What’s Your Blind Spot? Understanding Practical Psychology?
It has been awhile since I have offered up a new tea message. Head tomato, Cheryl Benton, has suggested that I also write about the practical and applicable psychology that is highlighted in my award-winning book, The Conscious Leader. The book is not just for leaders and not just about leadership, in fact. It is about understanding that we are psychological beings having a human experience. When we understand our psychology, our lives can be purposeful and fulfilling.
It’s like this. When you buy a computer or smart phone, it does not usually come with a set of instructions or any written information for that matter, and very often it is unclear how to get even the most basic functions up and running. It is the same with the human mind. It did not come with a basic operating manual, and so we are often up and running without knowing what we are doing. Left on its own, the human mind doesn’t take very good care of itself. It develops some bad habits.
Over the years, psychologists have been trying to create an ops manual with all the necessary instructions, procedures, and guidelines. From theorizing and observing, and some baptism by fire, there actually are some enduring psychological tenets and common sense deductions that have emerged to help us. That is what I call practical psychology. This is information that enables us to live well, awake and conscious.
It is probably very obvious to you that living well and consciously takes some effort. It does not come naturally because life is filled with distraction and difficulty. Quite simply, life is not a casual affair. It takes preparation every day to live it appropriately and fully. It is like making a good cup of tea. It takes time, intention, and effort. Life requires a readiness to take care of oneself, and a willingness to make room for others and their opinions. We must learn to respect ourselves and those we share our homes and offices with, and we do that by practicing good mental hygiene. If we neglect our physical hygiene, no one will want to be around us, and bad mental hygiene has the same effect.
Implementing practical psychology in your life starts with you becoming honestly aware of yourself, the whole story, conscious and unconscious.
The conscious part of you are the things about you that you keep top of mind – your obvious thoughts, your goals, your projects, concerns about health, finance, loved ones, work, etc. You are aware of these things and may speak about them and try to resolve them. But the things that are unconscious are ones that you haven’t a clue about – unresolved, unrecognized family and childhood conflicts, fears, anxieties, obsessions, drives – like the drive to perfectionism – prejudices and biases, even dreams, and the persistent impact of those tricky emotions – anger, guilt, and shame. These are the issues that are really having an impact on you and what you do with yourself and with others.
Becoming aware of these parts of you that you keep hidden from yourself are essential, and the amazing thing about this stuff is that other people are often aware of it while we are not. For the last perhaps fifty years, we often use a chart in the workplace to illustrate this concept called the Johari window. You probably have run across it and it is still the best way to talk about self-awareness. There are four quadrants and across the top two columns it says “known to self” and “not known to self” and down the side it says “known to others” and “not known to others”. The first square is the “public self” which is information about you that you know and others know. It is an agreed upon presentation of you and it is what politicians seek to project. The next box under that one is the “private self” and that is the one you consciously seek to keep from view and politicians are constantly concerned about people finding out about this one. The top box on the right is the tricky one – “blind spot” and it refers to things about you that you do not know but others do and that is where you are vulnerable and not in a good way. This is what you need to know about you so that you can work on it and resolve the issue or it will forever be a button others can push and can function in your life as an Achilles heel.
You may be asking what about the fourth box – what you don’t know about you and what others also don’t know? Is it worth exploring? As a psychologist, I would have to say yes, there are probably some real gems of self knowledge in there but for right now you may want to stick with the blind spot.
How do you find out about your blind spot? You start by taking a deep dive into your history, your life and your work experiences –– all of which are responsible for most of who you are –– and answering a lot of questions about yourself honestly. But before you begin, you must decide if you are too defensive or too protective of yourself to be that honest. Many people are. After all, the premise here is that there is information buried in your unconscious mind that you have been trying to keep from your conscious self because it feels shameful or uncomfortable or dangerous. That is why people often have a guide such as a coach or a therapist for this kind of self-exploration.
But for right now, begin this journey by yourself. You can enlist the help of a few trusted friends or colleagues who are strong enough to tell you the truth, and not just what you want to hear. Let’s see what it stirs up in you.
In the days to come, we will explore all the ways you can use some practical psychology to make your life the one you want to be living.
Think of this as a course in yourself. Some of it will sound intuitively right to you and some of it you will have to think over until you get it. A good, strong cup of tea always helps.
One cup at a time.
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