Peeking Into the Windows of Our Souls

Plato Says that the unexamined life is not worth living.

But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?

~Kurt Vonnegut~

The complexity of our bodies has always fascinated me. I often recall my human biology teacher remarking that, with all that needs to happen during pregnancy, it is a wonder any of us are born at all. Some time ago, I realized that the human mind is just as complicated. Getting to know our own minds and those of others leads us on quite an adventure.

You might remember me writing before about the Johari window, a way of classifying knowledge about ourselves. First is what we know about ourselves and everyone else does too. Second is what we know about ourselves but which remains secret from others. Third is what others know about us but we don’t. Fourth is what neither we nor others know about us.

The first two are fairly straightforward. We usually know what we like about ourselves and willingly share it with others. Other parts of us we keep them to ourselves. These are usually things about which we are not be so proud and would be embarrassed to share with others. We might also pretend to be something we are not so others will have a better opinion of us.

The third is a bit trickier. Others can sometimes see things about us which remain a mystery to us. Sometimes we do not recognize our own gifts or more likely our shortcomings. You are probably aware of annoying traits in people you know and wonder if they are aware of how they come across. Possibly they do not. Whether they could or would change these traits if they were aware of them remains a mystery.

The fourth is even more mysterious. How could there be things which you don’t know about yourself and neither does anyone else? While not obvious to anyone, they might still affect how a person thinks, acts, or speaks. What about a person who was neglected as an infant who has no recollection of it and no living relatives to confirm it? Such a person could still be fearful of relationships and bitter for no apparent reason. Or what about a person who is viewed as mentally ill but actually has a brain tumor?

I wrote a paper in graduate school about such a person. I was studying how he might react to different aspects of counseling. Only after he died was the tumor discovered. There might be signs that something is going on inside us which nobody, including us, knows about. Yet visible signs remain and keep us puzzled. Our lives are endlessly fascinating.

Life Lab Lessons

  • First, do your best to understand yourself.
  • Discuss what you discover with those you care about.
  • Decide if someone you care about would be open to feedback.
  • If so, share what you think might be helpful.
  • For the rest, learn to live with the mysteries of life.