Anyone who deals with their own emotional world will sooner or later come across the concept of projection. It originally comes from psychoanalysis. Within the framework of this theory, projection is a defence mechanism.
If feelings, thoughts, desires, or character traits arise that frighten us, it can happen that a defence mechanism comes into play: Because it would be too uncomfortable to own these thoughts or feelings, we unconsciously project them onto someone else.
Jason, what does the topic “Projections” mean to you personally?
Understanding projections allowed me to understand my fear of external relationships much better and thus served as a doorway to become the practitioner and teacher that I am today.
I really only understood the topic of projections somewhere in my mid 20’s, while I was studying another modality called Psychophonetics. This taught me a range of therapeutic tools to help a client get into their inner world – allowing them to see what is really going on when we react to certain situations. This was such an eye opener for me and my own challenges in social environments. It confirmed that my thoughts, feelings and reactions when I met certain types of people, were not coming from my authentic Self. What really happened is that I was encountering what I expected/projected to happen, because of similar experiences coming from my past.
For the first time I got in touch with my own, usually suppressed, shadow-self and the vulnerable boy within that was scared to be around other people. Additionally, understanding projections helped me see other people much better. I began to see them not as a threat anymore, but as people struggling with their own inner stories which had nothing to do with me.
A message I give to all my clients: Hardly anything people do is actually about you. Really holding on to this knowledge frees you from constantly trying to see the subtext in every encounter.
Thank you for sharing this, I am sure we can all relate to it. In your words, what are “Projections”?
Projections are actually quite a wide topic, but simply put, they are the filters we see the world through. They are unconscious expectations and beliefs regarding the outside world, often based on past experiences – childhood patterns, past lives, and key encounters.
We all have projections. However, we are not always aware of them. Projections are constantly gathered through our experiences and expectations of Self and others, our insecurities, our beliefs, our fears and our joys. Projections are happening on autopilot. The more we practise to understand our reactions to certain people’s behaviour, rather than trying to understand their motivations, the greater our chance to catch our own projections. This is how we learn to respond to situations rather than reacting to them.
That’s why I am so passionate about self-development and the modality of Life Alignment. It enables us to look at our thoughts, emotions and actions that are causing discomfort and chaos in our lives and helps to identify if projections are initiating them.
Projections are happening all the time. They exist in all our personal beliefs about our life roles in business and personal relationships. On top of it other people project their expectations and stories onto us about those same roles. Can you see how diluted and subjective this can get? For instance, there will be projections between a husband and wife as to their roles in the relationship. There are projections between friends, depending on what they expect from their relationship with each other. Do we not all know examples such as a friend calling you saying they can’t come over tonight, because they are exhausted from work? This could easily trigger old wounds from childhood, around abandonment, betrayal and a sense of low self-worth. Something the friend had no intention of triggering, they were simply (and rightfully so) thinking of their own needs: Too tired to come over.
Why do we often experience the same triggers/ projections over and over again?
Dealing with trigger systems is more like a journey, than a quick fix. Triggers, to a degree, become habitual. There is a need to keep reminding the inner-child that it is safe. The critic or other guard system that is unconsciously called into play, must be reminded about their new, conscious responses to familiar situations rather than the previous habitual responses.
Are projections only a negative thing?
Projections are our subjective truth. None of us see the world in exactly the same way – how could we? From the point of view of the therapist, we only deal with the negative aspects of projections, the parts that come from old wounds that still have an energetic charge. But there are usually positive projections working reasonably well in our lives, until they don’t. For example, in a loving relationship we see things through the filter of love, and it is quite common for each party to struggle to see the other as ‘bad’ in any way. This will serve the relationship for a while, until something happens that shatters that illusion. Then the couple are left with a choice, to accept the truth of their relationship or move on.
Another example of a positive projection often happens between a client and therapist, as the client gives themselves over to the expected expertise of the therapist, which in turn allows the therapist to deeply explore the inner-world of the client, and help where they can.
Some projections can be consciously agreed to between partners. Which in normal therapy is no longer called a projection, it becomes a contract. But that contract is essentially a projection, an expectation that is projected onto the other. Such as the expectation that the other person will ‘always have my back’, which both parties can work hard to support, and will potentially develop into a support system for both of them.
