You and your partner meet someone at a party. On the way home, you say, “Wasn’t Joe a nice guy? So interesting. Wouldn’t mind getting to know him better.” And your partner replies, “Are you kidding? How could you be taken in by that guy? What a phony.”
Who is right? Both are. Perception is based on subjective reality, not objective. We all look through a unique pair of glasses, so we see people and the world through different filters. What you see is true for you. What your partner sees is true for him or her. Everyone is right from their own perspective.
The world and people reflect back to us what we project on them. First impressions offer an excellent example of projection. Since they are formed in a matter of seconds, they cannot be based on who the person actually is. They are a reaction based primarily on appearance. We project positive feelings on people whose appearance we like, approve of or relate to. Our reaction is negative if we don’t like their appearance.
Of course, you might not have any opinion of a person you just met. Projection is in effect only when there is an emotional or judgmental reaction.
TRY THIS: Become aware of how quickly you evaluate, judge, label and react to people based strictly on appearance. You are the cause of your emotions and attitude, not the other person.
Our projections and reactions are affected by a variety of factors…
MEMORIES: I dislike this woman because she reminds me of Aunt Mary and I didn’t like Aunt Mary.
PREJUDICE: We automatically dislike people of a different color or religion or political party etc.
VALUES: S/he’s not of my class, not worth knowing.
EXPECTATIONS: I heard about you and knew I wouldn’t like you.
MOOD: Our judgments are harsher when we are in a bad mood.
We see in others what we don’t want to acknowledge in ourselves.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves. Carl Jung
Projection occurs when we dissociate from something in ourselves and see it externally. We blame people and situations for causing our emotions when, in fact, they resonate what is already within us. Rather than own our negative thoughts and feelings, we project them out. Now we see our repressed anger or guilt or selfishness or weakness out there. We think the fault is external, not internal. Thus we maintain the illusion of innocence.
Projection is a defense mechanism whereby we disown undesirable aspects of ourselves. It is difficult to grasp this concept if we apply it solely to form. Perhaps you see a story about a murderer on television. You react strongly to the killer, hope he gets the greatest punishment possible. That can’t possibly be a mirror for you; you’ve never murdered anyone.
But wait. Look at the content of murder – destroying, eradicating – can you relate to that? Have you ever wanted to kill someone? Have you ever crushed someone’s spirit or damaged their reputation? Maybe you project your murderous thoughts onto fictional characters in books or movies, or people in the news. Didn’t you just hope that the murderer you saw on television gets put to death?
What we really want to kill is the dark side of ourselves, the part we have repressed and deemed bad, unworthy of love. Rather than confront the negative energy within us, we project hateful thoughts and feelings onto externals. Then we want to reject or attack the object we projected on. Projection would be a nice way to get rid of repressed thoughts and emotions if it worked, but it doesn’t.
THE PROBLEM WITH PROJECTION
1. Projection makes repressed feelings and thoughts appear outside us. It doesn’t get rid of them.
2. Repressed feelings can’t be healed if denied.
3. Projection seems to justify feelings of hate and attack thereby reinforcing our dark side.
4. We think we are condemning another but we are actually condemning ourselves.
Attacking or changing the external picture will not make our negative feelings go away. We may feel better for the moment but those nasty feelings will just go underground and garner more strength.
The trouble with trying to run away is that mirrors are the same everywhere you go.
Projection is a most helpful tool. It shows us what is inside, what we need to acknowledge and heal. If we are honest about what we are feeling and recognize that we are responsible for it, we will not project.
HONESTY/ACKNOWLEDGEMENT IS THE
OPPOSITE OF DENIAL/REPRESSION
REMEMBER: It is always our interpretation and reaction that upsets us, not another person or event. We should actually be grateful for whatever resonates repressed energy. It opens the door to the unconscious mind so we can see what’s hidden there. Every irritation provides a chance to take back a projection and work on ourselves.
Should you really open your eyes and see, you would behold your image in all images.
And should you open your ears and listen, you would hear your own voice in all voices.