Posted by: wellness training services | September 20, 2012

Taking A Step – Projections and how to learn from them.

One of our coaching students asked about projections.  Here is my take on the discussion of projection with an example from my own life.  While in my first marriage as a very young lady, I not only had a platonic relationship with a man other than my husband, I also made my sister-in-law angry at                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           me by saying something she didn’t like about her kids. As a result of these two events, a deep strain developed in my marriage which happened right after there was a flood in our city.  With all this adaptation going on, I had to add to the fact that the close family ties I was used to were now broken by something I had said. A big strain.

When I went uptown shopping and was around people in my hometown, I felt uncomfortable because I felt that people were talking about me. A paranoid reaction? Fortunately for me, due to the flood, most people in town were psychologically affected by the flood’s disaster (it was a major flood and ruined the city). People felt crazy half the time and strange behaviours were around all of us.  We all blamed our actions on the flood because we were all striving to survive at a difficult time; and my story was just one story among many.

Shortly after my sister-in-law’s anger at me, I started to take courses at the local college which gave me a mental focus and which eventually helped me to stabilize within and then a few months after my first semester, my first husband died.  After his death, I had a psychological breakthrough of suppressed anger which made me strong and which propelled me out to begin to know myself and to find my own answers to my life. I knew I had to learn more about myself and about life in general and I became a perpetual seeker – still am – I say that I have a divine discontent which provides me with inner tension to continue to seek, evolve, be activated, and want to continue to grow and be challenged.

Because I wanted to become more aware of understanding my behaviours, my feelings, and my thoughts, I started exploring information about human behaviour and motivation theory to increase my understanding of what makes us do the things we do. That is why I now say that we must stay awake, aware and alert about what is happening in our lives because we just never know what will trip us up. Nature always has a way of teaching us – informing us.  It is better for us if we can see the lesson before we get tripped up by it so that we can be pro-active and not reactive but be activated to respond. How do we know there is something to learn?  Tension.  And in the coaching course we say that tension is good in that it is designed to force us to reflect. Tension awakens us to pay attention.

The more alert, aware and awake we are, the better our chances we have to be proactive and empowered by the dynamism of life rather than defeated by it.  We have to face difficult things – we have to be strong in the face of adversity, be clear in the face of confusion and be willing to address and work on difficult situations and people. Cognitive problem-solving skills are helpful when looking for the hidden jewel of self-understanding in every situation.

In my own case, I recognized, in retrospect, that people talking about me was not that people were necessarily or actually talking about me, but that I projected my guilt onto people outside of me [a projection of my unconscious inner feelings of guilt that I was not able to recognize nor was I prepared to work on at that time] which made me very uncomfortable.  My projection and the related uncomfortable feelings were designed to get my attention – to at-tend to something – to become awake and to shed light on the ‘shadow’ of the unconscious guilty feelings. Once I became more aware of this, I could make clearer choices about my behaviours and what to do next, and in this regard, I moved from projection to informing myself of myself.

We all have shadows and parts of ourselves that are in the dark – that is what shadows are. Those dark parts can take our energy and zap our strength and cause us to trip up and hurt our self and others. We need to shed light on those parts and decide what we can do about them in order for us to be better guides to others and at the very best, in order for us not to be triggered by our clients, friends, and family members who can tap into and trigger our shadow and throw us off guard.

And this great definition that the one student gave is perfect: Projection – a person is projecting or throwing their feelings or behaviours onto someone else as they are not able to see that these feelings or behaviours are their own AND are not dealing with the underlying issue within themselves.

Stay awake, aware, and alert and strive to lead a well-tempered life – a life that possesses both hardiness and flexibility.  The good news is that once you are awake, it’s hard to go to sleep again, but if you do, do it on purpose and prepare yourself for the consequences.

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