The New Johari Window VI: The Postmodern Self
All of this suggests that we are vulnerable to a sense of being overwhelmed. Our self must be always engaged if we are to be cognitively and emotionally successful in our life. We don’t have the givens of stable traditions; we must process a deluge of information; we must interact with and work alongside people with very different backgrounds, perspectives and values. How do we address this sense of being overwhelmed? Do we shrink or at least suspect the authenticity of our Quad One, as Lasch seems to suggest, or do we somehow hold together a self that is large, complex, saturated and challenged from every side as Gergen suggests? Alternatively, can we be selective and find ways in which to focus on specific aspects of ourselves, leaving other aspects temporarily undeveloped (Quad Four) or at least out of public view (Quad Three)?
The Selective Self
Developmental studies of men and women, suggest that we move toward fewer relationships as we mature; however, the relationships we keep tend to be deeper than those we had earlier in our life. Similarly, we tend to care about fewer things in our life as we grow older and care more intently about fewer things. Erik Erikson identifies this process of selectivity as generativity. We embrace a more selective self and choose to do fewer things in a more intense and caring manner as we become generative.
A colleague of mine, Bob Schukraft, was preparing a manuscript prior to his very tragic death as a young man that suggested a shift in the notion of development from the first half of our lives to the second half. During the first half, according to Schukraft, development refers primarily to expansion in our capacity to do things. We gain new competencies. This is what “development” means in our youth. During the second half of life, “development” means something quite different. It concerns the choices we make with regard to the use of competencies we already have. We still learn new things, but our developmental challenges are primarily concerned in the second half of life with making choices among several priorities, and with identifying the enduring values and purposes that provide guidance for these choices.