The New Johari Window #2: Two Models of Interpersonal Awareness
At some level we are very much aware of the potential—if not real—image that other people hold about us. That is why we get “defensive” when we are about to receive feedback. That’s why we brace ourselves. At some level, we believe that other people really do know us and know our secrets, our mistakes and our weaknesses (they also know our strengths, but this is rarely acknowledged). There is an old saying that goes something like this: “Which one of us if told that ‘everything has been revealed; you have been found out’ wouldn’t pack his/her bag and catch the first train out of town!”
At some level, all is known by us. Furthermore, every salient feature about us is repeated again and again in our psyche. There is no way we can hide it, not can we be totally oblivious to the fact that other people see these features in us every day—in our behavior, in our expressed feelings, and in the decisions that we make about interpersonal relationships. All of this relates, fundamentally, to a concept offered many years ago by Sigmund Freud—signal anxiety. While this concept was replaced years later by Freud in his own evolving concepts of anxiety, the original notion about signal anxiety remains relevant today—especially as we analyze the dynamics of Q2.
In his own analysis, Freud (1929/1959) begins by noting that anxiety is not the only unpleasant feeling that we experience—there is “tension, pain or mourning, grief.” The unique characteristic of anxiety is that it “is the reproduction of some experience which contained the necessary conditions for an increase of excitation and a discharge along particular paths, and that from this circumstance the unpleasure of anxiety received its specific character.” Thus, according to Freud, “anxiety arose originally as a reaction to a state of danger and it is reproduced whenever a state of that kind recurs.” Freud concludes that: “we cannot find that anxiety has any function other than that of being a signal for the avoidance of a danger-situation.”
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