How do projections affect our global community, the current world?
Mostly we see the result of toxic projections when we interact with the outside world. We usually see it in hindsight when we have an unexplained angry reaction with others, or someone else has a similar unexplained reaction with us, and we are left wondering what happened.
I often think that I can see it in political situations, local and global. I think that it is evident in all aspects of community life. Between neighbours and colleagues, between friends and enemies. As long as there are humans interacting with each other, there are expectations, conscious and unconscious at play. Some of those projections will serve the relationship and others will not.
For instance, historically there has been a global projection from older times that our leaders have our best interests at heart, particularly those that we have voted into power. A projection that has served governments, more than the common person, and a projection that I see crumbling everywhere nowadays, as people are waking to the fact that our leaders are more interested in their own vested interests than the needs of the common person who voted for them.
In fact, we are living in a time where projections play a big part in our modern society. Movements like the ‘Black lives matter’ movement are coming from a very wounded place. This does not mean that their pain isn’t valid, but it does mean they see things through a very particular filter. And any filter will distort the truth.
The pandemic that we all just went through is another great example of modern projections, it brought up lots of projections around safety, trust, leadership etc.
You mentioned Life Alignment as a suitable tool to work with projections earlier. What does Life Alignment do in this case?
Life Alignment is an amazing tool to bypass the conscious and unconscious projections that play out in our relationships. We use the ‘Questions during balancing’ list, which side steps the conventional step by step ideas of therapy around projections. And can quickly transport the client out of their personal drama, into a space where they are able to observe their reactions – such as frustration or anger. It creates a safe space to get in touch with the inner realm thus creating a place for inner and outer healing as well as cleaning the lenses we use to investigate the world.
For example, the question ‘Change polarity’ gets our clients to see things from another point of view, rather than be locked into their own perspective. Also, less obvious questions like, ‘Connection with Higher Self, deceased person, guide, teacher, diva, animal guide etc’ I have found immensely useful when working with clients who are struggling to step out of their projections. For a profound moment, they can see things from a higher, more neutral point of view. A Life Alignment session has a sustainable effect on the client because it works with the autonomic nervous system. What might have triggered our sympathetic nervous system and put us in fight and flight, can be reconnected to the parasympathetic parts of our nervous system. This is the difference I was mentioning earlier between reacting and responding. The LA Balance reintroduces a healthier alternative to a restricted reality.
Archetypes are coming up in some LA sessions. Is this relevant?
Yes. When we use the archetype list in Life Alignment, whether it be to address an archetype that no longer serves us or an archetype that we need to invoke or use in some way, we automatically engage the client’s projections, as they project their own understanding of that aspect into the archetype. This can also be another example of a positive projection, as the client may need to aspire to their understanding of that particular archetype.
What can I do at home to work with my projections?
Understanding projections is just the first step in your healing journey. Afterwards there is usually still a need to accept your shadows (the suspected and known darkness that dwells in all of us) and move from unconsciously reacting when you are triggered to consciously responding.
Start by practising to catch yourself when you react badly to others. Which, in the beginning, you will have to do in a safe place where you are not feeling threatened, such as at home, in a conversation with a trusted person or in cooperation with a LA practitioner. The more you practise catching your reactions, the quicker you will get control over your projection, rather than letting them control you. Eventually you will begin catching yourself during a confrontation, and eventually you will not react to triggers at all. The Presence Vortex Card helps with centring and grounding and is very useful in this context.
By viewing the other who you might initially blame for the confrontation (And by no means is this saying that the other does not deserve any blame) you can see what that has triggered within you. Now you can make a new choice about it – a new conscious response rather than your unconscious reaction. A deeper understanding and acceptance of your shadow-self leads to a compassionate acceptance of the shadows of others. This does not mean condoning atrocious acts performed by others, but it does lead to lessening the unnecessary charge, allowing you to see the other more clearly.
When you get home after an encounter where you feel like you could have handled yourself better, spend some time reviewing what happened. Be honest with yourself. What was the reaction protecting? What else did you expect? What else was at play during the encounter? What did that vulnerable part actually need to be protected? Is there maybe something else that needs to be understood, loved or heard? Questions like these will lead you to see what you truthfully need to do and understand. In doing so you are moving from reacting to responding.