For years, with a previous partner, we tried to build a consulting company that would make a difference in the world. It was a dream, a vision we worked hard to bring into being. Sadly we were not individually or together in alignment or coherent with ourselves. We could try to chase that dream all we wanted, but it refused to manifest. Upon reflection, it was an ego driven dream.
Now with my current partner, Jerry and I have been building a company, for close to a decade, that does make a difference in the world – at least the parts of the world we move in. We did not manufacture this vision into being. It just kept appearing and growing more robust with each conversation we had, each offering we created and every time we brought our Worldview Intelligence approach to our client work. We believe Worldview Intelligence has its own life force, sparked into being, hosted, through us and it seems clear, this dream needed both of us to manifest – not just to us but to those familiar with this journey.
In the early days, when we talked about the emerging vision, I would hold my arms wide apart to indicate the size of the dream and then show how very early in that dream we were by moving my hands about an inch apart. We are much closer to realizing the fullness of that dream now.
In the beginning we would talk to potential clients about how Worldview Intelligence could be helpful and how programs could be delivered across geographically dispersed organizations. The idea of certification emerged but building that program takes time. We were told we needed an online component to what we do. We knew that; but in the early days our conceptualization of what that might mean was very basic and we did not have the resources or the talent to build the online programs. But they were part of the vision.
As colleagues took an interest in our approach, they asked us for more than just the Worldview Intelligence Six Dimensions that we were excited about working with. This led us to creating our own planning model – CIDA-W: Clarify, Illuminate, Design, Act with Worldview Intelligence at the Centre of it all. Developing a High-Performance Teams model that links together many of our ideas. And, finally, we wrote the book, Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change to bring it all together.
Because the vision was clear, when the opportunities showed up, we were able to take advantage of them. Once we had the book drafted, a client we had a great relationship with partnered with us on creating the first online program based on the book (there will be 3 followed by a certification process). That partnership advanced our understanding and learning of what it takes to build effective, interactive e-learning courses. We are now developing Level 2 on our own and populating our e-learning platform with other offerings. When we agreed with our client that we should build our own site, funding support appeared through Nova Scotia Business Inc.
The most recent developments are working with clients to create multi-faceted Worldview Intelligence programs to reach employees enterprise wide. Part of the dream. Something we would not really have known how to do a couple of years ago. A three-part education series of programs that include in-real-time virtual education of leaders across the organization, a four-part animated video series to reach everyone about worldviews and Worldview Intelligence (Worldview Intelligence for All) and scheduled drop-in “coffee” sessions with Jerry and me for anyone who wants to join.
Because of this growth, we are on the verge of adding colleagues to our team on a more consistent basis.
We have not chased this dream. It has pursued us. We couldn’t not do this work. So we host it. We host it into being. And we pay attention to what shows up, which seems to show up as we are ready for it. And we are more and more ready. Seeing the path emerge as we walk it, rather than trying to force things that were not quite ready, required us to hold the vision with as wide open arms as possible and keep putting one foot in front of the other until the foot falls came faster, momentum is increasing at an accelerating rate and we are preparing for our most exciting and successful year yet in 2022 as I enter my 60s and Jerry enters his 70s.
I moved into my house in Bedford, Nova Scotia 10 years ago. A decade. 2010 to 2020. I realized it is the longest I have ever lived in one home in my entire life. It’s been a decade full of life and death, transition, rebirth, renewal, magic, evolution, transformation and increasing coherence. There is a lot to reflect on and a lot to celebrate.
My boys were 7, 17 and 19 when we moved. They have, for various times and for varying lengths of time, lived with me in this house. Now the older two are married and one is a father. They have lovely families and all of them (sons and daughters-in-law) are on good career paths. The youngest is forging a path which is his to walk, the outcome of which is not clear yet nor will be for some time. But he and his path, like with the others, is held in love and light.
I am privileged to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandson developing a relationship that I dream will be close and connected over the rest of my life. I wait with delight the arrival of his sister with the same anticipation of relationship.
My Partner and Work
Not only were there literal births of children, there was the birth of an unexpected relationship and new business in my life. When Jerry Nagel and I met just before I moved into this house, a deep friendship immediately blossomed. We hosted together in powerful work – each better because of the other – and we created a new business, Worldview Intelligence, born out of what we could see and discover together which we are still building. We also birthed a book about our work: Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change.
