The New Johari Window #6: Awareness of Self and the Postmodern Condition
While these multiphrenic clusters of self-images convey a sense of expansion—and a Quad One that is large, complex and perhaps unruly—there are other postmodern senses of self that seem to diminish the size of Quadrant One. Perhaps there are postmodern efforts to shrink the size of self and keep it contained because the multiphrenic, saturated self is so large,. We turn to a second sense of self that clearly conveys this push toward diminution.
The Minimal/Obsessive Self
Christopher Lasch suggests that the postmodern self is reduced in size. He speaks of a “minimal self” and of a preoccupation with the authentic self. Lasch describes this as: “the pursuit of happiness to the dead end of a narcissistic preoccupation with the self.” Self is further minimized in our contemporary society by what I have identified as the Q1/Q3 challenge. We don’t seem to know what is truly “us” and as a result can’t readily share much about our self—given that we can’t really be certain about what is (and is not) our authentic “self”. While Gergen suggests that we are confronted with multiple images of self, we also, from Lasch’s analysis, come to the conclusion that the true or authentic self is minimalized. We consider so many alternative images of self to be viable, that we are left with nothing or little that is always a part of us and that is consistently attractive to us and aligned with some core belief we hold about who we truly are.
We are like the proverbial donkey that is caught between two haystacks—starving to death because we can’t decide which is the more attractive pile of hay. We are starving for an authentic sense of self, in part because there are so many competing options. We are obsessed with finding our authentic self—so that we can share this self with other people about whom we care. Yet, we find it difficult to make the decision. In premodern times, our sense of self was defined by our social system (particularly class and role). Modern times led us to be defined by the work we did (our occupation, vocation, work-based success). We don’t know how to define ourselves in postmodern society, given the strong emphasis not only on job, but also on family, avocation, recreational activities, and, uniquely, the life style enclaves with which we might be affiliated.