The usual way to talk about projections is that we are mirrors for each other. What I see in you is something I recognize from myself, whether I am aware of it – and want to admit to it – or not.
And yet, there are a few more sides to this and it’s helpful to be aware of them.
Projections come from an overlay of our mental field on the world.
Our thoughts consist of mental images and words. We can call this our “mental field”, along with the other sense fields of sight, sound, sensations, taste, body movement, and so on.
This mental field creates a kind of overlay on the world as it appears to us, and it’s how we divide, label and interpret the world, and give meaning to anything. It’s essential for us to orient and function in the world, and it’s inherently flawed and is ultimately made up of questions – or guesses – about the world.
Any ideas I have about you and the world happen within my own mental field. It’s not inherent in you or the world, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect anything inherent in you or the world. Although these ideas just happen and live their own life, they are also mine. And to the extent I recognize that, I can take responsibility for them and how I relate to them.
When we close our eyes, it’s easier for us to notice this mental overlay. Close your eyes. Imagine the room you are sitting in. Your body. The neighborhood. The world. People you know. This imagination all happens was mental images, and this imagination is there also with the eyes open.
At a human level, what we see in the world is also in us.
People and the world is a mirror for me. When I describe anyone or anything, I describe myself.
I can find the same in myself, in the moment I put it on someone else and also in other situations in my life.
It may differ in degree and in how it looks, but the essence is here as much or than it is in others or the wider world.
Also, how I relate to it in others is how I relate to it in myself. Do I want to be more connected with it? Do I have aversion to it? Have I found peace with it? (In the latter case, it’s usually because I have actively explored and found it in myself.)
All of this happens within and as what we are.
My experiences – of anything, of myself, of the wider world – happens within and as what I am. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me.
I can say that to myself, I am consciousness, and all my experiences – including of this human being, others, the world – happens within and as consciousness. It cannot be any other way, whether we notice or not.
From here, it’s clear that any idea of “me” versus you and the wider world comes from the mental overlay. It’s a boundary created by mental images, and it seems real and inherent in the world to the extent our system takes it as real.
To me, you and the world happen within me.
Each one of these can be recognized or not, to varying degrees.
When I see something – a characteristic – in the wider world, I can see it also in myself or not. And if I see it in myself, I can recognize it while still struggling with it, or I can find more peace with it.
I can also be more or less aware of my own mental field overlay on the world. I may think – and perceive and live – as if it’s somehow inherent in the world itself. Or I can recognize that all my labels, interpretations, and stories are created right here.
And I can be more or less aware of how all of this – all of my experiences of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as what I am. I am capacity for all of it.
How does this look in daily life?
I can only write from my own experience, as it is now.
Most of the time, I don’t actively think of any of this.
If I notice that I have judgments of others with energy attached to it –whether it’s aversion or attraction, I know it’s a blind projection. I am seeing something in the other I don’t fully see in myself and haven’t found peace with. This creates some space in my relationship to the blind projection, I make a mental note of it, and may – and mostly do – explore it later.
I am often aware of the mental overlay on my world – made up of mental images and words. When I look at the world, I also see the images and know these are my images. They are not inherent in the world. Often, this goes more in the background. And sometimes, when it seems more needed, this noticing is more active and goes more into the foreground.
It’s similar with noticing experiences happening within and as what I am. It’s always there, although sometimes at a low level and more in the background. Other times, it’s a more active noticing and it comes more into the foreground.
Why is this important?
I find it fascinating in itself, whether or not is has any use or function. That said, there are some practical reasons to explore this.
If I am blind to the mirror-projections, I act from distorted perception. I see myself as fundamentally different from the other person and may use it as a reason to treat the other differently from how I myself would like to be treated.
If I am more conscious about these projections, I can actively explore in myself what I see in the other. I can find how we are in the same boat and find more empathy for both of us. I can find more peace with what I am seeing in myself and the other. I can expand my repertoire of what qualities I can live from in myself.
Noticing the mental field overlay, and how it all happens within and as what I am, supports working with conventional projections. And these two also come with their own benefits, which I have written about in other articles.