Our deep friendship became intimate relationship although “unconventional” in that we live in two different countries. The relationship has not been without its challenges as we each work to step out of habitual and dysfunctional patterns created in previous relationships. We do this because we each recognize we are building on a foundation of mutual love, respect and strength. Because of this relationship and our work I have traveled more in the last decade than ever before. Now we face a new challenge with travel restrictions and the not knowing of when we will be able to be together in person, taking it one day at a time. We know the foundation of our relationship will carry us through.
The Loss of My Parents
While in this house I lost both my mother in 2012 and this year my father. I feel my mother’s loss more keenly since my father departed. While my father was alive and a significant presence in my life it partially filled the void left both by mother’s dementia and entry into long-term care and her subsequent death.
Now there is a nothing. But it is not really nothing. It is more of a quiet in which memories leap into view through photographs and through the bits and pieces of my parents’ belongings that have found a new home in mine.
A Slowing Down and Chaos
In this time of the great slowing down caused by the responses to Covid-19 and the great disturbances and chaos created by one more Black death too many and protests co-opted in the US by the Boogaloo Bois intent on violence and creating a civil war, other things are amplified.
During this time I cleared out and sold my parents’ home. 45 years of living in one place. Hardly anything ever thrown out. A 3 story house and full garage. Of memories. Of identity. Of stuff. Three truckloads of stuff not useful to anyone taken away. A houseful of furniture given away. Boxes of kitchen and other small items given away. Tools and machinery accumulated over a lifetime sold or given away as gifts. A house washed down, ready for a new owner, new memories, new identity.
Chaos, Order and Flow
Chaos in my house as it stores the things waiting for their new home – either with my brother or through a charity. Chaos which is being turned into order. And newness.
This house and land were waiting for me when my youngest son’s father and I finally sold the house we had lived in together to move into separate homes. It was a time of flow when things moved quickly – very similar to the sale of my father’s house. Once we put our old house on the market it sold remarkably within 24 hours. My house had just gone on the market. Within 3 weeks I was here.
Other than building an office in what had been a very large storage space on the first floor, nothing much has changed. The colour schemes were perfect in the moment. The house is big enough to accommodate everyone here at the same time and small enough that I don’t rattle around in it when it is just me and the cats. The cats are new-ish too. We arrived in the house with two older cats. They are buried in the back yard. The “new” cats have made it their home these last five years with their unique personalities.
My House Demanding a Refresh
Last year, something started to stir. The kitchen and the main living room seemed to be calling out to be painted. And you know once you start….. This year, the rest of the house is calling out to be painted. And I am on a mission, putting in 8, 9 and 10 hour days painting. I have the summer to complete the mission since it appears I may not be traveling anywhere. Hallways, stairwells and 9 rooms to be refreshed. The house is demanding a reboot. It may sound strange to describe it this way, but it is how it feels to me.
Deepening Spiritual Journey
The last decade has invited a deepening of my spiritual journey. For anyone who has read Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, you know how my spiritual journey has been guided in ways I could not have anticipated. In the 2000’s this journey began with developing a much greater sense of my guardians, guides and allies and still left me with a dissatisfaction and unrest of not quite knowing what to do with that information. (By the way, I will be publishing a follow up to my memoir later this year. It will be more of a how to guide of spiritual journey and practice.)
In the mid 2010’s the answer showed up. I found a teacher and a deep community of practitioners and learners of “practical magic”, divination and enchantments. I heard clear yeses in my animal knowing to step into the offerings that were available. And, that has made all the difference.
I have learned how to be in relationship with spirit in a myriad of ways – through divination, prayers, offerings, talismans, blessing work and more. It feels to me that my father’s death has opened a wider portal to the world of spirit and a closer connection to the allies, guides and guardians who support me and my loved ones. I walk in a different space now than before he died. I have artefacts from his house that strengthen that connection including his rosary and a statue of the Mother Mary who he felt a deep connection to. I feel his presence on a daily basis. I know he – and my mother and other ancestors – are actively watching out for me and my family and working on our behalf. It brings me joy and delight, even as I miss him on the physical plane.
