What is Projection & How Does It Work?

You may have already heard; not since the Civil War has our country been so polarized. We see ourselves as the ones who are right and virtuous, and we see the ‘other guys’ as stupid & villainous. It seems so simple and clear to us that our conclusions are correct. 

Unfortunately we actually know very little about ourselves. Certainly not enough to trust our own judgements! Our perception and sense making is undermined by our own unconscious, which constitutes the majority of our psyche. In other words, your unconscious overpowers and compels your conscious perceptions, and judgements. 

What is Projection? 

Projection is when your unconscious sees it’s own qualities outside of itself. Projection is when you see a quality of yourself in another person. The mistake projection makes is that it misidentifies itself in the world outside of itself. It believes that it is seeing the objective world, when really it is seeing itself superimposed upon the world. 

How the shadow is born

So why do we project ourselves onto others? In order to understand projection we have to understand where it comes from. Why would you project a part of yourself onto another? Well….because you don’t like that part! 

We come into the world whole and authentic and then something happens. We soon learn from others that certain parts of ourselves are unacceptable. In order to be accepted by others, we deny and disown our own unwanted parts. But don’t blame your parents, they went through the same thing you did. They’re just passing it down through the generations. It’s a family tradition. 

Judgement, denial, and projection are old family traditions. 

It’s FULL ON DENIAL; when we have no idea that these parts still exist. But that doesn’t mean they have gone away. They are still alive & well, hidden beneath the surface, and pissed off from being given the cold shoulder. Think of it as a dog you’ve locked in the basement and aren’t feeding. It’s getting hungrier. 

You have several wild dogs living in your house. Some bark, some bite, some recklessly chase cars, and some poop everywhere. It’s a party!

The Shadow Dynamic 

This is where things start to get interesting. Earlier when I said these parts of ourselves are unconscious, I lied. We are absolutely conscious of our shadows when we see them showing up on other people’s faces; upon the face of the world. What we are unconscious to is the fact that they belong to us.

We misidentify it’s source when we project our shadow onto another. If there’s a selfish and lazy part of me that I have disowned, then I will invariably notice it in others and think “they’re lazy.” Not only will I notice it, but I will be emotionally triggered by it. Negative emotion is usually the first indicator light flashing on your dashboard. 

Bad news! Your biggest triggers are your biggest projections. You are triggered because it’s reminding you of what you despise most about yourself. “Oops.” 

What is a big trigger for you? Can you find just a teeny- tiny example of how you act in the same way at times? 

So now that you know what a basket case you are, what can you do about it? In the next article, we will talk about how to take ownership of your shadow and become whole once again.

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