The Space Odyssey of Projection: Part III


When relationships are problematic our ego finds it hard to believe that its lack of self-knowledge is part of the cause, but it is! Always! This is true whether the qualities we project onto others are negative, as in the examples from my last post, or positive. For instance, the people we admire or fall in love with have certain characteristics we unconsciously associate with our ideal selves. Those of us conditioned not to think too well of ourselves (lest we grow proud) often disown our positive qualities and ideals. In doing so, we lose conscious access to them and only regain it when we befriend others who look like our ideal. In reality, only parts of them are, but in the early throes of infatuation we never notice the parts which are not.  If we stay together long enough, however, they will become apparent and we will grow disenchanted.
If the relationship is to prosper we must withdraw our projections. In practice this means (1) acknowledging that the qualities we dislike in them are also parts of us, and (2) developing the positive qualities we’ve disowned in ourselves and assigned to them. Here’s why this works:
1: Withdrawing projections reduces separations and hostilities. Insofar as we believe our negative projections are true of others, they are acts of judgment which separate us.  Then completely innocent remarks are grounds for suspicion and misunderstanding and justification for blame.  Insofar as we believe our positive projections are true of others, they are one-sided contracts which we have written for them. Then if they break the contract we resent them for changing, misleading us, or forcing us to develop qualities we want them to carry.  “S/He betrayed me!” we think.  S/He was supposed to be the (choose one) logical one, wise one, practical one, romantic one, provider, nurturer, bill-payer, social director, problem-solver, creative thinker, muse, perfect lover, etc., but s/he’s changed!”
2: Withdrawing projections strengthens and heals relationships. Seeing that the value we thought was in the other is really in ourselves generates empathy and compassion. As our hearts soften we relate to others with more warmth, trust, openness, caring and honesty.
3. Withdrawing projections creates understanding and wisdom. It is not constructive to assume that our perspectives or values are common to everyone. It is constructive to recognize that they are true for us. When we neither over-value nor under-value our truths or those of others, we are on the road to wisdom.
4: Withdrawing projections re-energizes and empowers the body, mind, and spirit. Projection is a way of giving our libido, or psychological energy, to others. When we realize that the libido we invest in others is a projection, they lose their overpowering significance and the energy we invested in them returns to us. Knowing that the influence originates within us releases vitality, activates hidden potential and produces a oneness of being.  This brings a childlike state of bliss and a treasure of accumulated libido which can constantly stream forth like the energy of a child.
This is the psycho-spiritual meaning of the last image from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which Dr. David Bowman is transformed into a fetus floating in space and gazing at the Earth from within a transparent orb of light. He has evolved through the hero’s journey and been reborn as an enlightened spirit warrior with a cosmic point of view. No longer projecting his inner truths onto others, no longer ruled by instinct or ego, he no longer wants to control society but only to benefit it.  In my projection, this is the  best possible outcome of every soul’s odyssey through inner space.

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0 Responses

  1. Thank you for this clear and informative series of three reflections on projection, Jean. Yes, it is a hard concept to grasp in the personal unconsciousness of our own projections, yet it is at the heart of coming to have a conscious, loving relationship with self, others and nature: God! Can we even discover who we are or who/what God is without it? And are we not God/Love becoming consciously embodied as we see the whole truth of who we are? I find withdrawing my projections very sobering, empowering and freeing. As my self- acceptance and self- compassion expand, so does my heart open with more acceptance and compassion for those whom I have projected onto, as well as for those who project on to me, negatively or positively. It’s not usually quick or easy work, but in time, I find working through projections with others builds a more solid, honest and enduring relationship not only with myself but with others. I wish I had understood the concept of projection a lot earlier in my life and how to work with it. Yet, I believe ego has to be strong enough to bear the whole truth of who we are in service to the soul for our psycho-spiritual maturity. Patience is important! For me it is the foundation for a genuinely satisfying human existence.

    1. Very well said, Julie. Thank you for these wonderful observations. I, too have found that patience “is the foundation for a genuinely satisfying human existence,” mostly because it enables us to tolerate the tension of conflict until a solution comes. Having a solution arrive without having to do anything but observe the forces at work in us and tolerate them, and wait—all without forcing anything, has been key to my ability to relax, release ego attachments, and trust the benevolence of the universe. I don’t know of anything more freeing! Jeanie

  2. Yes, I agree from my experience too, that tolerating the tension of conflict until a solution comes even if not always easy, seems to bring a breakthrough from the patient “cooking” of the psyche beyond what the ego may not feel possible, My favorite word right now is “allowing”. Yes, I like your expression….”trust the benevolence of the universe”, I’m still learning how to lean into that allowing more fully.
    Thank you for your companioning presence in my somewhat isolated rural retreat center life Jean.