Shifting Identity and Relationships
I have been shifting my sense of identity. I am learning to acknowledge that I am a powerful creator. I am changing my relationship with money, work and power. Through this network I have discovered a cadre of other teachers. In the times when it seems there is nothing I can do to change the state of the world – like now – I can turn to ritual, practice and meditation to transport myself to a different place to continue to imagine the future that is shaped by my conscious participation in it.
We talk a lot about coherence in these spaces – being coherent with what you want in your life, being internally and externally coherent. With each new level of coherence it is like there is a levelling-up in identity, in confidence and in walking in the world, sensing the sentience in everything.
So when I say the house is demanding a refresh, it is completely consistent with a levelling-up of my identity. It is part of the external coherence and it is bringing order to my spaces and a new kind of order to my life. Before the walls are painted they are covered in symbols representing what I want to draw into my life and my home. There is power in the symbols and you can feel it in the house. I am focused and I get more done that I want to do even as the world has slowed down. Even as the world has turned to greater chaotic upheaval than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.
I would not have wished this time on me or the world I live in. However, since I’m here, I’m grateful for the practice of magic, ritual and deepening relationships with Allies. I am soothed by family connections. And, putting energy into transforming my house through painting highlights the other transformations which are changing the ground I walk on.
Here is to the next decade. To more births, inevitably more deaths and to an enduring spiritual journey that gives power and agency to my life.
Have you ever had an intuitive hit and acted on impulse as a result, only to find yourself shortly afterwards questioning your judgment? This happened to me this week, which caused me to wonder what is the difference between acting on impulse and acting on intuition? I put the question out there on FB (on January 3/18) and it evoked a beautiful exchange of thoughts and ideas and gave some insight into our collective consciousness about words, how we use them and how we interpret them. It reminded me that language matters and we don’t all mean the same thing by the same words.
Generally, among my group of friends – admittedly a more “new-agey” (can I say that?), spiritually focused reference group – intuition was more positively perceived, impulse less positively perceived. Intuition seen as action, impulse seen as reaction, acting for immediate gratification, by-passing mindfulness and intuitive knowing.
A definition of intuition is having knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning, or without understanding how the knowledge was acquired. Impulse was much more laden with negative assumptions or interpretations from the word being included in the name of psychiatric disorders to inclusion of words like failure to resist temptation or making unplanned decisions.
My favourite response is that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive (something we talk about often in our Worldview Intelligence work) and I could act on impulse arising out of my intuitive knowing. Trusting my intuitive knowing and discerning it from other things (desperation, a need for action over reflection or the need for immediate gratification as three “for instances”) is a practice developed and honed over time. And I loved the question, “I wonder if there is any such thing as impulse that grows quietly over time?”
My impulse that generated the question was to respond immediately to a FB post by virtual friend Chris Zydel, remarking that in addition to all the other delicious things she does (mostly by her posts helping people express themselves through art), she does astrological readings. I had never had mine done before, partly because it is only in the last year that I discovered my time of birth. I immediately responded, found out the cost, commitment proceeded quickly and then I wondered about the impulsivity of the decision.
However, 2018 feels like a portentous year for me and for the Worldview Intelligence work I do with my partner. It has had this energy as 2017 closed and the new year opened. The question of what more could I do to ground the energy and help bring possibilities to fruition was in my awareness so when this invitation showed up it evoked an immediate response. And, as it turns out, it was exactly right, exactly what I needed now. The reading was amazing, explained a lot and pointed me in the direction of healing that will be helpful to grounding more of my energy in 2018.
There are many times I have acted on intuition – sometimes quick and impulsive like this decision and sometimes the slow burn described above – where the result has been powerful. Some examples are the decision to embark on my Art of Hosting journey, to go to Bowen Island in 2005 for my first training. It was a bit of slow burn but decisive when it came time to make the decision. The decision the following year to go to Hollyhock for my first Circle Practicum was impulsive – a decision made in the moment of meeting Christina Baldwin without the awareness of what it was going to take to get me there (planes, ferries and automobiles). The decision to go to Gold Lake Colorado in 2009 was a slow burn but the knowing I needed to go was present from the very first moment I opened an invitation to go there – and it deepened my spiritual journey in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. The decision to attend the first Shamanic Convergence near Halifax in 2009 despite financial challenges was more of a slow burn. The decision for my second divorce I knew years before I could find it within me to act on but those years were used for personal and spiritual growth and development, finding support along the way. In the moments of decision – and there were a few along the way – so much fell into place it was a good lesson in trusting the timing of events.
