Sidney M. Jourard's Selected Writings

Summary of Central Ideas

A healthy personality is in touch with herself, not afraid of change, authentic, and lives freely in her body, with relaxed awareness.
An unhealthy personality is someone who has not truly made himself known to at least one other human being, and therefore does not know himself. Such a person struggles actively to avoid becoming known by others.
Powerful authentic sharing occurs when one person discloses themself in a way that allows the other to feel free to do the same.
Self-disclosure can be an important means of growing as a person. Self-disclosure is on a continuum, and the healthy personality has the ability to discern what is appropriate and what is not.
Jourard believes that chronic self-concealment contributes to malaise and disease of all kinds.
The therapists use of self-disclosure demystifies both the therapist and the client. It allows more of the client's essence to come out and allows the interaction to become more of a dialogue.
Humanistic psychology is defined in part by an effort of self disclosure that creates conscious awareness by helping ourselves and others come to an understanding of what is going on inside and possibly the forces that cause that.
Attribution theory asks, "What do other people think is going on in us?" "What do we think is going on in ourselves?" "To what degree does the other person's view of me affect my view of myself?"
Modern society incorrectly teaches people that solitude is loneliness (i.e. wrong). This outlook helps keep them from discovering who they really are and what they really want. It contributes to maintaining the status quo in the social order. In fact, solitude can contribute to psychological growth.
In "training," conformity rather than individuality is rewarded. By constantly conforming we lose ourselves. We come into society having to conform' then as we get older we become part of a system in which we are causing conforming.
Fascination with something awakens true independent, self-initiated learning.
"Being reborn" means to become aware. When you stop to look in a different way, you can become aware of things you've never seen before even though you've seen them many times.
In good psychotherapy, the therapist helps the client enter his or her experience deeply.
Good teachers are existential explorers who teach you to think. A teacher is one "who has been awakened from the illusion that there is only one sane, right and legal way to experience the world and behave in it." Our salvation is dependent on education rather than training.
"Social engineering"&emdash;in our society we have become exceptionally skilled at training, mystifying, and stupifying masses of people.
"Not to listen is to invalidate the perspective of the speaker." People need to be heard, for it validates their voice.
Dialogue, for Jourard, is the appropriate way for human beings to be or be with each other, not imposition, power plays, and manipulation. Family life is an appropriate place for dialogue to be learned and practiced. Dialogue facilitates growth in competence, self-sufficiency, and self-esteem.
Language, including literature and poetry, is a way of experiencing other perspectives of the world, and of altering one's own experience of the world.
It's comfortable to stay in our roles. Coming out of them disrupts and threatens stability, yet challenging them is a big part of rebirth. We can't change roles we're caught in until we recognize them. Rules, regulations, and roles seldom foster independent learning&emdash;"Independent learners rock the boat."
At times we take on someone else's interests, habits, feelings and views as our own. A role is often characterized by a false self. There are varying degrees of awareness of this false self.
"Normal" personalities are not necessarily healthy personalities. Sometimes self-alienation is so much a part of us that we do not realize it.
Our society can close us off from ourselves through locking us tightly into our societal roles, leaving us with a lack of self-experience.
Jourard predicted a struggle between man's "status quo" and his consciousness, between those who wish to keep up their roles and those who wish to break free and live their potentialities.
The "ideal marriage," when people devote themselves to trying to realize it, is a snare, a trap, and an image, the worship of which destroys life. Change is not so much a threat as it is the fruit of a good marriage.
To attain liberation from rules and roles that don't fit who you are, at some point you have to have the courage of authentically being yourself--to not be afraid.
We inspire children to be greedy and bottomless consumers.
For Jourard, how we induce people to speak, to find their voices, to "come out of hiding," is a significant question.