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Please Keep Your Projections to Yourself

Please Keep Your Projections to Yourself

© 2002, Joyce A. Kovelman, Ph. D., Ph. D.


Did you ever wonder why some people irritate you while others inspire you? The answer is Projection. So what are projections, you ask? Projections are reflections of yourself that you encounter in another person. They belong to you, but it is safer to notice them in another and try to control its impact "out there" rather than "in here." We live in a world of projection and our growing depends on our ability to learn from those we love and with whom we share our lives. Our manifest world grants each of us necessary feedback by faithfully revealing what is happening "out there" so that we may learn where our growing and transformation is needed "inside."


One of my favorite ways of explaining projections is to paint a dark circle on my face with some chalk. Next, I look in a mirror and see the dark circle reflected back to me. Then I attempt to remove the image of the dark circle by wiping and cleaning the mirror, and yet the dark circle remains in view. No matter how much I try to remove the dark circle by cleaning the mirror, it remains. It is only when I return to the source, rather than its reflection/projection, that I am able to erase the image. I must remove the dark circle from my face if I want it to disappear from the reflection in the mirror. And so it is with everyone we meet. Each and every person exquisitely reflects back, who we are. In fact, all of life is a reflection. When we are angry and sad, the world echoes our anger and sadness, and when we feel happy and elated, so does is our world. Whenever I see someone who is irritating me, I must consider what I am doing that is equally as irritating. For we can never see the world as it truly is, but only as we are. It seems that we cannot fully know who we are and how we are perceived without the feedback of the external world. If I find someone bothers me because they have arrived late, I need to turn attention back to myself, not just them. My answer can only be found within myself.


Let us look at some projections. If I describe my friend as "too emotional" and try to change this person's behavior, it may actually reflect my own discomfort with emotions. I may feel that it is not ok to be "emotional" and that I need to keep a lid on my feelings and not let them out, so that people won't see how fearful or angry I really am. But I cannot repress my own emotions without also trying to suppress others as well.


Another projection is as follows. I have had a difficult day at work and come home tired and feeling unappreciated. I am uncomfortable with my anger and so look for someone to project it upon. You guessed it; soon I am arguing with my spouse and not appreciating the fact that she/he too has had a hard day at work and is also tired. The result: I am still angry and I have successfully proven how unappreciated I am, not only at work, but at home. It's a no-win scenario for everyone.


I invite you to observe the people in your life, and to begin to pay attention to what they reveal about you. If you do not trust another, is there an issue of trust in your own past that needs to be attended to? If you feel undervalued, what can you do to appropriately gain the attention and recognition you desire? If your loved ones are cool to you what role, if any, do you play in eliciting their behavior? Many stereotypes and prejudices are actually our own fears and feelings projected outwardly upon others who differ from us in some way. Sadly, many of our wars and crimes have been caused by misdirected projections, whereas peace begins within each and everyone one of us. We must first learn to make peace inside, before we can experience true and lasting peace in our everyday world.


It is never easy to look in the mirror and to see our selves portrayed in vivid technicolor, blemishes, wrinkles, warts and all. Yet, it has been said that "the truth will set you free" and this is what taking back your projections is about. For whenever we courageously reclaim our projections and own our reflections, we are granted the wisdom to grow, to evolve, and to heal both our self and our relationships. So I encourage you to keep your projections to yourself, to do the inner work of transformation, and to experience the fulfillment and loving relationships that come with owning who you are in each moment.

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