As educated, self-aware people living in the modern world, we each go through our days feeling prepared and ready to handle whatever comes our way. But every once in a while we may discover a shocking piece of information that feels like the equivalent of a bomb going off smack dab in the middle of our comfort zone. We’re left reeling from the aftermath – and worse, often questioning our own ability to know anything for certain.
If you’ve ever experienced this element of surprise firsthand, you most likely asked yourself, “Why didn’t I see this coming?” The answer lies in a psychological concept called The Jahari Window (Luft & Ingham, 1955). While most of us have never even heard of this notion, its premise makes a lot of sense and can even restructure the way we look at ourselves and the world.
The Jahari Window states that every individual has 4 states (or windows) of awareness. They are:
Window #1: Things known to self and to others – Open Self
This is our usual mode of operation. It covers the areas of your life that are an open book. It consists of the face that you show the world and allows you to be preceded by all your worldly labels, i.e., bank teller, dog lover, environmentalist, car enthusiast, mother, sister, daughter, friend etc.
Window #2: Things not known to self but known to others – Blind Self
This area can often take us by surprise. The discovery that your spouse is having an extra-marital affair (and others knew about it) would fall under this window. Other examples might be an adolescent’s coming out moment, or the discovery that you are considered next in line in a series of layoffs at your company. Usually we are “blind” to these areas because they are so up-close-and-personal that it’s difficult to get a clear perspective. They can easily knock us off our center and leave us feeling incredibly vulnerable. Assumptions, misinformation and bad decisions also fall under this area.
Window #3: Things known to self but not to others – Hidden Self
This is the place where our own inner secrets reside. Perhaps its the painful details of a past that you have never shared with others, a secret hope or desire that you carry within you, or an activity reserved for only your most private moments. This area could also include your deepest fears, manipulative intentions, or the elements of a facade in an effort to hide the fact that you secretly feel like a fake. It is the parts of ourselves that are not openly transparent.
Window #4: Things not known to self or others – Unknown Self
The final window is the most mysterious – yet it may just be the area the holds the most potential for personal growth. It can represent a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn’t realize they possess, a fear or aversion at play in their life without conscious knowledge, or conditioned behaviors and attitudes from childhood. These characteristics are deeply ingrained and fall under the realm of the unconscious mind.
It’s important to remember that we all have these filters on our perception. It’s human – and while we may sometimes feel vulnerable, embarrassed or exposed when the blinders do come off, blaming ourselves in any way is counter-intuitive. Things can only be dealt with once they have become a part of our conscious awareness, so any energy placed toward regrets is really just wasted energy.
Once the truth has been revealed, then we can make conscious efforts to respond in appropriate ways. That’s where counseling can help. Greater knowledge of the Jahari Window can influence behavior, improve communication between people, increase empathy, and aid in interpersonal development. The fourth window in particular, the Unknown Self, is a treasure trove of possibility as it is also the area of untapped potential. It is true, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” A counselor can help. It is possible to broaden our talents, confidence and options through the greater self-awareness that counseling can provide. If you’d like to increase your own awareness, contact a counselor near you.
Marci Wise, MA, RMHCI, is a motivational author and mental health counselor accepting clients in the Fort Myers/Naples Florida area. To schedule an appointment call 239-689-3086 or visit marciwise.com.