The decision to bring into form – the Worldview Intelligence work that Jerry and I now do was a long series of steps and decisions based on following the energy and hosting the space for it to come into form – intuitive for sure but not impulsive – steady.
In today’s world, we often give too much credence to logic and rationality when, in fact, decision making is always emotional as proved by neuro-scientist Antonio Damasio in his research on people whose emotional brains have been damaged. We use the facts to support what we want to do or know we need to do but we cannot make decisions without the use of our emotional brains.
In the thread on my FB post some suggested that we know in retrospect whether we acted on impulse or intuition based on the outcome. The more I reflect on that thought the more I wonder if we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we know – for both our intuitive and impulsive decisions or our intuitively impulsive decisions. When we can remove self doubt, self criticism, shame, the “voices of others” we carry in our heads (sometimes affectionately referred to as the itty-bitty-shitty committee), all the “should” and “should nots” and when we practice clearing and keeping open our channels to our own inner core and to whatever form of greater power, wisdom or knowledge we believe in, we are far more intuitive and powerful than we might like to acknowledge.
In retrospect, I don’t regret any of the intuitive decisions I’ve made in my journey to greater openheartedness – whether seemingly impulsive or slow burn. What about you? What do you discover when you reflect on the role of intuition and impulse in your journey?
With thanks to each friend who graciously contributed to the thread.
Sometimes your task is just to bear witness. And it can bring all of your humanity to the surface. Bearing witness is not necessarily a neutral task. It can be a deeply emotional, heart wrenching but necessary role. It can be absolutely vital to the person(s) or situation you are called to witness. And the question becomes – are you up to it? Are you up to all it asks of you?
It is easy to get caught up in drama – our own or someone else’s. There is some pleasure in the telling of the story, in trading power for sympathy. It is especially easy to get caught up in someone else’s drama with the often mistaken belief that we can rescue them from their own stories, rescue them from themselves. There is something insidious about drama that has people wanting to engage the story, the gossip, the inside scoop of it, to offer advice and solve problems rather than to sit patiently for what wants and needs to unfold. It can be hard to remember that their story is not ours to tell.
I sometimes notice I have to stop myself from embroiling myself in another’s drama, stop the words “how can I help?” from spilling out of my mouth. It is very appealing to imagine ourselves as a “prince” riding in on a white stallion to save the day.
However, you cannot rescue people from themselves and you cannot save them from their own journeys. No matter how hard you try. It is not yours to do. If this is not yours to do, then what is – aside from your own healing journey?
Sometimes it is to hold the space, to bear witness. If the journey you hold space for is intense and heartbreaking, it can be heart wrenching to be a witness. It requires all of who you are to be present. This can seem like no action to someone who desperately wants you to intervene and yet it is sometimes the only action that is possible.
To witness another person into being. To hold the space for that healing journey. These are gifts beyond measure that would be lost if you are not up to the task of bearing witness, not up to the task of listening, or holding space, not up to the task of keeping yourself out of a story that is not yours to live or to tell.
Don’t go looking for it, but when it arrives, notice and appreciate the deep gift of bearing witness. Allow yourself to be heart broken too. Bring compassion to your listening. And, notice the person you bear witness to is not the only recipient of the gift of bearing witness.
This morning I made it safely out of the shower. Why was this an accomplishment? Because the last two times I showered, upon exiting, I was hit with painful, debilitating back spasms. They stopped me in my tracks and caused me to call out in pain. What did I do to cause this? Nothing different than I do any other time I get out of the shower.
When I went to see my chiropractor, Dr. Anne Desneiges at Innerwaves in Halifax, she offered that my back spasms were less physically and more energetically created. I told her the last time this happened was almost a year ago and she began to ask me about significant grief causing events that may have happened in the spring at any point in my life. It occurred to me that my birth mother left in the spring. It was an event I was too young to remember but it was grief filled and traumatic for my birth family and it caused the re-patterning of my life. There are many other spring events I could point to as well, but this stood out.
