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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Potential for the Future, Residue of the Past

We can learn about our Quad Four material, Luft suggests, by reflecting back on our life experiences. Through reflection backwards in our life, we may uncover memories (retained experiences and associated feelings) that seem not to be part of actively conscious experiences that are either shared (Quad One) or kept secret (Quad Three) from other people. Erik Erikson —a famous psychoanalyst (and former actor)—addresses the concept of potential and residue by introducing a theatrical metaphor: each of us is standing on a stage, playing eight different parts (developmental phases of life) (Erikson, 1950). At any one moment, one of these eight parts is front stage and in the spotlight. We (the ego—or audience) are focused on this one phase; however, all of the other seven players are always present on the stage and are always part of the “play.” They reside at the back or side of the stage and are out of the spotlight; however, they always influence the phase that is in the spotlight. Some represent a phase that was formerly in the spotlight (residue). Others represent a phase that is yet to occupy center stage (potential).

Erikson further suggests that the former phases (or specific developmental issues associated with these phases) are likely to play particularly powerful roles (in relation to the spotlighted phase) if they were not very successfully played out or negotiated when in the spotlight. We move on to the next phase, but the “baggage” (to mix our metaphors) from the previous phase(s) lingers and continues to interplay with or even interfere with the role being played by the phase that is currently in the spotlight. This, in turn, increases the chance that current developmental issues won’t be successfully addressed. This, in turn, increases the chances that this phase itself will linger and impact on the next phase when it is in the spotlight. Thus, the complexity and breadth of developmental issues at each phase may increase, if we don’t successfully play out the current role and phase. The so-called mid-life crisis and despair of later life exemplify this compounding effect.  With regard to the fourth quadrant of the Johari Window, this means that the residue of the past may be increasingly influential or even disruptive if developmental issues associated with this residue are never successfully addressed.  Q4 is likely to intrude more often in Q1. There is likely to be more unintentional leakage into Q3-External, and our clear and accurate receipt of feedback (Q2 to Q1) is less likely to occur. Our developmental “ghosts” appear at in-opportune times—as they did in the life of Charles Dicken’s Ebenezar Scrooge—and demand attention.

From a more positive perspective, I would suggest that Quad Four is an exceptional source of nourishment and life for each individual and the relationship itself. Experiences and aspects of our self seem to linger without life or purpose in our selves. They then sink into unconsciousness—seemingly lost forever from our consciousness. Yet, this lost material remains a source of inspiration and reassurance—a source of psychic nutrition. It is these “lost” aspects of the relationship, lingering below the surface of human interaction that may give this relationship its texture and character. Bette Midler sings about this in “The Rose”—a flower remains alive throughout the winter, buried beneath the snow, waiting for the warmth of spring. Employed an equally poetic image, Eric Berne writes about the important role that the child in each of us plays in any authentic human relationship. We don’t want to “analyze” away this child or our dynamic unconscious life for the sake of being “realistic” or “mature.” Our beloved poets and novelists have repeatedly reassured us that romance and mystery are essential to a life well lived and to a relationship that is vital and fully engaged at every moment.

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