Musings on Psychology: the Onion, the Book, and the Window


Would you prefer to be compared to an onion? A book ? Or a window?

I have been brushing up on a few basic Psychology 101 comparisons regarding people and their psyche. We can be compared to onions, books or windows. I am assuming, of course, that most of us are familiar with these tools but for the sake of those who are not, let me review them anyway.


  • The Onion

People and situations are compared to onions because of its layers. When we look at the structure of the onion, it is comprised of layers. On the outside and surface of the onion we see what the elements have done to it.

We see dry flaky skins or skins with a healthy looking shine to them. When we choose onions for cooking, we choose them based on what we see outside. We look for good color, unblemished or uncut and well hydrated surfaces. Ever notice that the flaky onions in the grocery boxes where we can pick and choose are the ones mostly left behind? But sometimes, even an onion with a flaky dry exterior still has a perfectly flavorful and totally usable interior. (These onions are a misleading lot!) Anyway, a person is sometimes compared to an onion because of its layers. The more we get to know a person or a situation, the more we peel away from the surface of that which we see, towards the heart of the matter, which we don’t often see.

Red onionsMy officemates know nothing about my contributions to this blog, or the things I do on
the mats, for Aikido and peace work. They are my co-workers. We work well together, I like them and they like me, but they can only see what I choose for them to know and see. That’ s all. I could safely estimate they probably know only a very small aspect of who I am, even if they know I can be trusted and depended on all the time, anytime. That’s the way I like it. But the closer we grow together, another aspect of our person and character are revealed. And another layer of our onions is peeled away as we move through our job together.

In Peace and Conflict Studies, one of the approaches to difficult people and situations is by understanding the model presented by the onion. We have to keep opening up the layers to be able to dig deep into a person’s motivations and intentions or a problem’s underlying causes so that we will be able to deal with them comprehensively and competently.

  • The Book

pagesIn the book model, however, we have no layers. We have pages. There is the top and outer cover, which may or may not be indicative of its contents; and there are pages upon pages to be read and understood before you finally get to the end of the story or the book and finally have a firm grasp of the data contained within its pages. The further you progress in the leafing and reading through the book, the more comprehensive your understanding. You have to be patient and keep on reading until the very end.

  • The Window

And then there is Johari’s window. The window is another tool and another theory towards understanding yourself and others. It is divided into four parts.

windowThese four parts are:

1. The Known Self
(you and everybody else know who this is, for example: everybody knows who likes to wear leopard print leggings)

2. The Hidden Self
(Only you know about this aspect of yourself, it is your secret self, for example: the kind who likes to dance to Wham’s Buttercup song in the shower)

3. The Blind Self
(The person the others know and see, but you don’t, or maybe you deny it, refuse to acknowledge its existence, for example, your self body image is fat but others know you are voluptuously deliciously curvy)

4. The Unknown Self
(The self you and others still don’t know about but might discover later on: enter the PhDs, the analysts, hypnotist, psychic and medium)

These three are just some of the most common tools we employ to try to box and classify people and situations in our quest for more understanding, so we are able to work with them. Have you ever consciously applied any of these tools towards yourself, something or someone?


 I have a beef with these tools. I don’t want to be compared to an onion, even if its approach seems effective. Neither do I want to be compared to reading a book, even if it fosters patience and tolerance. And I don’t want to be compared to anybody’s window. Or be an onion on a book framed by a window. Nah.

It is good to remember that we have these tools on hand to try to gain an understanding and maintain harmony and peace among ourselves and the world around us. Psychology gives us a workable platform to deal with the known and the unknown of a person’s psyche. (Did you know that in some schools there exists two Psychology programs? One is the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the other is the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. )

But, I believe we can never be totally and accurately analyzed. Yes, some agencies might be able to draw up a psychological profile on us, but we are people. We evolve everyday. The human spirit cannot be contained or quartered into sections of a peel, a page or a windowpane.

If I had the choice, I would choose William’s comparisons.

the clover tooWilliam Shakespeare compared Juliet to the sun rising in the East, and Romeo to a rose. And then, William Wordsworth compares Lucy to a “violet by a mossy stone, half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky”

I digress. But, what I’d really like to know is where our Bills belong. In the science of psychology, or in the art? And yet, they are poets, not psychologists or profilers. They’re very eloquent to fully capture in verse how being human is totally complicated, very prismatic and ever fascinating. I believe they can capture the human spirit much more easily than an onion/ book /window model can.

So, what are you going to compare yourself to? An onion? A book? Or a window?
(A sunrise? A violet? A rose? or a star?)

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2 thoughts on “Musings on Psychology: the Onion, the Book, and the Window

  1. This is not a critique of the essay, but if you want to be scrupulously accurate, Juliet is never compared to a rose. The famous line (“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”) is Juliet’s, and she’s talking about Romeo.

    Liked by 1 person

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