The New Johari Window: #9 Turbulence

The New Johari Window: #9 Turbulence

Subsystem Interactions

The turbulent subsystem in a stream only exists because it serves as a buffer and point of transition between two orderly systems that are operating in quite different ways (stagnant versus rapidly moving; whirlpool versus stagnant; whirlpool versus rapidly moving). Similarly, turbulence in a relationship only exists because it is buffering or serving as a transition point between two other subsystems in the relationship that operate with their own patterns and underlying order. I am in the midst of writing a book on this subject. I have found after interviewing many adults who have been in a significant, committed relationship for many years, that virtually every couple goes through several (perhaps many) highly turbulent periods of adjustment. Typically, these periods of turbulence occur when one or both partners shift in their own lives from one orderly pattern to another. They change jobs or careers. They return to school or graduate. As the primary caregiver, they adjust to their children leaving home or their elderly parent either dying or moving to a nursing home. They re-evaluate fundamental priorities in their personal life: free time vs. money, living in the country vs. living in the city. I use the metaphor of tectonic plates to illustrate this dynamic.

As in the case of geological tectonic plates—massive blocks of highly stable rock (often covering an area as large as a continent)–the life patterns of two members of a couple are often very orderly. However, when these plates start to move even a little bit, they rub (or more accurately grind) against the adjacent tectonic plate (in this case, their husband, wife, lover). At times this interaction is smooth, resulting in the interrelated moving of both plates. At other times, the plates get caught and tension builds. At some point, the two plates can no longer handle the tension and they break free of one another—this is what occurs when there are earthquakes. I would suggest that most (if not all) of us have experienced “interpersonal earthquakes” in our own committed relationships. While these interpersonal earthquakes are very painful and sometimes very destructive, they also keep the relationship alive and responsive to the shifting priorities in each partner’s life. Earthquakes destroy buildings and kill people, but they also create majestic valleys and mountain ranges. Turbulence is inevitable—and essential—in the adjustment of one orderly subsystem to another orderly subsystem if one or both of these subsystems is shifting in some manner.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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