The muscle spasms originated in my back and were like a band that circled almost the whole way around my body – like a contraction when giving birth, especially the latter stages when the contractions are prolonged and breathtaking. My partner, Jerry Nagel, and I are symbolically in a birthing process with our main body of work, Worldview Intelligence. It has been gestated and incubated over a few years of intense practical and profound application and we have just hired Marc Lewis at 3 o’clock Marketing to create a look, logo, brand and website that will elevate this work into its next level of visibility.
This kind of levelling up hurts as emotions like grief, sadness and anger that have been abandoned come up for release. Seems it hurts physically as well as emotionally. I have seen and heard of other friends experiencing physical pain. And I am aware of friends displaying monumental acts of courage as they work to re-pattern relationships in their life that have been harmful.
It is clear that re-patterning is at work on the world stage as we look at the impacts of politics in the US, Brexit, the emergence of gay concentration camps in Chechnya and so much more. It is impossible to avoid if you watch the news or follow social media. It can be a relief to know that this kind of re-patterning is a natural and essential part of evolution – even if it doesn’t feel evolutionary in this moment.
So, what to do? Harris talked about daily practice and repetition. What lights you up? What are the practices or routines you have that put you in your center, especially when those around you are also off their centers? Do these things regularly even if just for minutes at a time. I would add, be self compassionate. This is all part of the natural rhythms of energy and life. And Harris has a reminder of us that I have often felt to be true – there is so much higher energy available to us with an abundance of guidance. It is not either/or, these are not distinctly separate things. Lower and higher energy and vibrations exist on a continuum. We can move ourselves up the continuum at any time simply by putting our attention and focus there.
If this kind of re-patterning is happening, maybe the best thing we can do is surrender into it and allow ourselves to level up.
And then, the most generous act of all – extend kindness and love to people you do not yet know, remembering our common core of humanity, that the shortest distance between two people is a story and that most of us in our hearts want peace, a safe place to live and a future to live into.
Learn the story of a neighbour, a co-worker or someone you bump into in the coffee shop, someone you have met and are curious about but have not yet chatted with. Go to places you would not ordinarily go – to a place of worship of a different religion, to community centers, to peace gatherings. Become educated and aware of different people’s experiences that are different from your own.
Doing this we grow our circles of support, our trust and our faith in humanity.
The US election result on top of Brexit, fake news, new euphemisms like “post-truth” and “alt-right” has left many of us reeling in our emotional responses. At times I feel numb, other times I am angry, often I am confused and I am anxious about the future. It is like world events are unfolding in stop motion and at each new frame I can hardly cope with what is being revealed or what it even means. How will I respond? How do I keep garnering my internal and soul resources to stay functioning in an openhearted way, embrace what shows up and focus on what matters? I know I am not the only person having these experiences now. My work with worldviews makes me deeply aware that we need to find ways to really listen to people with very different worldviews and the more different and more challenging our worldviews the harder it is to find presence within ourselves to show up to the conversation. And it is exactly what is needed now. When I look back on this time, I want to be able to say, in places where I do have influence, “not on my watch”. What do we need from each other to collectively say, “not on our watch”?
It’s been seven weeks since the American election and I, like so many people I know, am still in shock. I find myself going through the motions of my life, living into the moments as they appear while at the same time there is a niggling little curiosity that tugs at the corners of my mind. Is this what it was like in pre-war (pick any time period) Germany, France, Austria and so many other countries? Were there people who wondered at the inanity of it all, who feared for the future, who could see disaster lurking around the corner and felt powerless to stop it? Did they think the things my mind turns to as I wonder what the future will hold? As on a daily basis there are choices made that seem incredulous? Like all the cabinet picks who couldn’t be more opposite than the intent…
This is the first morning in weeks I woke up alone in my house. As I sat with my coffee, taking in more of the stories, today, finally, I cried.
It is just over 3 weeks since the US election. The world has fundamentally changed. Yet, for me, much is the same in my life and work. No on the ground ripple – not yet. I have watched my news feed spiral almost out of control with stories of anxiety, grief, fear. I have read so many stories of people who have felt the fall out, have experienced first hand the overtness of anger and violence that once simmered under the surface and now is being expressed in checkouts at grocery stores, shouted slurs on the street, hateful words painted on people’s houses and cars. Divides that are tearing families apart.
I have read the stories of people whose wounds have been opened wider, being re-wounded by the level of public discourse that has misogyny, sexism, racism running more visibly and publicly than it has in some time. More of the undercurrents we do not always see.
