Filling the Gap
The Continental school moves beyond just the identification of narratives and settings in assessing the dynamics of Quad Three. Advocates of a Continental perspective would ask us why we need to disclose. Are the benefits articulated by the American school really worth the risks identified by the British school? Perhaps there are even deeper concerns being addressed through disclosure. As in the case of the other quadrants, the Continental school tends to dig deeper into our personal and collective psyche to find out about the peculiar dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
Perhaps we need disclosure to “fill us up” in our 21st Century, postmodern society. In a world in which we are saturated with many different senses of self, perhaps we need to hear our own narrative to be reassured that we do have a self (about which we can prepare a narrative). We fill ourselves up with our own narrative. We saturate ourselves with our own stories and use these self-generated stories (internal locus of control) to counteract the stories that inundate us from outside our self (external locus of control). Furthermore, we have recipients of (and witnesses to) our disclosures. These people can reinforce our self-generated stories about self and give these stories external verification and credence.
It is certainly defensible to conclude that our identity (the nature of our true self) is defined primarily by our relationships with other people. Thus, by disclosing about myself to another person, I am able to define myself and fill myself up in a manner that seems more tangible than the hypothetical and externally-imposed senses of self that “saturate” me in my postmodern world. This desire to be filled up through confirming relationships with other people is a major theme in the social critiques offered by many mid-20th Century representatives of the Continental school.
For instance, in The Lonely Society, David Reisman describes an “outer-directed” American society in which people seek confirmation of self from other people. Christopher Lasch similarly writes about The Culture of Narcissism and our obsession with gaining a true sense of self, primarily through the attention (and resulting affirmation) that other people provide by listening to our narcissistic disclosure. The most profound (and disturbing) of these critical analyses may have been offered by Arthur Miller, a playwright and keen observer of American culture, who constructs the great American tragedy (Death of a Salesman). He portrays a man (Willy Loman) who believes it is essential for one to be affirmed (“well-liked”) by other people and fails to construct his own personal sense of self—a sense of self that would enable him to endure the loss of job and social status.