Knowing Oneself, Knowing Others and Spirituality – A Look Through the Window

Friction, fruition and neither of these are the outputs in interpersonal relations. In other words, we do agree to or disagree with or are non-responsive to others while interacting with them. Also, a person goes through these responses within himself/herself. So these responses happen not only in interpersonal and social interactions but also at an intra-personal level. Fruition is seamless, unobtrusive outcome where both parties are happy with each other as there is agreement on whatever topic discussed or issue occurred between them. Friction happens when there are disagreements or when one party behaves in a way that is diametrically or partially opposite of what the other expected. 

Friction in relationships brings out many wrong opinions being made by us. For example, when disagreements happen, the following kinds of statements are quite common: “I know you well and did expect this to be done by you;” “You are incorrigible and expected to behave this way;” “I am not surprised as I knew you would do this;” etc. All these statements have one underlying assumption: The person who makes such statements thinks that she/he knows the other person fully.

Is it possible for anyone to know anyone else completely? Is it possible to predict  someone’s behavior accurately even if you have a complete set of data of his/her past behavioral pattern? The answers to both these questions are No. Is it possible one to know oneself completely? Is it possible for one to predict one’s own behavior accurately? The answers to both these questions are, too, No.  Haven’t you exclaimed like this at least once in life?: “I never knew I could do this!” You do not even know yourself fully, and that is why you do not say: “I am what I am,” instead, say: “I am X  or Y” when someone asks who you are. There is only one incident when someone said, “I am what I am” when asked, “Who are you?  

It is impossible for one to fully know oneself, leave alone fully knowing another person. I will explain this with an illustration of the Johari window, a technique developed by the psychologists, Jospeh Luft and Harrington Ingram in 1955, which helps people to understand their relationship with themselves and others.

Suppose that I am trying to understand my relationship with myself as well as others. There are four quadrants in this process as detailed below:

Open: That part of me which my peers and I know about.

Blind: That part of me which I do not know but my peers know.

Hidden: That part of me which I know but my peers do not know.

Unknown: That of me which neither my peers nor me know.

The quadrant sizes of the window are not fixed. It means that as we know more about others or ourselves, the space of one quadrant increases while that of another decreases. For example, one day I realized that I could write reasonably well, but my peers knew it for a long time that I had had this ability. In this case, the space of the Open quadrant gets increased while that of the Blind quadrant gets decreased. Another example: A person was known to be honest, though he was not, to his friends, but one day he was caught for lying by them. And in this case, Hidden quadrant shrinks and the space of Open quadrant increases.

As the Johari window illustrates, it is not possible for anyone to know anyone else completely. Hence, there is room for us to go patently wrong while making opinions about others based on their past behavior — baring of facts from our Hidden truths can hold us in a good or bad way before others; similarly, disclosures from Blind quadrant can pleasantly or unpleasantly surprise us. The very fact that each person has this window of 4 quadrants illustrates that it is not possible for one to know oneself completely. So Homo sapiens cannot answer, “I am what I am” to the question, “Who are you?”  Then, what is the exception that I mentioned in the beginning? In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is an incident when God appears before Moses. Then, Moses asked God, “Who are you?” And God replied, “I am what I am.” Only can God answer like this because His Johari window has only TWO quadrants: Open and Hidden. 

Is it possible to look at spirituality through the Johari window? Let me make an attempt. The most difficult part in this task is to define what spirituality is. If we break up the word, spirituality, we get something like this: spirit + u + ality. Ality means quality of being, so, quality of being in spirit by (yo)u. Spirit means soul. Hence, spirituality means quality of being in your soul. In other words, spirituality is the journey by you to your soul through your soul by being qualitatively in your soul. So in spirituality, the journey and the destination are one and the same. What is soul?  We cannot embark on a journey to a destination unless we know what the destination is.

A few years back, I attended a religious retreat at Divine Retreat Center, Thrissur in Kerala, India. I am paraphrasing  what a speaker said during the retreat: “Only matter is real,” Karl Max said, the speaker quoted. When the preacher’s father died, he noticed that the physical matter of the dead body was the same as the physical matter of the body of his father when he was alive, but SOMETHING was missing in the dead body. The speaker concluded by saying that Max was wrong because there was something “really” missing from his father’s body though there was no difference in the body-matter of his father before and after the death. So matter is not the only real thing in life. That something of inanimate, invisible nature is the spirit or the soul that a man carries, that on which his-being is intangibly hooked up and that which he loses when he dies. Modern medical science also shows how our brain struggles to retain life(spirit/soul?) even after heart stops pumping, finally, giving up and grinding to a halt. Giving up what? 

In simple terms, spirituality is a journey by a person to find his soul by travelling to himself/herself. If one considers one’s soul as a part of Oneness, then spirituality is a journey by oneself through oneself into oneself to reach to or to get closer to the divinity within oneself. As spirituality is a journey into oneself, let’s assume you stand at the Open quadrant of the Johari window, and as you start and continue the journey, all those parts of you, which were Blind to you but known to your friends, will start to unravel before you. So your Blind quadrant gets merged with the Open quadrant. But, how does this happen? You need to completely give up your ego, hatred, jealousy and all such negative feelings that you harbor, and once you do that, there will be nothing that stops your friends and acquaintances from telling things about you that you were oblivious of.

As you continue this journey of soul-searching, you will realize the necessity of being truthful not only to yourself but also to the outside world in order to reach a state where you have nothing to hide about you from others as well as from yourself. Truth is the only absolute thing in this world, hence, the uninhibited happiness it gives to one is also absolute. By being truthful to yourself and to the outside world, you had eliminated the Hidden quadrant from your Johari window. 

Eliminating the Blind and Hidden quadrants is easier said than done. Buddha traveled across geographies in his spiritual journey before he sat down under the tree; Swami Vivekananda traveled across India before he sat down on the rock in Kanyakumari; and all those great souls who discovered their Unknown quadrant made such soul-searching journeys to eliminate their Blind and Hidden quadrants, for such elimination is a prerequisite to explore the treasures lying inside the Unknown quadrant. Such journeys give opportunities to meet peoples from different cultures, countries and ethnic groups; to learn from them; to reflect on such learning in order to unlearn and relearn; to sit alone and talk to the nature in order to learn from it; and many such things to detoxify oneself from all the negative energy and fill oneself with truth and only truth  Now, your window has only two quadrants: Open and Unknown.

The last and the most crucial part of your spiritual journey is to discover that part of you that resides inside the Unknown quadrant. It is the existence of you that carries the treasure of all those things, which neither you nor your friends are a party to. It is the seat of all the secrets about humanity unknown to you; of universal truths unknown to you; and of all that resides outside human intellectual vicinity. Your friends can not help you to discover it as they do not know about it, as well as you cannot help yourself as you do not know about it. So, who can help you?  None other than your creator! Only can He help you because Unknown is known to Him only. Now, it is between you and your creator! Time for you to sit under a tree or on a rock or anywhere alone to converse with Him!  It may take months or years for you to reach the stage where you can converse with your creator in a two-way fashion. But it is bound to happen because when a man who has nothing to hide and is overflowing ONLY with the ONLY absolute thing in the world called TRUTH, the gates of your Unknown quadrant will be opened to you by your creator, and you will reach a state of enlightenment or Nirvana as showed to us by Buddha. And that will complete a man’s spiritual journey.

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