Overcoming the Amygdala Part 65
It might seem incredible or even impossible to you that we are constantly projecting something personal and meaningful onto all the people and things around us. Perhaps the best way to approach the concept is simply to observe it. Watch yourself, listen to others, pay attention to what is said about you, pay attention to what you say about others — see if you can see how the projections are manifesting in your environment. The process of projection is not conscious; it’s spontaneous rather than being planned; it’s subtle rather than obvious.
Remember that what we are projecting onto others and our surroundings are our inward-looking worlds, the worlds that we don’t often look at directly.
If you believe that your ‘ego’, your conscious, waking self, the outward-looking part of you, is the whole You, you’re more likely to be projecting without knowing it — which is a kind of quandary for you, isn’t it? The qualities of objects, places, people and everything in your surroundings are coloured by your inner world. Think of those politicians who always think they are in the right, who in their own eyes are totally blameless and correct about everything, but always finding the opposition wrong, malicious, evil, and the source of all the country’s troubles. They are one example of people who accept that their outer world is their whole Self, and, in so doing, miss the more interesting and liberating truth entirely.
The inner world isn’t all bad, by the way: it’s positive as well as negative. We normally associate the interior of ourselves with negative and destructive forces, but that’s partly because we know so little about it because we hardly ever look at it.
For the moment, probably what you really need right now is some examples. So let’s take a look at some real life relationships which most of us have had some part of in our lives, starting with that of a husband and wife.
Take a look at your spouse, if you have one. Or at someone else’s relationship, if it’s more comfortable.
To what extent is he or she the ‘answer to your dreams’? Are there aspects to him or her which grate on your nerves or don’t seem to fit the original ‘template’ which attracted you to them in the first place? Did you ‘fall in love’, or get to know the person gradually and discover their ‘real’ selves before your relationship was established?
Your answers will be unique to you and there are no right or wrong responses. You might discover that you have in fact married a projection; you might find that you did so originally, but since then came to know and love them for who they really are. You might find that you are a projection of theirs, in the sense that they keep seeing their own ‘dream spouse’ standing there rather than the real you.
Sanity and truth are encouraged either way once you look: the relationship is either based on fantasy and liable to fall apart, or it’s grown into a healthier and more balanced cooperation between two individuals.
Similarly with children: To what extent is your child a ‘mini-version’ of yourself? Are there aspects to him or her which frustrate you because they don’t match your projected goal? As you grew to know your child as an individual, did they surprise you by developing traits or characteristics quite outside what you expected? To what degree do you think you as a parent are a projection of their inner needs?
What about your relationship with your doctor or therapist? Your minister? Your teachers? Your solicitor? Your neighbours? How do you respond to strangers?
A defining characteristic of many relationships in life is that one of the persons possesses an authority, a knowledge, a skill, a position of repute, a desirable lifestyle, or something that the other envies, needs or desires. Perhaps your projection onto them reflects something from your own history. Or it might go deeper, into areas we haven’t yet touched upon.
And each person listed is also projecting onto you to some extent.
Projection extends into social relationships, the world of your job, politics, society at large, nations and international relations. Think of how the Cold War was really two sides projecting the worst of each other onto each other. Group projection can range in its manifestation from a manic, mob-like possession on the one hand to a more methodical maintaining of the status quo on the other. On the scale of nations against nations, we can see many examples beyond Russia versus the USA: Pakistan/India, USA/Iraq, Ireland/Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine are just some that come to mind. In each case, both sides rabidly project the darkest of themselves across the border, with little hope of engaging with realities.
We also project our inner material upon things we make. Painting, which began with efforts to express innermost dreams and desires in cave paintings and went on to try to capture the otherworldliness of Heaven and the spirit in the Middle Ages, then became more strictly representative of what the artist was ‘seeing’ in portraits and landscapes of the Renaissance and later centuries. But the movement towards representational painting occurred in parallel to the movement to explicitly separate the ‘conscious’ from the ‘unconscious’ — which is a whole separate topic. In brief, especially modern or expressive paintings evoke all kinds of thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc directly, and are intended to. Art of this kind can serve as a window onto our inner worlds.
What we see and how it affects us involves projection: we project our inner worlds upon cars, homes, gardens, cities, the countryside, art, even sounds. Why do we do this?
Because it’s in our fundamental nature to do so.
All of life is us projecting.
This includes religion, which deserves its own chapter.