All maps are projections.
They are projections in a few different ways.
First, they are projections of our ideas. They are an overlay of ideas and thoughts that the mind puts on (it’s images of) the world. This helps us orient and function in the world, and is essential for our survival.
Often, they are also projections of our own characteristics and qualities. We can find in ourselves the characteristics we see in the wider world. It may not be as strong or explicit, but it’s here if we look.
And sometimes, our maps are expressions of our unresolved emotional issues. They express our hopes and fears, how we would like the world and ourselves to be, and what we fear it may be.
We have many different maps of ourselves, the world, and our place in the world – whether they are formal or informal; explicit or implicit; about the world, ourselves, or our relationship with the world; and whether we recognize them as maps or not.
Some maps are explicit and what we typically call maps. For instance, political and geographical maps.
Some maps may not be what we think of as maps. For instance, some ways we categorize people (politically, social status, friends or not etc.); our mental timeline of past-present-future; and our general world-view (materialistic, heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, planetary influences, gods, God, nondual), and so on.
Some maps are mostly outside of our conscious awareness – and may even be contrary to our conscious ideas about the world, although they still have a major impact on how we experience the world and ourselves. These are often (somewhat charged) ideas about other people, ourselves, and the world as a whole.
Most of our maps are shared with others in our family, subculture, and culture. Some may be shared with most of humanity. And even the ones that may seem unique to us are probably shared with many others.
It’s often useful to recognize our explicit and implicit maps as maps. It helps us hold them more lightly and not invest so much identity and fears and hopes into them. At least at a conscious level, we know they are used by our mind to make sense of the world. They are questions about the world, leave a lot out, and are not in any way the final word.
Also, recognizing our maps as projections can help us get to know and understand ourselves better. We can use them as pointers for healing for ourselves as individuals and even for us as a society.
Here are some examples.
I have a mental map of past-present-future. And yet, it’s created by my mind and is an idea, and it happens here and now. My map and what I place on the map all happens here and now. This helps me hold my ideas of past, future, and present – and what happened or may happen –more lightly.
I may have mental maps inherited from my culture that rank people based on (relatively superficial) characteristics like gender, ethnicity, politics, religion and so on. It’s helpful to recognize this, question its validity, and find all of it in myself.
I may have religious maps – of heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, divine beings and so on, and myself in relation to it. Again, it helps to see that these are maps. They are projection of ideas into (my image of) the world. This helps me hold it all more lightly. And here too, I can use these maps to find it all already in me and my experience, and perhaps to point to some unresolved issues (fears, hopes) in me.
I may have esoteric maps of planetary influences, divine beings, energies, energy systems and so on. The same goes here for holding it more lightly and finding it all – the images and anything charged about it – in myself.
A map can even be of a situation. I may have a mental map of a situation where I see myself as wronged or a victim, and that map is part of what holds the pain or trauma in place. These are the types of maps is helpful to identify and investigate in a healing process.
I can still use all of these maps. We need maps to orient and function in the world. And yet, it’s helpful to recognize them as maps and sometimes explore them as projections. It helps us hold them more lightly. It helps us question their validity and perhaps replace them with other maps that are more helpful. It helps us find it all – what we see in the world – in ourselves. And it may point to something unresolved in us we can find healing for.