The New Johari Window VI: The Postmodern Self
The Saturated Self
Kenneth Gergen writes of the postmodern “saturated self.” We are beset by many images of self via advertisement, film, TV, celebrity and life-style magazines, and even Internet chat rooms. We suffer, declares Gergen, from “multiphrenia” (a bewildering multiplicity of selves), hence put on many different masks-of-self when performing in Q1.
. . . one detects amid the hurly-burly of contemporary life a new constellation of feelings and sensibilities, a new pattern of self-consciousness. This syndrome may be termed multiphrenia, generally referring to the splitting of the individual into a multiplicity of self-investments. . . . As one’s potentials are expanded by the technologies [of contemporary life], so one increasingly employs the technologies for self-expression; yet, as the technologies are further utilized, so do they add to the repertoire of potentials.
Gergen also makes use of a very postmodern term, “pastiche,” to describe the predominant condition of contemporary personality. He suggests that the “pastiche personality”:
. . . is a social chameleon, constantly borrowing bits and pieces of identity from whatever sources are available and constructing them as useful or desirable in a given situation. . . . All [social goals] are possible if one avoids looking back to locate a true and enduring self, and simply acts to full potential in the moment at hand. Simultaneously, the somber hues of multiphrenia—the sense of superficiality, the guilt at not measuring up to multiple criteria—give way to an optimistic sense of enormous possibility. The world of friendship and social efficacy is constantly expanding, and the geographical world is simultaneously contracting. Life becomes a candy store for one’s developing appetites.
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.