I witness the spillover of fragmentation, polarization and fear across international boundaries from Brexit, the US election, France, Turkey and even here in Canada where it felt like we escaped from the brink of this in our own election to new disruptions surfacing with various provincial or party elections.
I am heartsick that women do not support the emancipation of women and do not support women’s rights. I am aghast at levels of misogyny so deeply entrenched in society that some women will subjugate themselves to it without conscious awareness. That people see others of a different colour, nationality or background as somehow less than. That there are white men who believe that they are somehow entitled because of the colour of their skin and their gender.
I am heartsick for the stand off at Standing Rock, the difference between how that situation and white resistance is handled. I am heartsick for an earth that is bleeding and hurting and for people who do not want to see what is right in front of their eyes.
I am heartsick for those who pine for a way of life that no longer exists, that is remembered in an idealized memory, who want the world to go back to a way that it was or a way that they wished it had been but maybe never really existed.
Not being able to predict the future – ever, but certainly not now in some of the most unpredictable times I have witnessed in my life time, I do experience fear and anxiety about the world stage, about what will happen next. I hold the grief of my own experience and of all of the stories I read.
I have also read the stories of so much courage. People standing up, holding the space for others who are under attack, coming to the support of people through words and deeds, rising to their openhearted humanity.
I noticed for awhile that the positive focus, the positive, aspirational things I usually post got lost in advocating for and against politicians and political stances. I need to continue to be aware and definitely stay woke and gradually I have noticed a resumption for me of more inspiring stories, a focus on the future I want to move towards.
I do not know that I can influence the course of world events. But I can do what is within my power to do. Last week, my partner, son and I took part in a community dinner in Halifax, sharing Thanksgiving with newcomer families who have been refugees. We met a lovely Syrian family who live near us and it was a heartwarming experience. Four hundred people in all showed up for the dinner hosted by Engage Nova Scotia.
The Worldview Intelligence work my partner and I do is focused on creating exploratory space between people with differing worldviews – from slight differences to vast differences. And even though sometimes we wonder how to bridge the vastest differences, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and bringing this work where it wants to go. And it is important work in the world right now.
I hold my family close and focus on the issues and joys that we need to deal with – report cards, weddings, careers, Christmas.
I hope if I am called to courage in a public space to support someone I may or may not know that I will find it within me to rise to that challenge. I hope nations find it within themselves to rise to the courage that is needed now. I hope that the seeds of disturbance have answering seeds of courage and renewal with more of us determined to find more ways forward that embrace the diversity of the fullness of humanity.
And in holding all my own conflicting feelings, in holding so much of the grief that is spilling over in the world right now, in a quiet moment all by myself this morning, with my coffee, today, finally, I cried.
People who are authentic are comfortable with who they are, what they discover about themselves, their worldview and what shaped it, and they have a willingness to continually grow who they are. They know a lot about themselves and they are comfortable expressing who they are to others. They are also able to embody chaordic leadership or chaordic confidence which is growing increasingly important in today’s complex times and when we seek engagement of multiple voices to address the questions and issues at hand.
The Johari Window is a framework that allows us to practice better understanding of self and thus provides a means for any individual to evolve their own authenticity. The Johari Window was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham and was first used in 1955. It is as effective today in developing a broader self understanding as it was then.
The dimensions of the Johari Window are representative of an individual’s whole personality or psyche. The dimensions are: what I know and what I don’t know, what others know and don’t know. They are illustrated in the following matrix:
What is known to us that we show other people is Open. These are aspects of ourselves that we are consciously aware of and willing to freely share with others, thus these aspects are also known to others.
The second aspect is what we know about ourselves that we keep Hidden from other people. There will probably always be things we do not disclose to other people. Disclosure in and of itself is not the issue. The question is why are you not disclosing and how much energy is contained in keeping these things hidden from other people?
It is impossible to be truly authentic if we fear other people knowing certain things about ourselves. We have all made decisions, choices or taken action in our lives that we regretted, are embarrassed about or just wish we hadn’t done. It is part of human nature, part of the growth process. Sometimes we don’t want other people to know because we are afraid they will think less of us – possibly because we think less of ourselves. It could be because we have identified ourselves with what we perceive to be a failure instead of recognizing that failure is an action from which we can receive feedback, as discussed in The Wisdom of Failure article.
