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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The Cognitive, Neuroscience and Physical Science Revolutions

For many years, researchers in the ancient field of psycho-physics were aware of something they call the “apperceptive mass.” It is the very concrete, unprocessed material of our senses—the raw visions, sounds, smells, tastes and patterns of touch that enter our brain from the many sensors in our body. These sensations last for only a moment in raw form, yet they can have profound impact on the way in which we feel at any one point in time and the way in which we subsequently interpret the meaning of these many sensations, while turning them into comprehensible perceptions.

The apperceptive mass conveys something about the unregulated, interwoven nature of these incoming sensations. A sound can influence how we perceive a visual stimulus (as in the case of an attention-grabbing car crash), and a visual stimulus can influence how we perceive a taste (as in the case of the presentation of food or wine). These senses are all interconnected and they may influence our content in Quad Four without us knowing it. More specifically, our fourth quadrant perceptions of and attitudes regarding another person may be strongly influenced by the intermingling of sounds, images, smells, tastes and touches associated with this person. It is in the areas of smell, taste and touch that the impact may be greatest on Quad Four—and may be least accessible to our conscious mind.

In more recent years, the neuro-scientists have added to this picture of unprocessed, influential stimuli. They have found that the early processing of these stimuli is directly connected to a specific sub-cortical area of the brain—called the Amygdala (a small walnut-size component of our mid-brain). We find deeply-embedded, permanent templates in the Amygdala that provide us with initial impressions of the newly-processed stimuli. These templates serve as guardians at the gate—among other functions. Is the incoming image potentially dangerous to us? Does it look like a snake? Does it look like my father (whom I love and fear)? Does it look like my best friend?

We undoubtedly create templates for the people we love in our life. Their physical presence sends a jolt of recognition to our brain and signals the release of many different kinds of hormones into our body (that may bring about an immediate sense of contentment—perhaps also a sense of apprehension). We are likely also to send (at least initially) the same signals to our brain and body when we encounter someone that reminds us of someone we love. Psychodynamic theorists would identify this as a “transference” process. We now know that there is a neurological base for this transference that resides at least partly in our Amygdala.

Our higher-functioning cortex will subsequently re-examine the immediate conclusions reached by the Amygdala and adjust the appraisal of potential threat associated with these incoming stimuli (that are now organized by the cortex into coherent perceptions). However, the immediate visceral reaction associated with a positive match between the Amygdala template and the incoming stimuli sends an emotional charge through our entire body that can’t help but influence how we subsequently perceive and treat these incoming stimuli. We undoubtedly store this sequence of events in our long-term memory, setting the stage for even stronger future reactions to this specific person (in the case of templates related to other people and interpersonal relationships).

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