Let’s talk about projection. Not the old way our grandparents used to watch movies, but the way we tend to project our insecurities on those close to us, often seriously damaging our relationships. It’s fairly easy to know when someone is projecting on us. Most likely we feel as though we have been grossly misinterpreted, or that someone’s created a story about us that is completely false.
It’s more difficult to realize when we are projecting on others, as we all create stories that we are accustomed to believing. At the same time, we know that the further our stories are from reality the more we suffer and cause suffering.
So how do we reconcile this very human behavior?
We recognize it. At a recent retreat with Lama Tsomo, we spoke in depth about projection. As long as we are human, we have the propensity to project and from time to time will be guilty of doing so. Major indicators of such projection are strong and negative emotions towards a fellow human. On any given day, an array of different characters livewithin us. Each is capable of projecting on anyone if triggered. This is inescapable, so what’s the next step?
We do something about it. Our practice teaches us to recognize our thoughts and feelings, scan our bodies, then take that critical pause before assigning meaning to those thoughts and feelings and reacting. Remember, we do not have to jump on every train that comes roaring through our minds. Lama Tsomo recommends deciding on a code word to use when triggered. That way you and the person you are communicating with know what is going on and that you may need a moment to stop, assess, then thoughtfully respond. We should also ask ourselves, “What negative trait am I trying to place on that person in order to deny that trait is my own?” Our practice gives us tools, but we have to make the choice to use those tools.
We keep practicing. Ideally, we could recognize when we are projecting and stop. But, we’re human and managing our projections will be a lifelong practice. Fortunately, there is comfort in knowing we’re not alone in this work.
May we all continue to practice approaching our uncomfortable interactions with curiosity rather than certainty.
Interested in working with your projections? Join us for an insightful weekend retreat with Aaron Stern, co-founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning, and Marianne Murray, Academy core faculty. We’ll learn practices to dismantle our engrained stories and assumptions, and see ourselves and others more clearly.
Published on May 23 09 : 00 am