NPJ Book Review: The Transparent Self by Sidney M. Jourard


The Transparent Self by Sidney M. Jourard Revised Edition (1971)

Self-disclosure. How much actual self-disclosure is there today? This thought-provoking book is well over 40 years old but feels relevant at this juncture of “now.”

I purchased it decades ago and periodically return to this and other works for a better understanding of human relationships. Today’s political, social and cultural environment offer opportunities to further explore the human mind through different perspectives… see Irvin Yalom in his work on Existential Psychotherapy and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

 In The Transparent Self, Jourard observes, “Love is scary, because when you permit yourself to be known, you expose yourself not only to your lover’s balm, but also to the hater’s bombs! When he knows you, he knows where to plant them for maximum effect.”

In his research Jourard discovered a paradox. Our expectation of disclosure in the family unit is not what actually happens…we are not open with each other. Self-disclosure requires courage and it also reduces the mystery that one person is for another. He restates Shakespeare’s Polonius’ advice to his son “ in the play Hamlet, “And this above all – to any other man be true, and thou canst not be false to thyself.”

The author relates his role as a professional psychologist in very personal terms. He discusses what it means to be true to oneself and maintain a healthy personality. In some form, sickness in body and mind is viewed as a link to non-disclosure – not being true to one self and ultimately others. Life becomes a lie. The sickness of one’s spirit and body in a real sense is a form of protest against lying to self and others.

Though some of the material, considered dated within the context of newer theories and findings, the core is of value. Our mental and physical health are directly linked to our honesty with our self….what and who we are and our relationships with others and how we treat them. This is not about the nature of false information promulgated in realty television and propaganda by those with “self-designated power and privilege,” rather it’s the values at stake we have in being humane with our self and each other and the downstream effect on people’s lives. How much time does it take to be honest with the person that greets us in the mirror?

“Shall I permit my fellow-men to know me as I truly am, or shall I seek instead to remain an enigma, and be seen as someone I am not?” Disclosure may be unsettling if not terrifying when applied to one’s self.