Releasing Yourself: Expressing Your True Feelings

How do you release yourself?

In this video, Ken Mogi talks about how intimate moments provide us with the opportunity to express our true selves.

A form of self-expression

Ken: Now, releasing yourself. In Japan, we use these words honne and tatemae. Honne is one’s true heart, and tatemae is social appearances depending on the context. For example, when I talk with Nick, we are great friends, so we talk with our true heart, and that is honne.

But when you’re not so familiar with somebody, you might come up with some tatemae, social appearances. So the Japanese people use these two things. So enkai, the Japanese way of drinking together is a great opportunity to release yourself, and say you’re honne.

Yasujiro Ozu is a very famous Japanese director, and he uses this context of tatemae and honne, true heart and social appearances, beautifully in his films. And this is a typical izakaya, it’s a drinking place in Japan, and this is actually something familiar because I go there quite regularly, it’s called Asari, and it’s near the Sony Computer science laboratory.

So when I go to the Sony lab, sometimes I go to this exact place with my friend, and it’s really wonderful. So the Japanese psyche is made of two layers, you have true heart, honne, and then tatemae, social appearances.

And a real friendship, like the one with Nick Kemp and I, we talk to each other through our true heart. But at the same time, you have social appearances. So this is a kind of a mechanism which we communicate with people in Japan.

And it is related to grooming. This is really funny, I mean, monkeys groom each other and they build social bond and release endorphins, and so on. This professor from Oxford University, Robin Dunbar, has been studying the relationship between the size of the neocortex and mean clique size. Clique here means with harmony, monkeys would be grooming together.

And in humans, Dunbar number, the number of grooming size is actually about 150. So if you have somebody whom you have occasional conversation with, and that is about 150, then you are using your brain great. But if you have less than 150 friends, maybe you can extend your social round.

The Japanese version of small talk, zatsudan, is characterised by the diversity of topic, without any particular agenda. So in zatsudan, small talk, you release yourself, whether in the izakaya or not, and by expressing your honne, you can tell other person in the zatsudan your true heart and you can release.

You know, Japanese culture is very great in releasing one’s self. Like in karaoke, you wouldn’t have dreamt in the Western culture that amateurs would sing in front of people because it’s so intimidating. It’s not Australia’s Got Talent . It’s not that Japan’s Got Talent. You can sing clumsily, but you can enjoy yourself, and this is a very important aspect of ikigai, releasing yourself.