A Coaching Power Tool created by Aleka Thorvalson
(Life Strategies Coach, UNITED STATES)
Projection is a popular world is self-help circles. You may be familiar with phrases like,
if you spot it you got it or One finger pointing at another leaves 3 fingers pointing at you.
- Yet what is projection and might it actually serve an important purpose?
- What is its relationship to the opposite energy of integration?
- And why is understanding the dance of projection and integration important in relation to self-fulfillment, better health finding or finding purpose, worthiness, and lasting peace in our lives?
But first…a brief sojourn into the shadow
To really understand projection and integration we must start with the concept of shadow because it is interwoven into the definition.
- From a psychological perspective our shadow is the repository of our unwanted qualities or feelings, even memories and beliefs that we have collected about ourselves and the world.
- There is a tendency to hide in our shadow what has been deemed by us or others to be “unacceptable” in some way.
- Our shadow serves an extremely important purpose. Connection and acceptance is intrinsic to thriving so we learn how to edit parts to conform as best we can and get these needs met.
- This formation of our shadow is primarily an unconscious process.
The examples of what we might edit out of our personality and hide in our shadow can be pretty obvious. For example, we are likely familiar with people who felt they had to hide their sexuality. Perhaps, they got the message their preference was unacceptable in some way so they might closet or hide that part of themselves in shadow. Trauma can be another more obvious example. It is a dynamic act of self-care to place in the shadow what we cannot comprehend or integrate at the time it occurred.
Yet, often what we bury may not be so obvious Remember; we tend to stash whatever was deemed unacceptable by our culture, family, or friends. Along these lines we may feel the need to hide our creativity, our honest expression of self, our intuition, our feelings, our fear, our shame, and even what we might love.
So what’s Projection?
Projection is a self-defense and protective mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. We may blame another. We may judge another. We may shame or get angry at another. We may spend lots of energy complaining about the weather, the government, our boss, our kids or our spouse. We do this with the unconscious survival strategy that if it is “them” then it is not me.
In addition, we ALL project to some extent. We project on our parents, the people in the grocery store, the government, politicians, the environment, our children, our significant other, our friends, our bodies, our animals… Basically, if it has a name it can be projected upon. Additionally, the stronger we deny it in ourselves the more intensely we project it onto others. In the words of Shakespeare,
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
So if we all do it, what’s the problem?
Projecting our shadow qualities and pretending they do not exist does not make them go away. Instead what happens is that they show up in our lives as life events. The truth is we do not create what we want in our lives but what we believe about ourselves. So, while we want to believe we are worthy if there is a powerful shadowy underlying belief that we are not then we are stuck. Projection can absolutely impede our growth, our happiness, and even our health because it keeps us distracted from the REAL issue. If it is them and not us than there is no way to effect real and lasting change. We become the very definition of powerless and can erode into a victim stance. We may get fixated on distractions, maybe addictions, trying to numb feelings that may seep through the walls we have erected to hold the shadow in place. We may find ourselves creating facades to wear in the world with the hope that if we can convince “them” of our perfection then maybe we can convince ourselves. We could find ourselves in habitual life patterns like job losses, or feeling rejection as we live out our unconscious beliefs. You get the idea. Staying stuck in projection means that we are living half a life; we are half a self with the other half in darkness.
To be empowered we must be whole, and to be whole we must be authentic, and to be authentic we must be honest. We all have shadow parts of ourselves. We all have judgments, insecurities, fears, shame, and prejudices that we would rather ignore and are likely outside our conscious awareness. We all have a facade, a mask, which we project out to the world in the hope our shadow can be ignored.