Sometimes we keep things hidden because we feel like an imposter, or maybe we feel shame about something we did or something that happened to us. Other people tell us what a great job we are doing and yet we feel like we do not deserver the praise or accolades. We keep our fears and uncertainties to ourselves.
When we keep things hidden because of our fears, this takes energy. As long as it takes energy, it detracts from our ability to be truly authentic. If we don’t disclose things about ourselves, simply because they don’t seem relevant anymore, then this doesn’t have the same quality as those things we are afraid to disclose. It does not consume the same energy. In the right circumstances or for the right reasons, we may disclose these things about ourselves and feel perfectly comfortable doing so.
It is not whether things are hidden or not that is problematic, it is the amount of energy they consume in staying hidden and whether fear of disclosure is the motivator for keeping them hidden. Once I began to learn the story of my birth mother, after finding out later in life that I had been adopted, I understood fear was a big motivator in her life. She was afraid of being found out so she kept many of her stories hidden, not to see the light of day until after she died. She did not disclose her past, that she was married or that she had children and she lived every day in a new constructed life in fear of being found out. So much so, she never told her own adopted daughter when her birthday was. “Fear and worry are the interest paid on trouble that never comes. They shut the door on what more is possible – love, forgiveness, ease and the rewriting of stories of our lives that could instead be lived with grace and empowerment.” – Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, p 208
A third aspect is Blind. This is what we don’t see or know about ourselves, but others see. This includes what we imagine to be true of ourselves that others don’t see. For instance, we may imagine ourselves to be a great leader, but if you ask people around us, they may not see evidence of this.
The blind category may include things we genuinely don’t see about ourselves and there may be things we are somewhat aware of but don’t acknowledge or don’t want to see. Just before my first divorce, I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was very unhappy. I covered it up by being very busy. I didn’t know how unhappy I was, I was afraid to see it. Some of the people around me were aware of it, however they were unable to broach it with me because I was not ready to hear it. Later, when I was ready, I was shocked to hear how many people could see so clearly what I could not or would not see for myself.
Asking others for feedback is a sure way to shrink our blind aspect. We can do this informally by asking friends, family members or work colleagues we trust. We can do it formally in our work or learning environments through the use of feedback mechanisms like 360s.
The final aspect is Unknown. This is what we don’t know about ourselves and what others also don’t know about us. Because it is unknown, it is impossible to know exactly how big it is but we do tend to shrink it over time, especially if we are consciously on the path of growth and self awareness.
This information resides in our unconscious. Sometimes it is revealed to us by something that happens, sparked by events or situations, outcomes from choices. It could arrive with a new Aha! It could be uncovered through work we do on any of the other three aspects. By revealing a bit of ourselves to others, we open up a discussion that may provoke some other information to come to light. By taking in what other people are willing to share about what they see, we may also trigger some learnings in the unknown quadrant.
One other way to discover the unknown is through the mirror principle. The mirror principle is a tough concept for most of us to understand when we first hear it. It basically says that whenever we have a strong reaction to someone – positive or negative – it is because they are mirroring something back to us about us. We are like them in some way. This is fine for most people when the reflection is positive. It is much more challenging when we consider the reflection to be negative. The mirror principle gives us some of the most valuable information about ourselves if we are open to receiving it.
One area of my life that had been completely unknown to me and many around me for decades, is my gift to see spirit and work with energy, which I write about in Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. Although I have always believed in energy, spirit, reincarnation and the existence of other life forms, I always thought only very talented and gifted people could access that information, not everyday people like me. When I was first told of my gifts and even when I first experienced them I rejected the information as not being plausible. As I grew to accept and be more curious about these gifts it began to shrink the Unknown aspect of the Johari window and invited me into a deeper exploration of things I did not know about myself. As I began to speak and write about this aspect of who I am, it shrunk this window more and grew the Open window.
The four aspects of the Johari Window are fluid. They are not generally of the exact same size and shape. The more authentic you are, the larger the Open aspect and the more likely you are to continually find ways to expand it. Generally this is done through a process of disclosure and feedback, curiosity and learning. Not only do you become more authentic as you expand your Open aspect, you release energy that can then be used to your benefit and you create more peace and contentment for yourself. It is worth the risk to learn to be more open.