Hidden Projections

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(Reprinted from the Soul-Felt Intentions e-letter)

Michelle Skaletski-Boyd, C.HT.

A colleague of mine, whom we’ll call Kate, was quite distraught and requested that I call her when I could.When I was able to connect a few hours later, I could hear her baby crying in the background.

“Ahhhh,” she vented as she picked up the phone “I am surrounded by dysfunction.”

I started to laugh. “You are a counselor,” I reminded her.

“I know, but no. I’m talking about my personal life. It seems everywhere I turn there is drama, and for some reason I am getting pulled into it.”

“Tell me more,” I encouraged.

“Well, the lady next door has been venting to me about her spouse’s addiction, and he then comes over and vents about her. And our roommate is an alcoholic and has only been clean for a few months, and my husband who is recovering himself gets together with the two of them, and they all then turn on me. It’s so frustrating!”

I inhaled deeply and allowed Kate’s guides to speak. “And you want to fix it, right?”

“Yes,” Kate confirmed. “I’m really good at remaining neutral when I’m at work, but once I get home I get sucked right in.”

“Okay Kate,” I said, “Your guides want you to understand there’s a big difference between Mirroring & Projecting. — Imagine you and two of your friends, who are also new moms, are standing in your kitchen and talking about how easy the men have it when it comes to kids. The three of you are talking about labor pains and diaper changes and having to get up again and again throughout the night. You’re all bonding and relating really well, and just as the rapport is starting to gel, your spouse enters the kitchen and tries to fix everything. In fact, he really wants the three of you to see things from his point of view, so he begins to defend the dads of the world and starts to tell you nicely to stop dwelling in your drama and your pain, because deep down he wants to be close to you again. Though his intentions are good, what do you think might happen?”

“We’d resist,” Kate said.

“Oh Yea. You’d all hold your position, because there’s no way a male could possibly understand what it’s like to be a new mom, and the more he tries to convince you otherwise, the more the dysfunction remains.”

“So, I should just stay away?” Kate questioned.

“It’s more like remembering your husband doesn’t want to be counseled. And just as he’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a new mom, you can’t truly understand what it’s like to be a recovering addict, so instead of working on fixing him and his friends, work on fixing your illusive perceptions.”

As Kate and I ended our call, I’m not really sure she got the message; seeing our own projections can take awhile.

Sigmund Freud first discovered proj ecting when he noticed that his patients would sometimes accuse others of having the same feelings they themselves were demonstrating. (I’m thinking of being unfaithful, so I’ll accuse you of being unfaithful; I’m thinking of stealing from you, so I now fear you’ll steal from me; I have fears you’ll abandon me, so I’ll leave you first.)

With Kate it was seeing her fears of dysfunction all around her… From her next-door neighbor who “appears” to be so afraid of the addiction it’s now starting to take over her life – to the roommate who “may not” be able to stay on the path to recovery- to the spouse who “seems” to be pulling away more and more, Kate has come to believe everyone else is in a state of dysfunction when it’s her who needs to first fix herself.

Projecting is a classic unconscious defense mechanism used to cope with the feelings and emotions we have trouble dealing with and/or expressing on our own. Its psychological terms means “to external ize and attribute something, such as an emotion, to someone or something else.” (Webster’s)

The Dalai Lama has said, “Many problems around us are a mental projection of certain negative or unpleasant things. If we analyze our own mental attitude, we may find it quite unbearable. Therefore, a well-balanced mind is very useful, and we should try and have a stable mental state.”

Take time now to stable your mind. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when your unconscious mind starts dishing out some crazy clues.