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.