Day 278 - Examples...
I am really tripping on this whole projective identification thing. It is super clear to me how this really messes up relationships! Yesterday I promised a few concrete examples so here we go:
You are walking through a store when you run into someone you haven’t seen in awhile. That person says, “Hey have you lost weight?” You say “no I haven’t!” You walk away thinking that you are skinnier because you have accepted this other person’s view of you as reality. In reality, nothing is different. Just one person thinks you look skinnier than you did the last time they saw you. That is reality. However, you or me might create a whole bunch of stories about this other person’s projection:
“I look great! I can eat whatever I want because I have been and I in fact look skinnier than I did before when I was watching what I ate.”
Less Often Said:
“I look too thin. I am starving myself and it is showing up and I should eat more.”
Almost Never Said:
“I see that this person I haven’t seen in awhile thinks that I look skinnier. That is all that just happened. Nothing changed. Because I am not going to write a story around one persons’ perception of me.”
You are dating someone but are super afraid that they are going to cheat on you or leave you. You start accusing the person of looking at other women. In fact, he isn’t looking at other women. He is really in love with you. However you accuse him of this so often that he starts looking at other women. Eventually he does leave you because you have projected all of your fears and insecurities onto him so that he becomes what you fear most.
You are having a bad day. You are not liking who you are, your circumstances in life and are generally unhappy. This has been the case for a long time. In fact, it goes back to your own parenting when you were little and you got the message that your parents didn’t like you or told you that they didn’t approve of you. You now have an image of yourself that is not likeable. You take this into your role as parent...and you project your hurt and frustration all over your children so that they feel like you don’t like them.
In the end, the person who is targeted with the projection starts thinking, feeling and behaving in line with what is being projected onto them.
But we do it all the time about little things. We think our partner is always late when in fact they are mostly on time but lately they have been struggling with new job demands so they haven’t been as punctual as usual. We begin telling how thoughtless they are about always being late, they begin to show up late to everything even when they aren’t working.
I think the key is to become aware, accept that you do this as does everyone else, and then begin to take action as it shows up in your life.
I like experimenting...so today I am going to set an intention of watching myself and all the ways I deploy projective identification and then will report back tomorrow on every example I have from today.
Perhaps this seems like a useless exercise to some but how can we ever have a productive and meaningful relationship with someone when we are walking around creating projections all over people? And if we can’t stop doing it, perhaps could we work to create the projections to be more positive and life affirming? I mean if we can’t shake the delusion, can we at least change its scope and impact?
Using my examples from above:
“I really like John and he means a lot to me. I see absolutely nothing in his character that tells me he is a cheater: he has never cheated before, I can trust that his reports of his past conduct are true because I know him well enough to know that he has a reputation for being honest. So perhaps this fear is based on my past and not his. Perhaps I am misplacing my projection and if I take it back, perhaps John can just be John and I can meet him there?”
“I had a hard childhood. My parents did the best they could but they were broken damaged people who gave me a lot of misguided information about myself. They didn’t do it on purpose but they did create a story about me that I no longer am willing to believe is true. I can see how this negative self image is being projected onto my kids and my relationship with them. I am going to cull back my own negative self talk and work to create a new dialog with my kids.”
I can’t wait to see how many I come up with today! I am sure it is going to be fascinating information and I am even more sure that as many as I find, there are going to be plenty of others that I miss. This is why in a partnership you can help each other see when you are doing it. But only if you have created the kind of relationship that is founded on truth and not delusion. An environment where both parties are committed to talking and discussing the truth, rather than acting out in unconscious ways the shared delusion.
If you see examples in your own life, please drop me a message! I would love to hear what you see that you haven’t seen before!
Namaste to all of you on the path!