What do you know about me? What do I know about myself?

Posted by Dr. Matt Hoag on October 28, 2020

2AEC91AA 57BC 49C7 AC20 A02667525C75One of the best parts about working with adolescents is the significant role they play in the change process for each other. Many parents question how other young people, typically with similar challenges and difficulties, could be helpful to their child in the wilderness. The wilderness group is like a microcosm of the social dynamic at home, with an overlay of therapeutic support and intention. This therapeutic support assists with supporting young people as they navigate making changes in their lives.

Let me explain further how this works. Young people who have been in the group longer typically provide a modeling or mentoring role, helping newer group members adjust to their new environment and inviting them to engage in a new way of thinking. Group members provide kindness and support to their peers as they open up and identify emotions, share aspects of their lives, and explore the pain they have experienced. At other times, peers in the group provide feedback; often it is easier to hear feedback or a challenge from a similarly aged peer than from parents or other adults. With the support of therapeutically trained staff, the group is able to practice and develop new skills and tools to deal with emotionally challenging processes in this new environment.

One of the tools we use to help young people better understand themselves and their relationships with others is the Johari Window. We use the Johari Window in group therapy to explore our perceptions of self. Typically, we have young people stand in different "windows" as they explore conscious and

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subconscious areas of self. These "windows" characterize or help illuminate obvious and more conscious areas of your life, as well as the less obvious areas that you may not be aware of. This experiential process provides an invaluable way to convey concepts of perception and feedback to our participants.

The Johari Window provides four basic forms of the Self :

  • The Public Self - what you and others see in you. You may be more open to sharing or exploring this part of you. You likely agree with this view you and others have of you.
  • The Private or Hidden Self - what you see in yourself but others may not be aware of. You likely hide things that you do not want to be disclosed. They are private aspects of self that you may be ashamed of or feel vulnerable about. This area also applies to your good qualities that you may not want to share with the world due to modesty.
  • The Blind Self - what you do not see in yourself but others see in you. You may consider yourself open-minded, when in fact, your friends see you as closed-minded. Similarly, you may see yourself as “stupid” while others experience you as intelligent. Others may not share these views with you because they are scared of you or worry about offending you.
  • The Undiscovered or Unknown Self - the self that neither you nor others around you can see. In this category there may be ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ qualities that are out of your awareness.

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As young people rotate through these different "windows" and discuss each of these "selves," they discuss with the group things they identify as their public and private selves. Often, young people choose to be vulnerable as they share things that they have kept hidden from others. They often become emotional, as they realize that others are not judging them for choices that they themselves carry shame or apprehension about. During the discussion of the "blind self," the group offers things that they have noticed (essentially feedback), that the young person may not have awareness of in their life. Again, this is a vulnerable process as young men and women take steps to talk about things that are not always typical of adolescent discussions.

Finally, as you open up and explore each window, it grows and expands, or shrinks as you come to know it. Through sharing with others, the public self expands and the private or hidden self decreases in size; through hearing feedback from others, the blind self decreases in size and the public self expands. The more you explore you, the less that remains in the undiscovered or unknown self. The Johari Window language and metaphor becomes a powerful tool for the young people to use as they take steps to better understand themselves in the wilderness.


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