Mental Health – The Johari Window
By Sue Newton, Registered Nurse
The Johari window is a technique used in individual and group counselling. It was created by 2 psychologists in the 1950s, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham to help people better understand their relationship with themself and others. Luft and Ingham called their Johari Window model ‘Johari’ after combining their first names, Joe and Harry.
The Johari Window helps you to categorize conscious and subconscious areas of your life. The window works much like a grid. It goes from the obvious and more conscious areas of your life to the less obvious areas that you may not be aware of. The Johari window is useful to increase self awareness, personal development and interpersonal relationships.
The Johari Window focuses on four basic forms of the self:
- the public self (open)
- the private hidden self (secret)
- the blind self (“blind spots”)
- the undiscovered self (unknown).
1) The public/open self is what you and others see in you. You typically do not mind discussing this part of yourself with others. Most of the time you agree with this view you have and others have of you.
A goal of individual and group therapy is to increase the size of the open area by decreasing the blind space or “blind spots”. This is done by being receptive to feedback from the counsellor or group members. The size of the open area can also be expanded downwards into the secret or avoided space by the person’s disclosure of information, feelings and thoughts to their counsellor or to group members. Also, group members can help a person expand their open area and lessen the secret area by asking the person more about him/herself.
2) The hidden or secret self is what you see in yourself but others do not. In this part you hide things that are very private about yourself. You may not want this information to be disclosed for the reason of protection. It could also be that you may be ashamed of these areas due to vulnerability and to having your faults and dysfunctions exposed.
A goal of therapy is to move hidden information, thoughts and feelings into the open area through the process of ‘disclosure’. The aim is to disclose and expose relevant information, thoughts and feelings thereby increasing the open area. By telling others how we feel and other information about ourselves, we reduce the hidden area and increase the open area, which enables better understanding and trust.
3) The blind self is what is known about a person by others but is unknown to the person themself. This blind area is not an effective or productive space for individuals or groups. This blind area could also be referred to as ignorance about oneself, or issues in which one is deluded. A blind area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding from a person.
By seeking or soliciting feedback from others, the aim should be to reduce this area and thereby to increase the open area to increase self-awareness.
4) The undiscovered or unknown self is the self that you cannot see nor others around you. In this category there might be good and bad things that are out of the awareness of others and yourself. Examples of unknown factors include a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn’t realize they possess; an unconsious fear or aversion; repressed or subconscious feelings and conditioned behaviour or attitudes from childhood
The processes by which this information and knowledge can be uncovered are various, and can be prompted through self-discovery, observation by others or collectively through mutual discovery within a group setting. Counselling helps uncover unknown issues when therapeutically appropriate. Again as with disclosure and soliciting feedback, the process of self-discovery is a sensitive one. The extent and depth to which an individual is able to seek out and discover their unknown feelings are at the individual’s own discretion. Some people are more keen and able than others to do this. The unknown area could also include repressed or subconscious feelings rooted in formative events and traumatic past experiences, which can stay unknown for a lifetime.