Projection. Projection. Projection. Catch yourself.

Do you project? Projection can look a few different ways and we often have no idea that we are doing it!

Projection can be part of our shadow and as Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst) says, “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”

Projection can be when you judge a behavior in another while missing the fact that you are also guilty of that EXACT SAME behavior. Have you ever been annoyed that your partner is always distracted on their phone? Chances are you are projecting, because you are also not present to your partner in the ways that you are demanding of them.

Okay, okay! I hear you protesting!

Yes. It is still projection if you are very present with your partner but you unnecessarily glance down at your phone when you are with your kids or are having a coffee with a friend. If you do the thing that you judge, ever, at any time, and complain when others do it, it’s projecting. Until we hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others to, we need to get serious about our projection detection! Whenever I get mad at someone for anything I have learned to stop when I see the heat rising and I ask myself one question, “How and when do I do that same thing or something similar?” This self inquiry releases the uncomfortable charge and can relax tension in your body.

The “YOU ARE WHAT YOU JUDGE” projection is not the only form of projection though.

Another form of projection is when you assume others want or need something specific but it’s actually what YOU want.

I call this, “GIVING THE UNSOLICITED GIFT” projection.

Do you graciously clear your housemate’s dishes without them asking? Do you fold your partner’s laundry when they have never requested this of you? Do you pay for your friend’s dinner because you think they want or need the kind gesture?

Yes. Who doesn’t do these things?

The thing is though, we think we are being kind and generous in these unsolicited ways entirely for others. More often than not though, we are projecting our desires or needs onto others, unconsciously hoping they will read the non verbal signs and reciprocate the gestures. We are giving a gift that is then (to our surprise) not only often not reciprocated but we are also met with (what we deem as) inadequate expressions of gratitude.

When was the last time you were mad at someone because they didn’t appreciate what you do for them?

Please, continue to be nice and giving! No one is saying you should stop being the kind soul that you are. However, as a way to awaken to yourself, it’s a good idea to be aware of your projections because they can help you see your own needs Maybe you want someone to care for you and if they do your dishes or fold your laundry you will feel seen?

I used to think people wanted me to show up for them in very specific ways, and on a very rigid timeline. I thought that people would not know that I cared about them or know that I loved them unless I was particularly responsive and attentive. As a result of my healing journey and my deep exploration of self, I have come to realize that many of my actions were motivated by a projection of my own needs. I thought I was “reading” others and anticipating their needs but I now realize I was doing a lot of assuming!  Let me be clear though, many of my friends and family were happy that I returned texts or e-mails in a timely manner or never missed a birthday, but in retrospect I realize that this treadmill of living up to what I perceived as others’ needs left me feeling exhausted. 

How often do you self abandon because you “think you know” what your loved ones need and you reflexively commit to those perceived desires? For example, how often do you take away your Mom’s opportunity to express what she wants and just show up (on her birthday or on holidays) because you are in an unconscious dynamic where you are playing the role of the “good kid?”  How often do you fulfill the imagined wants of your parents (still!) before you even ask yourself if what you are doing is good for you, too?

You don’t owe anyone anything (and this includes your aging parents)!  If you think you do, that feeling of debt is very likely motivated by your wounded inner child. Especially if you feel indebted at the expense of yourself, chances are you have a belief, “I need to put others needs first, or I will lose the ones I love.” This belief likely developed because as a child this was true so you naturally assumed this is how the world works. The thing is though…it’s really impossible to know what everyone else needs all the time, so to combat this inconvenient truth, we project our needs onto others, in order to be loved and accepted.

So what is it that YOU really want and need?!

Awakening to your true self and your desires is like approaching a feral cat. Go slow at first. You might not know what this cat all about. Be careful and attentive. Attune yourself to her energy. See what works and doesn’t work through gentle experimentation and watch for feedback. Sometimes cats change their minds in an instant, you rub her shoulder and she loves it, the next minute she is hissing at you. Stay flexible with yourself, your needs may also change! Have the same level of curiosity and respect for your boundaries.

Once we know what we want then we have an incredible opportunity to move up a life level to… COMMUNICATION! Refining how we communicate with others (and with the Universe!) is like getting a black belt in karate. Totally possible with some commitment and focus but also very impressive in a world of brown belts. Becoming aware of how you project is an incredibly useful insight to cut through the noise and discern what you actually want and need in your very unique life so you can communicate it to others.

When you get good at projection detection and realize how much you are deflecting onto others that is when you also start to fully understand the saying “everything is here for you.” Projection isn’t a shameful thing to do, it is, in a sense, a tool created by you so you can wake up to yourself.  It’s only when you have another viewpoint (like watching a projection of yourself on TV!) that it becomes possible to transcend the character that was never really you, anyway.

I will leave you with another great Carl Jung quote; “The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed.”

And, so it is.


Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels


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