with our only television set. We quickly got out through the door and gave chase. Upon realizing that he was being chased, the thief dropped the television set, jumped over the fence and disappeared into the night.
I recall standing near the fence staring into the night in anger. What got me mad was not the attempted theft of the television set, but the fact that my two teenage daughters, whose bedroom was the nearest to the outside, could easily have been molested by this intruder.
Actually, for a week or so, the thief had been attempting to get into the house but had always been interrupted by our waking up. This time, we had slept soundly while he made his entry into the house.
I made a decision to put an end to this external threat to my daughters’ safety. I decided to make the sitting room my bedroom for as long as it would take to trap the thief. I armed myself with a machete and an axe. The idea was to kill the thief.
My wife asked me, “When you kill the thief, what will you do with his body?”
“I will put the body in a sack and damp it in the nearby bush.” I calmly replied. In my mind I could see myself carrying the body in a sack on my shoulders, and walking to the nearby bush in the middle of the night.
When I told one of my brothers about my plan, he warned me that killing the thief would amount to cold-blooded murder since I had spent some time carefully planning the act. The least sentence I could get was that of manslaughter. His explanation made me realize that I was planning to commit a very serious crime.
This incident made me aware of the dark side of my personality. I realized that under certain circumstances, I was capable of committing murder.
You do not need to go to such extremes to discover who you really are. There are certain methods which can help you to get a better understanding of yourself. These include a study of any or all of the following disciplines: Psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, religion, sociology, etc.
It is possible for you to gain a good understanding of yourself by examining your personality against the precepts advanced by any one of the afore-mentioned disciplines.
A useful model that I find useful in seeking to understand oneself is the Johari Window.
The Johari Window model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 while researching group dynamics at the University of California, Los Angeles. It is a widely used model for understanding and training self-awareness, personal development, improving communications, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, team development and inter-group relationships.
My interest in discussing the Johari Windo model, however, lies in exploring how we can use the model to increase knowledge about ourselves.
The Johari Window model presents four different perspectives – windows – about the individual. These perspectives are variously referred to as ‘regions’ or ‘areas’ or ‘quadrants’.
The four areas are as follows:
1. The open area or the ‘arena’ – what is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others.
2. The blind area, blind self, or ‘blindspot’ – what is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know.
3. The hidden area, hidden self, or ‘facade’ – what the person knows about him/herself that others do not know.
4. The unknown area or unknown self – what is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others.
In my story of the thief, the area involved was the unknown self. I did not know that I could be capable of killing someone in cold blood – neither did anyone know that about me.
How can we use the four areas to increase our self-awareness? Let us briefly examine each of the areas described above.
What is known by you and others about yourself can be improved in two ways – by you seeking and actively listening to feedback from other people, and by you disclosing information about yourself to other people.
What is known by others about you, but is unknown by yourself, can be known by you by seeking or soliciting feedback from others. The aim is to increase your self-awareness. It is possible for one to know how badly they snore by asking their partners to give them honest feedback.
What is known by yourself about you, but is unknown to others, can be known by them by you telling them what they do not know about you. This area is not at all concerned with increasing your self-awareness but rather improving other people’s knowledge about you.
The last area – the unknown self- may include any or all of the following:
• an ability that is under-estimated or un-tried through lack of opportunity, encouragement, confidence or training
• a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn’t realize they possess
• a fear or aversion that a person does not know they have
• an unknown illness
• repressed or subconscious feelings
• conditioned behavior or attitudes from childhood
The unknown area could also include repressed or subconscious feelings rooted in formative events and traumatic past experiences, which can stay unknown for a lifetime.
Information and knowledge in this area can be obtained through self-discovery or observation by others, or in certain situations through collective or mutual discovery. For example certain individual traits can be revealed by exposure to a crisis or series of crises.
Providing people with the opportunity to try new things, with no great pressure to succeed, is often a useful way to discover unknown abilities, and thereby reduce the unknown area.
I personally love public speaking and am regarded as an excellent speaker by most people. I could never have discovered my ability to speak publicly if I had not been given the opportunity to take part in a national public speaking competition way back in my final year in secondary school some forty years ago.
In my discussion of the Johari Window model as a tool for increasing self-knowledge, I have assumed that a better understanding of oneself is a good thing. This, however, may not always be so. Some past experiences may be better forgotten than remembered.
However, if you have good reasons for increasing your self-awareness, you may find the Johari Window model quite useful, in this regard.