The New Johari Window #2: Two Models of Interpersonal Awareness

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.

Signal Anxiety

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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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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