Denying it within ourselves, we naturally project it onto others, onto the world. It cannot be stopped until we begin reeling in our projections, for it is unconscious.
As humans, we are natural projectors. We throw our lives out onto the “screen” of life where everyone can view it, just as a movie is projected onto to that big screen in front of the audience.
But what are we projecting? Do we realize we are creating a “movie” for others to experience and view? We can easily entertain others, or scare them!
Are we being helpful? Or are we hurting ourselves and others?
A simple rule of thumb to find out whether we are projecting is to notice whether we are judging, blaming or labeling someone or something “right” or “wrong.”
If so, it’s a projection. Making things right or wrong is not the same as seeing them as wholesome or unwholesome.
The latter is discernment, not judgement. When we think in these ways and use restraint in our words and actions we can look for helpful ways of improving the situation. This will carry no blame, but will offer alternative solutions.
“Projection is the error of attaching an aspect of your inner life onto something or someone on the outside.”
From Contentment, by Robert A. Johnson and Jerry Ruhl, Jungian authors and analysts.
Examples are disliking other’s negativity, but failing to see our own.
Or focusing on the mistakes of others while denying our own.
Perhaps we project our inner strength and beauty onto someone else, thinking this person has amazing qualities that we lack.
Or we angrily blow up at others, or a situation, without finding out where the anger comes from. What is causing it? No one else causes our anger, no matter how tempting that is to believe.
When we turn our attention inward and investigate the anger we can see that first of all it is a wake-up call, informing us that we need to look more deeply at what is going on. Yes, wake up!
Then, if we are wise, we will stop, pause, breathe, journal, read something helpful, meditate or call our sponsor so that we don’t project it onto others.
As we become calmer we can discover how we are seeing this situation. There are many ways to see any situation. If blame is the first tool in our skill set, we need to keep investigating. What we blame is something we are anxious about.
The following reactions are signs of projection: (From Contentment, Johnson and Ruhl)
3) Out of proportion to the reality of the situation
I would add another: Impatient
Rather than automatically going into any of these patterns, let’s look for other choices.
Our inner life needs our attention so that we can see what we want to spread around. All that we don’t take responsibility for within us will be projected “out there” and will affect others.
So, when we are disturbed, let’s first pause and breathe!
Then reel our projections in and take time to investigate them. Be honest about our real intentions. A journal is helpful, or a mentor we can speak with, or a therapist. There are many ways to do this.
By getting into root causes we can then, and only then take appropriate action.
Faithfully sitting with the discomfort of anxiety is not easy. It is a skill that can be learned from a wise teacher.
The Buddha said that we learn the truth by first hearing it from someone else.
We eventually learn that everything that arises passes away, thus we can sit with things patiently until they pass away. This also is not easy.
As it passes, we can learn from whatever is happening. This is the path to liberation.
Science has proven that subatomic particles influence each other from a distance—as do our thoughts and emotions. Everything touches the other in some way.
We are always affecting and influencing one another. If we truly want a more peaceful world, it must begin with us.
Let’s train ourselves to respond in ways that build bridges between us, rather than walls. Take time to find out what our souls really need. Love, not revenge, will always be the answer.
A rule of thumb for our speech is:
1) Is it true? Really true? Telling the truth always is not easy!
2) Is it kind? Gossip, passing on rumors is not kind.
3) Does it come from a warm heart? We have to ask what our real motivation is before we can answer this.
4) Is it appropriate? Is it timely?
We need to ask if the action we are considering will truly benefit all beings. Look down the road to see what results will possibly follow the action we are contemplating. What is likely to happen? Is this what we want?
If our intention is to help lighten the journey of others, rather than hinder, first we need to clean up our own act.
I have just spent a week at a silent retreat looking at all the stuff I normally project out onto the world. A silent Buddhist retreat is dealing with unconscious habits of the mind, such as projections.
Not easy, but it leads to such peace, joy and harmony that it’s worth it!
In lovingkindness, Rev. Billie