“Life is a series of events and sensations. Everything else is interpretation. Much is lost in translation and added in assumption/projection”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru
Hello fellow happiness searchers, life livers, realists, optimists, and projectionists. Allow me to introduce you to my newest self-discovery… projection.
What is projection theory?
According to Freudian theory, these are illicit desires, and in (rational emotive and cognitive behavior therapy R.E.C.B.T), they are ideas about ourselves that we can’t accept. The reason they are unacceptable is that they negatively reflect how you feel you “should” be.
It is a strange concept if it is new to you. Trust me when I say I rejected the thought that the things that upset and bothered me in other people happened to be the exact traits I have trouble accepting within myself. It is not an easy pill to swallow and I am still rejecting and projecting in many of my relationships. What can I say I like to be right. Don’t we all?
The first step it seems is always awareness and the universe has a way of shaking awareness into you if a lesson needs to be learned.
So allow me to take you through three recent events that first introduced me to the idea of projection and helped me gain a healthy dose of awareness in this area of my life.
My first encounter with this idea was during a guided meditation practice. I think the theme was dealing with difficult people or something along those lines.
The process of this meditation was to sit and imagine a person in which I had great difficulty understanding or liking. Then during the mediation, I had to enter the feeling of dislike and feel it fully. Fun I know, but not difficult to do as sometimes the mere thought of this person stressed me out.
The next step was to try to identify the negative traits that the person had that caused me discomfort. Lastly, I had to identify within myself how I was showing those same traits towards that person or myself.
It was pretty powerful stuff believe it or not. An eye opener to me that many of the things that infuriated me about this person were exactly what I was doing to them in return. I was projecting my own feelings and negative emotions onto them, viewing that projection and then rejecting them. Both in myself and that person, and a great amount of confusion and inner conflict obviously followed.
After repeating this exercise with this person in mind I was better able to relate and let go of my negative projected emotions, slowly and gradually leading to a better acceptance of them and even some of those traits within myself.
That was the first of many encounters with the truth of projection.
The second came in the form of an argument I had with a former friend of mine. I was met by this person with so much hostility and blamed and berated by accusations and assaults that made very little sense to me. I felt blindsided and shocked that this person held onto so much negative and inaccurate information about me for so long. I was blamed for being insensitive, judgmental, and harsh, while in this person’s actions they were the one actually showing those qualities.
Another friend of mine mentioned that this person was projecting her feelings onto me, then seeing them in me. Projection and rejection. It made a lot of sense. I could see it more clearly now.
Projection reared its ugly little head.
Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done to save that toxic relationship. However, I did leave that encounter with a greater sense of the power of projection and how if left unchecked it can distort your perception of reality and have dire consequences on your relationships, and yourself.
The third encounter I had was after group meditation one evening. A small group of us sit and meet to discuss a different Buddhist Lojong slogan every week. This particular week it was the following slogan.
Slogan 26. Don’t ponder others — Don’t take pleasure contemplating others weaknesses.
My interest was peaked.
Someone spoke to how this slogan made them think of projection and how they struggled with analyzing others motives and actions in their life, causing so much discomfort and turmoil in their relationships. She said.
“If you can easily see a trait within someone else then it is present within yourself. If it wasn’t you would not be able to see it.”
A thought I had never considered before, but once realized I could easily see that it was very true. Projection is all around us. Projection is a part of this strange reality we create for ourselves.
I hope my experiences can help you to identify projection in your own life.
If you think that projection does not affect you then you are probably denying yourself from this crucial self-truth. We are all guilty, as it is part of the human experience.
Projection often takes the form of jealousy, anger or controlling feelings so if you experience any of these feelings towards someone then it is a good indication that you are projecting them, and rejecting them within yourself. So try to identify how you may be projecting as it will help free you from negative emotions, will open you up to compassion and allow true healthy relationships to flourish.
Everyone is unique and everyone desires the same things in life as you. Happiness, love, safety. Very few people are malicious in nature, which is not easy to believe when you are projecting.
This is something I have been working on lately, and although I have a long long way to go, I can confidently say that it has helped drastically change how I view some relationships of mine. Externally I have a greater patience and understanding for others and internally I have better patience and understanding for myself.
Check out the Lojong slogans to help train your mind and cultivate compassion towards yourself and others.