THE POWER OF PROJECTION: WHEN YOU CAN'T SEE THE TRUTH
What do you think of when you hear the word "projection?"
Personally, I think of a blank white screen and an old film being projected onto it. A picture created by beams of colorful light, telling us a story, entertaining us and filling us with all sorts of emotions.
Projection is a powerful thing. Probably one of the most powerful psychological and emotional qualities that sets humans apart from other animals.
We project our thoughts onto paper and create stories, songs, and poetry. We project our ideas and create incredible inventions and we project our hearts deepest wishes, desires and pains onto others and relationships, all without even consciously realizing it.
Therapists learn about projection in school and through clinical supervision. We use it as a guide to better understand our client's and help them.
Even though I am a therapist and very well educated and aware of this process, I never realized my own issues around it. Due to some recent personal experiences, I believe it's important for everyone to be educated and understand the power of projection because it impacts so many different aspects of our lives.
On top of being a clinician... I am a writer, an empath, storyteller, a dreamer and a romantic. I spent many years living in fantasy and truly believing that I had found the "love of my life," believing that our love was unique and meant to be. I avoided and ignored anything that challenged my reality.
That came with a lot of expectations and "shoulds," which I projected onto my partner and the relationship.
Let me tell you this: No matter how much you love someone, there are some things about a person that you can not change. It doesn't matter how hard you try or what you do, they won't ever be able to be the person you have made them out to be in your mind-unless they choose to change on their own.
I projected my wishes, needs, and love onto my ex-partner and created a story about "us" that wasn't true and I did everything in my power to support the storyline of the "future," I imagined with him.
It was too scary to realize that I was the projector and he was the screen. The life and person that I thought that I was in love with was only an illusion being reflected back to me.
The qualities that I admired about him, were actually qualities that I lacked in myself. He was spontaneous, creative and put his needs first. I always wanted to be that way- but never felt like I had the space to do that. He was also a lost soul, wanderer and at times lacked direction.... I wanted to be the one who helped guide him.
It took me a lot of self-reflection, therapy, and insight into my own issues to realize that the reason I wanted to be the one who "saved" him was because I wanted to feel worthy. I wanted to be good and loveable enough to change the bad-boy.
He began to represent all the positive and negative qualities that I wished to have or needed to heal, within myself.
This is the exact reason why so many people end up in the wrong relationships.
If we are not "whole" within ourselves first, we find a partner, friends or get into relationships that unconsciously reflect all of our insecurities, pain and unmet needs-with the hope that they will somehow "complete us."
The hard truth is that the only person who can truly complete you is... YOU.
When we project things onto others, we are only defending ourselves against acknowledging our own positive and negative qualities. By ignoring them in ourselves and seeing them in another, it allows us to take the blame and focus off of ourselves.
Naturally, looking into our own "shit" is often much harder than focusing on someone else. However, it's the most important thing that we can do to begin living in an authentic way and creating fulfilling, healthy and truth-based relationships.
Here are some things that you can do to stop projecting:
Notice What Bothers You: Do you hate flaky people? Does the arrogant guy at work piss you off? Do you notice yourself feeling jealous of your friend for her confidence? These are all examples of projection. What bothers us about others is usually triggering something in ourselves that we need to take a look at and work on. I always like to say: "It's never about them... it's always about YOU."
Challenge Your Truth: We tend to see what we want to see and sometimes that is not necessarily the truth. Whether you idealize your partner or you put all the blame on your best friend for something, it's important to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. Take out the emotion and try to examine it as a third party- notice if you see things from a different perspective. Shifting our reality is never fun, but it is often necessary.
Ask For Feedback: Sometimes those closest to us see things much more clearly then we do. Especially when it comes to relationships and situations that we are involved in. Choose a few people that you know have your best interest at heart and ask them for their feedback, be open to hearing some hard truths and use what they say to challenge your perspective. I promise you they will highlight some things that you may not have realized.
Take Responsibility: The only person responsible for your happiness, fulfillment, and life is you. It's so much easier to hold a magnifying glass onto others... But, true growth and happiness come when you turn it around on yourself. Take a look at the areas of your life where you need to take responsibility for your actions and stop blaming others for the way things are going. As independent adults who have freedom of choice, we need to realize that no one can have power over us- unless we give it to them.
Finally, I want to end this post with an acknowledgment of how difficult this process is. It was a hard blow to realize how much I depended on my ex and our relationship to make me feel "whole." It made me question myself and my intuition about things. It shook my reality and it brought me to the most vulnerable place in my life.
Despite all of that pain, heartbreak, and loss, it also has allowed me to see what parts of myself needed work and healing. It created the space for me to learn to value and love myself first. It taught me that the only relationship that is guaranteed for a lifetime is the one that I have with myself, so it sure as hell better be a good one.
It still is not easy.
In fact, I found myself in a situation this weekend where I realized that I had once again projected parts of my wounded soul onto someone else. I thought that I had conquered that demon- but I haven't. I am still healing and still learning how to be a "whole" human and someone came along and momentarily eased some of the pain that I had been feeling.
These moments blind us from seeing the reality of the situation for what it actually is. Once again, I was looking to someone else to make me feel ok, rather than finding peace within myself.
This is a time of transformation for me. I am becoming the woman, therapist, daughter, friend, and human that I am supposed to be. I am trying to learn to be compassionate towards myself and aware of the parts of me that still need to develop and grow. I wanted to share this post because I know first hand how beautiful and painful it can be when the projector stops playing and we are faced with the reality of a blank screen.
Just remember, it will all be worth it in the end.