Monday, January 27, 2014

Meaning and Words, and A What The Fuck Moment

That awkward moment when you have friends and family fill out a Johari Window model for a class...and your Dad describes you as 'loving'...and your husband does not.
This blog entry is going to be many things. First, a brief explanation of what a Johari Window is. Second, a quick discussion on the meaning of words. Third, a bit of a rant.

First things first, a Johari Window (found here: is a model exercise on mapping personality awareness used in fields of Interpersonal Communication. A "disclosure/feedback model of self awareness" (for a more in-depth description and history go here:
This assignment was for our Interpersonal Communication course.

Who doesn't want to know what the people closest to them thinks about them in five to six concise descriptive words of less...
You're right, nobody.

So, this weekend we sent off the link to Mother, and Father, and James.
Then today, in class, sitting at the back of the room playing on the internet when we should have been, oh, paying attention to the Interpersonal Communication lecture, we decided to see that the results were.

Then came the What The Fuck Moment. Which we'll get to in a bit. (It's not what you think.)
We decided we needed a few more people in on this, flesh it out a bit, so we sent the link to friends who, while all but one we met online, we have also spent anywhere from a couple of meals, to several days, with (thank you Kerry, Alison, Lush, Jesse and Jodi. xx) in Real Life.

Second. One topic from last week's Interpersonal Communication class was about words and their meanings and how meaning is not in words, rather meaning is applied to words. Seems pretty obvious if you think about it. The word 'sick', for example, has more than one meaning depending on how it's used. i.e. "I feel sick", "You're so sick", "That's so sick". Your parent telling you "You're so sick" will probably have a different connotation that your best buddy saying the same thing. Also, you might have traveled back in time to the 90's, because do kids still even use that slang today? Then there's the classic evolution of "gay" - gay was happy, then it was homosexual, and now it's lame (but it's still homosexual, and people who use it to mean lame should learn some new words).
You get the point.

So, on this Johari Window there's 55 adjectives to choose from:
able, accepting, adaptable, bold, brave, calm, caring, cheerful, clever, complex, confident, dependable, dignified, energetic, extroverted, friendly, giving, happy, helpful, idealistic, independent ingenious, intelligent, introverted, kind, knowledgeable, logical, loving, mature, modest, nervous, observant, organised, patient, powerful, proud, quiet, reflective, relaxed, religious, responsive, searching, self-assertive, self-conscious, sensible, sentimental, shy, silly, spontaneous, sympathetic, tense, trustworthy, warm, wise, witty.


The common theme of the 55 adjectives is that there is usually an opposite of which you really can't be both. For instance, introvert vs extrovert, self-conscious vs confident, dignified vs silly.
You get it.

You're thinking...wait...where are all the overtly negative adjectives?!
That's over at the Nohari Window (, an optional assignment, and far less appealing in nature. Needless to say, we opted out of it.

Okay, so we got a total of 5 participants to "describe Frankie in five to six adjectives", and it was...more complete, but it still didn't erase the nagging agitated feeling from the What The Fuck Moment earlier in the day.

The What The Fuck Moment is when one person's descriptors were clearly based on...well, there's no real prudent way to put it, either fallacy or confusion...or an inability, a case of being absolutely hindered from separating one's own religious ideals, one's own self, when analyzing or considering others. Realistically, Self and Other should be separated, to do a person justice you should not compare them to you, but analyze, judge them, if you will, on their independent merits, or lack of.

We're into the ranting now, if you hadn't guessed. 

No, this idea on how people do/should/shouldn't scrutinize each other has not been covered or discussed in class, nor in the textbook so far.
This realization came from hours of thinking about the different possible reasons why the word "seeking" was used, out of fifty-five possible adjectives, to describe us, any one of us. Trying to rationalize it. Thinking of the many meanings that can be attached to that word, and a few of the others. This realization, then, was birthed from a What The Fuck Moment.

So, was he meaning we're "seeking" because he thinks somehow we're actively looking for, say, oh, God, because we're lost in his opinion? "Seeking", to us, being the opposite of "religious" on the Johari model.
It really stuck in our craw.
All day.
How dare that be an adjective he chose because he has some idealized idea of who "I" should be in reflection of himself and his desires. Also, sorry, but we're not "seeking" anything, except more knowledge. We are not "lost", we chose the path away from religion based on an extensive amount of consideration, logical thinking, belief and reflection. That's almost the opposite to "lost" in this case.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the "he" in questions is The Father.

It became more confusing when he also used the words "loving" and "self-conscious".
Not one single person close to us in the last, oh, more than ten years would be likely to use those adjectives coupled with our name.
Which led us to wonder, which one of us has he been spending the little amount of time we've spent with him over the last few years, with? 

It took some contemplation, thinking not simply about how one sees their self, but how people see each other, attach adjectives to describe people, sometimes based on comparing that person with who they are, or what they want to see. How, perhaps, a lot of people who are unable to be objective see or assess each other based on their personal motives and desires surrounding the person they are assessing. They are trying to find a reflection in the other person. A sort of reverse-reflected appraisal, or reverse-social comparison*, if you will.

Correct or incorrect, it was an eye-opening hypothesis.

We were in a tail-spin throughout the day about words and what the meanings were being applied to them and what that means when people think about each other. To pick at the same Daddy scab**, the use of the word "self-conscious", holds different weight and meaning depending on how it's applied. One is an awareness of self and the acts one performs (more of a philosophical approach to the word), the other is insecurity or a fear of embarrassment (more of a negative connotation). Two very different meanings, if not more, can be attached.

Bottom line is, we clearly have some sort of concern about what Father thinks of us and this situation manifested it into a What The Fuck Moment. It's certainly not stemmed from a desire to appease him in any way. Maybe it's a sense that despite all the candor over the past few years he still doesn't really know us or have a sense of who we are.

*reflected appraisal is the theory that a person's self-concept mirrors the way the person believes others regard him or her, and social comparison is evaluating the self in terms of how we compare with others.
**for the record, we do not have "daddy issues", we moved past that stage in life

Now for something not so completely different.
How ridiculous is it that we're trying to map personality awareness. Think about it. [Marisa/IamtheCrew (and other DID/MPDers), you know what we're getting at.]
We can't possibly do an adequate job of it for a class. But we have attempted it out of necessity. The link to it is up there somewhere at the top, and it was integral in getting our life back in some sort of order, relatively speaking.

If you want a know how the people who know us best see us, and what a "working" Johari window looks like, this is the most recent screen-shot from the model assignment:

Yay! 100% think we're intelligent! The ruse is working! Bwahahaha!!!
Meanwhile...sensible? dependable? WITTY?

Also, apparently "introverted" has a range of meanings, including "marked by interest in or preoccupation with oneself or one's own thoughts as opposed to others or the environment." which sounds...terrible. We're totally interested in other people. That's not to say we like many of them, but people are fascinating to observe and analyze. Personally, we used the word to describe ourselves because we attached a meaning to it that was based on, overall, preferring solitude.
If some of the words had included clear definitions, we would not have chose that one, and possible "idealistic"...or maybe we would.

Words words words, words have meanings and meanings have words and words have power and good communication is complicated, because people are complicated and full of meaning and words.

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