Home Concepts Communication The New Johari Window: Exploring the Unconscious Processes of Interpersonal Relationships and the Coaching Engagement

The New Johari Window: Exploring the Unconscious Processes of Interpersonal Relationships and the Coaching Engagement

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Love and the Neurosciences:  I have already introduced several of the concepts that have recently emerged from the neurosciences – particularly with regard to the Amygdala. Some of the most profound implications for interpersonal relationships, however, may come from a much broader (and still speculative) analysis of studies conducted more generally on the structure of memory in the cerebral cortex and the nature and dynamics of the limbic system (of which the Amygdala is one component). In their investigation of the biological basis of love and related emotions, Lewis, Amini and Lannon (2000, p. 140) have suggested that there is one type of memory (implicit memory) that strongly influences the ways in which we form and interpret relationships, while there is a process of limbic responsiveness or resonance that determines the strength and character of those relationships we do form. All of the complex processes being described by Lewis, Amini and Lannon are outside our immediate and rational awareness. They belong, therefore, in the fourth quadrant of the Johari Window and, given the presence of these previously unknown processes, we may be under-estimating the power and influence of this quadrant with regard to the nature of human relationships. I will briefly trace out the primary points being made by Lewis, Amini and Lannon as they seek to increase our understanding and appreciation of love and related human emotions.

Implicit Memory: many neuroscientists in recent years have pointed out that each of us has two operating memory systems. One of these systems is called the explicit memory system by Lewis, Amini and Lannon, the other being called the implicit memory system.  The explicit system contains all of our conscious memories. In essence, this is our working memory – the place where we solve problems, make decisions, recall names, theories and facts, and formulate the interpersonal strategies that dictate what we chose (Internal Locus) to share with other people (Q1:I) and withhold from other people (Q3:I). The implicit system contains all the operations we perform without any conscious awareness. It contains our habits and skilled performances—such as our well-perfected golf swing or our “automatic” adjustment of the steering wheel, accelerator and brake when driving. While we make use of our explicit memory system when we first learn to drive, our driving operations soon move over to the implicit memory system. In fact, as experienced drivers we shouldn’t pay attention to our driving; rather, we should be paying attention to the road in front of us, as well as the behavior of other drivers. We should leave the minor adjustments in steering, accelerating and braking to our implicit system. Our implicit system, however, does much more than perform habitual functions. The implicit system establishes and holds our convictions about interpersonal relationships – convictions that are formed during our first years of life.

It is not just that we store early memories and use these memories as Quad Four templates for later relationships—we are attracted to other people who conform to and reinforce these templates. Furthermore, we interpret our emotions with regard to other people through these templates. These attractor templates are constantly being re-confirmed, with our distortion of the interpersonal reality that is impinging on us: “a person’s emotional experience of the world may not budge, even if the world around him changes dramatically. He may remain trapped, as many are, within a virtuality constructed decades ago. . . “(Lewis, Amini and Lannon, p. 140)

The notion of limbic attractors relates directly to a concept I call “the psychic echo.” Our implicit interpersonal memories are not only powerful in influencing how we interact with other people, they are also frequently being reinforced by the confirming echoes back from other people (particularly if we hold power over many of the people with whom we interact). Lewis, Amini and Lannon (2000, p. 163) speak of this dynamic not as a psychic echo, but rather as an emotional magnet or force field “that acts on the people we love, evoking the relationship attributes we know best. Our minds are in turn pulled by the emotional magnets of those close to us, transforming any landscape we happen to contemplate and painting it with the colors and textures they see.”  Thus, we are immersed in not only our own psychic echoes, but also those of people with whom we closely relate. And all of this is ultimately stored in our fourth quadrant.

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