Many times, we often hear that when people are fighting with each other, one of them will yell “You don’t understand me at all!”. This may be happening between couples, parents and children, and siblings. In short, this is very common! But here comes the problem. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves well enough, and it is of course more difficult to ask another person to understand ourselves!
I remember that in a psychology course, the professor asked us to write ten introductions about our personalities. I was always writing diaries and doing self-awareness, so I could quickly write ten characteristics of myself. For example, I like to sing, one of my best friends is a cat, and the thing I fear most is not able to fall asleep after watching a ghost movie, etc. Some are things that everyone who knows me knows, and some are my secrets. But my classmate who sit next to me had difficulty coming up with the ten facts about herself. She could only think of what leisure activities she liked to do. After I share my thoughts with her, she could start to think about what to write eventually.
In short, frequent self-awareness and having dialogues with yourself can help you understand yourself better. Interacting with others and talking with them often, and reflecting on the feedback others give you, can also help you understand yourself better. This is not just my own experience; scholars also have this theory!
Two British psychologists came up with the concept of the Jo-hari window. They believe that people have aspects that they know well about themselves and secrets that are not known to others; there are also things that oneself may not know but others who are not involved understand well. And of course there are unknowns that you don’t know, and others don’t. It can be divided into four aspects, including open self, blind self, hidden self, and unknown self.
- Open self: it refers to the things that you and everyone around you know, like Information such as where you work, how many people in your family, your name, etc. Or your own opinions, ideas, experiences, and other things that you can share with others generously are also in this category.
- Blind self: something that you don’t notice, but others know. It’s like the mantras that you don’t realize but blurt out, or the facial expressions or reactions you’re used to making and you are even not aware of them. For example, I often say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”. But I didn’t know that I had this habit until I was told by a friend once.
- Hidden self: It refers to the secrets that you have not let others know. Like, you may have a crush on someone, or you may have broken the law before.
- Unknown self: Things that other people and oneself don’t know. For example, the long-forgotten experience that happened in childhood, or the negative experience that was suppressed after oneself being greatly traumatized. The latter is also caused by the repression of Freudians’self-defense mechanism, which shields traumas from consciousness and prevents oneself from being aware of it. The individual must use professional skills such as psychotherapy, so that the individual can turn the things in the subconscious into things that the conscious can perceive, and also allow him/her to control himself/herself according to his/her own consciousness, instead of being dominated deeply affected by things that one doesn’t know well.
No matter what, these four aspects constitute a person’s complete self. The ideal situation is that the blind self and the unknown self should be smaller, and the open self should be larger. Because it means that this person knows himself/herself well. He/she can reflect on his/her own image and behavior through feedback from friends and others, as well as the process of self-growth through counseling, which makes parts of the blind self and the unknown self gradually, shift to the area of open self, and he/she understand himself/herself better. The expansion of the open self means that he/she can easily self-disclose himself/herself to others and express thoughts and feelings, which will boost the individual’s mental health and consolidate his/her interpersonal relationships.
So, this is why we encourage you to write. Only by talking with yourself, you can improve your understanding of yourself. As your open self increases, it will be easier for you to get closer to each other. Otherwise, if you hold a more closed and defensive attitude towards others, your hidden self will also take up your open self, other people will feel that you are indifferent, and it reduces the possibility that you can have further communication and interaction with others.