We know others through projections. Or, rather, we imagine the other through our projections.
There is nothing wrong in this. On the contrary, it’s how we are able to function in the world.
This projection can be blind or conscious.
Imagining other people
Say I imagine someone is angry. I project that onto them in my own imagination. And several things may be going on here. She may actually be angry, in her own experience, in which case the projection is relatively accurate and helpful. She may not experience anger, and if she tells me I can revise my imagination of what’s going. I may or may not be aware of anger in myself. Perhaps I too experience anger in that situation?
I may or may not be aware of this as a projection or imagination. If I am aware of it as a projection, I hold it lighter and as a question. I am more receptive and able to change or refine it in the light of new information. I am also more open to see the same in myself as I imagine in the other person.
If I am not aware of it as a projection, I tend to hold it more firmly. I may not be receptive to adjust how I imagine the other person, and I may not be open to seeing in myself what I imagine in the other.
Imagining the world
We project not just on other people but on the whole world. I imagine the world as it is outside of what’s here in my sense fields, and I also put an imagination overlay on what’s here in what I see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and so on.
The same goes here. If I am aware of these projections and that I imagine it, I hold it more lightly, I am more receptive to adjust it, and I can more easily find in myself what I project out.
For instance, I have an image of New York and I project it out onto the world – I imagine it a third around the world and to the west. I am not in New York so it’s clearly an imagination and a projection. Along with this basic image of the city, I have many other images and stories that tell me how (I imagine) New York is and was and may be and my personal experiences with it through being there, talking with people about it, and seeing it in movies.
If I am aware of this as images and projections, I see these as just my current imagination and questions about the city and I am receptive to other information about it. I can also find in myself the qualities and dynamics I imagine in New York. Perhaps I see it as tough, busy, driven, art-oriented, and so on, and I can find all of that in myself.
If I am not aware of this as my imagination and projections, I may be less receptive to information that doesn’t fit my current images, and I may not see in myself what I see in the city.