You may often be fascinated by finding images seen in the shapes and textures of clouds. Is that the profile of Gandhi or a rabbit? The well-known Rorschach inkblot psychological test works in this manner. How do you get from that cluster of clouds or blob of ink to a distinct image?
When unrecognizable images are shown to you, your conscious mind cannot logically figure them out. In order to make sense of the image you use ideas that emerge mainly from your unconscious in a process calledprojection.
As author Anaïs Nin succinctly noted: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Projection occurs when your unconscious feelings, qualities and thoughts are placed onto external people, situations and objects. Remember, unconscious material are qualities which your ego does not appreciate as they do not suit what your ego thinks you are.
Therefore, rather than take ownership of these qualities, out they go. “I’m not like that!” exclaims your ego. Because projection deals with unknown and disowned parts of yourself, awareness and reflection of projection can lead to great personal insights.
Take the example of being at a four-way stop and observing a driver doing a rolling-stop before proceeding through the intersection with no chance of hitting or harming anyone. You immediately feel angry and are in disbelief as to how someone might do this.
In working with the projection, start with any feelingsthat arise in you. In this scenario, it might be shock, resentment, and anger. Go further by asking yourself, “What specifically were these feelings about?” Possible replies to the resentment might be, “It’s not fair!” or “How dare they not follow the rules.”
Take the projection further back. Remember, if this is shadow material, you are either over or undervaluing the quality. Ask yourself, “Where in my life am I doing too much or not enough of this trait?” In this case, you might ask, “How do I follow the rules too much? Where am I breaking the rules and don’t admit it?” Pay attention to the feelings. “Where I am feeling some unfairness? How am I being unfair to myself or to someone else?”
Throughout your daily interactions with others and even with your solitary tasks, projection shows the ego unknown qualities of yourself. The strong reaction to the incomplete stop indicates it is shadow material. If your ego was comfortable with not following the rules sometimes or understood that sometimes life is unfair, then there would not have been such an intense reaction.
In the case above, your ego might outwardly adhere to rules, but inwardly, unconsciously, your soul is letting you know, “Hey, that’s not so bad. Let’s try that once in a while.”
Projection also occurs around qualities deemed favourable. You can enviously admire someone for their creative ability and yet not realize your own. Taking the projection back, ask yourself, “Where am I creative? In what aspect of my life do I need to introduce some creative energy?”
Partners, friends, co-workers and strangers evoke reactions in you in order to increase your self-awareness.Your task is to claim these projections. As the poet Anne Waldman wrote, “Thе problem wіth уου iѕ thе problem wіth mе.”
Jung stated that to “confront a person with thеіr shadow іѕ tο ѕhοw thеm thеіr οwn light.” When you face yουr shadowy elements іt humanizes you, allowing you to be more compassionate and accepting of yourself and others.