Individuals who are open to experience are able to listen to themselves and to others and to experience what is happening without feeling threatened.
Brian Thorne (a person-centred therapist)
Openness is often associated with either open-mindedness or frankness. These meanings are addressed in the areas Inner structure and Intrinsic relationships respectively. Here, the term signifies permeability between oneself and the world. Therefore, this is not only about cognitive openness or talking openly to others, but openness to our experiences in general. Being able to regulate openness can significantly affect our quality of life, so this will be the main focus of this area.
What openness is
It may sometimes feel as if we have ‘holes’ or ‘cracks’ in our personality. These are usually the result of unresolved personal conflicts or unhealed wounds and they make it difficult to become a harmonious whole. They often cause oversensitivity and tension, which in turn lead to putting barriers between oneself and the world. Openness is different. It refers to the permeability of the person as a whole that facilitates exchanges with the environment. Openness enables us to transform sensations into personal experiences – in other words, to internalise the external world. This is how we make an experience our own.
Why it is important to regulate openness
Some experiences can increase our energy while some can drain it away, so being able to regulate to which ones and to what extent you open up may be important. This is not straightforward though. If we are not careful, certain situations can make us open up or close down when we don’t want to or more than we want to. Also we may develop the habit of being too open or too closed, and respond to situations inadequately in this respect. We will see soon what we can do to be more in charge of this ability, but we ought to consider first why, when and to what extent to open up.