      1. Good morning, Jean. Thank you for your comments.
        This morning I’ve been pondering Jung’s response to Job. I’ve not read yet, but am wondering if it might not be about what we have been expressing here about holding the tension of painful things happening in our lives without concluding that they are bad but rather kindling for this internal cooking of the suffering and uncertainty until it transforms our worn out, dysfunctional ego operating system with more whole perspectives of ourselves, others and what is happening. It seems we can choose to allow suffering to give us clear sight for what is true and good, or allow it to destroy our confidence in the fundamental goodness of the life within us and around us no matter what is happening. We seem to be in such times of “cooking” individuals, as a nation, as a planet. I surely feel the intensity of the heat in my own life wanting to burn away egoic dross.
        Yes, Isolation does take many forms. I’m always surprised…yet not really, when my city friends or those busy with lots of comings and goings, speak of their sense of isolation or loneliness. This feeling is such an invitation to the inner life, to self examination, yet so feared. It seem we need to surrender to the suffering in loneliness to truly appreciate and benefit from the fires of transformation that can be found there. I wonder if anything authentic and worthy of creation comes from any other place?

        1. Hi Julie,
          I read Jung’s response to Job several years ago and although I can’t remember much about it I do think this is essentially what he was saying. Synchronistically, I’m collaborating on another book with William Horden and have just been writing about the alchemical process. As you know, the first step is Calcinatio: exposing the element to fire. Psychologically this represents purging desire and becoming immune to our powerful instincts and emotions. Only after that happens can the egocentric power drive be transformed and a connection with the Self be established. So yes, suffering in loneliness is necessary if we are to discover the gold in ourselves.

  3. Three terrific posts, Jeanie. Great material presented in an easy to understand format. I’ve read a number of books and articles on this subject that have made my hair work. I bet you could put these insights and lessons into some wonderful, real life, stories.
    Your posts are always interesting and enlightening.

  4. On Projection
    Once upon a time the Creator and Creatrix were discussing some very eternal issues involving their children.
    How will we help them love themselves?
    Oh, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble doing that.
    I mean really love themselves, with grace, compassion, and dignity.
    We will need to implant the projectors.
    It’s risky.
    Isn’t there another way?
    We’ve been discussing it for millennia and we can’t find any other alternatives. It’s going to be hard enough for our children to accept their divinity, let alone when they need to make inner changes. The projectors will help them see themselves so they will know what changes need to be made.
    That’s the hope. You know as well as I that what’s really going to happen is that the children will project onto others and stop right there. They are going to become so passive and apathetic as time goes by, especially as the media-age moves through, that they won’t realize what they’re seeing is really themselves. They’ll just throw around the things about themselves they don’t like and then blame others for their own shortcomings.
    That’s so glass-half-empty.
    It’s realistic.
    Why not envision a scenario where they project themselves onto others out of a deep, inner reverence for the person they are projecting onto and out of a deep, inner reverence for themselves? Perhaps there will be prophets and sages among them who will illustrate how projection, far from being a hindrance, can be a blessing.
    Well, it is, after all, how we see each other.
    Precisely. There are no mirrors here—only each other’s eyes. That’s the only way we see ourselves.
    And we’re doing pretty well.
    Remember what you said before though, they are going to have a hard time accepting that they are divine.
    They will suffer. They will have to go through growing pains.
    That’s OK. If the egg shell was soft, the bird would die. The bird is protected for its incubation and then struggles to free itself from within. That struggle is good. It strengthens the muscles to be used later in flight. Our children will need struggle too—from the inside out struggle. Projection might actually give them comfort once they truly understand it.
    I suppose that’s possible.
    Well they will have actual mirrors in their world. Some of our children will become so transfixed by their own image that they will see themselves everywhere, forgetting that the object of a projector is to project a moving story onto the surface of another so as to learn, perhaps even be entertained, but certainly to come away from the experience seeing exactly in themselves what they saw on the screen of the other, so they can grow.
    And not just things they don’t like. That will take the children some getting used to, for they will become, over time, conditioned to look for, and only see, their faults and the things that need adjusting. It will take them along time to begin to see the qualities in themselves that they love in one another.
    But they will. In fact, the more they do, the more they will truly love one another. Imagine how much better their world will be once that begins to happen.
    It still sounds so risky.
    It IS risky, but it is also an adventure. They will learn about themselves and those around them and will eventually be able to love themselves and each other more fully. They will all become like walking bodies of water that hold the sun’s reflection on the surface. They will reflect on one another, shine on one another, blend together and become oceans and rivers.
    It sounds so beautiful, but it could get muddled, they could lose themselves in each other and never be able to see themselves or the other person clearly again.
    That’s only possible if they forget how to weep, both for sorrow and for joy. Tears will keep the water clean and moving. If they forget how to grieve or how to laugh they will dry up and their projectors will become stuck and the lenses covered with the grim of fear, and then, yes, your predication of danger might come true.
    If it does, we’ll be there to help them.
    Of course. We’ll be in them looking out through their eyes the whole time.
    Let’s hope they feel us within. Let’s hope they see themselves and each other the way we see them. They are so dear, so infinitely dear.
    Just like you, my love, just like you.

    1. Joseph, I love this! It reminds me very much of some dialogues between God and Goddess that are in my upcoming book. I also have a chapter on projection in it with a sample dream of my own. I love it that we’re tapping into the same creative Source. Thanks for sending this. Jeanie

  5. Thanks Jeanie, I’m glad you like it. I can’t wait for your book. And those dialogues already have me intrigued. The first God and Goddess dialogue I wrote was inspired by your “Embellishment” post way back in August. I don’t remember if I ever shared it with you. Here’s the link from the September post I put it on. Thank you again for your kind encouragement. It is so wonderful to be sharing the same wavelengths with you. 🙂 Peace. Joseph

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