The Power of Projections

I have been in a nearly consistent state of guilt for almost my entire life. I feel like I am always doing something wrong. So, for example, if I am in a room with other people, and I start to think that someone else is upset. Quickly, I could think of a reason that they would be upset with me, a reason to feel guilty. It could be anything. And the thing was, it always made sense. Why is this person upset? Oh because I didn’t go to that meeting they wanted me to go to. I’m guilty, I’m a messing up, I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what is wrong with me…on and on.

Why does this make sense? Because the rational brain uses the information it has to draw logical conclusions. But when it comes to the source of other people’s emotions, the information we have is extremely limited.  In fact, the rational mind is often unaware of the source of our own emotions. The rational mind perceives things, like our bodily sensations, but our ego has created mechanisms so that we do not understand those perceptions as our feelings. One of those mechanisms is projections.

So when we are trying to ‘figure out’ why ‘someone is upset’, this isn’t actually a thing that the rational mind is equipped to do since the inputs we have are so subjective and changeable, just as we know our own moods to be. When we do this, we create an opening for our own internal feelings of guilt to sound reasonable to us. Once these ‘explanations’ are brought up, the rational mind does not need to do any further research into our body’s sensations, our how we really feel, because it is attributed to something outside of us. In this way we are able to muffle the sensations of our bodies and avoid our soul by staying in our head. This is how projections are created and why they are so useful.

But here’s the kicker–the person we project onto is often as disconnected from their own emotions as you are. Just as you are asking yourself, how do I feel?, and you don’t know the answer, the person across from you is probably thinking a similar thing. When you stare at someone, or even if you ask them, ‘how are you doing?’, if you are thinking to yourself, ‘this person is upset’, they will pick up on your tone, on your body language. And then they might think–she thinks I am upset! Am I upset? Why would I be upset…oh, yeah, she didn’t go to that meeting she said she would go to. Ya she is such a flake. She needs to get her shit together. The person might even get upset about this. And that is why projections are so difficult to  let go of–because they can even be true. The person might actually start to feel upset about this, or have already been. But that does not mean it is not a projection.

From the perspective of the soul, both things can be true. From that place, the goal is never to be right. It is simply to be and experience what is. So, as the dreamwork therapy I am a student of teaches, it doesn’t matter whether your projection is true or not. The goal for you is to be in your real feelings, that is all. There is an intense struggle to break projections when other people are expressing the emotion you are also projecting. This is the power of the projection.

But the soul’s truth is simply to be what is. Until you break your projection you will not be able to evaluate your actions effectively. It’s not that you never do anything wrong–but only from the place of your real feelings, can real regret emerge as a pathway to change. Guilt, on the other hand will never lead you to the support and love you have to accept to move forward.



The Real Self

When I began dreamwork in May of 2009, my teacher Marc Bregman called my soul, my ‘real self’.

He probably used the term soul at first, and I said, what do you mean, soul?

That term had no meaning to me at all in my waking life. ‘Real self’ was a stretch. You have a real self  Marc told me. I remember clearly the excitement I felt when he told me this with such confidence. I had no idea what that could possibly feel like, or mean, but wow! What a concept. There is an aspect to my existence that is the real, true me! 

I understand that there are many people who don’t make this distinction in themselves. What do I mean when I say there is a ‘real me’? Isn’t everything we do the real us?

Well, it depends on your definition of real. In one sense, yes, whatever we do can be considered our ‘real’ selves. But what about the split we so often experience, between what we feel and what we do? Between doing something we ‘know’ we shouldn’t? What part of us wants us to do the thing, and what part of us ‘knows’ that it is bad? Where does our ‘conscience’ come from? Why is it so hard for us to make decisions?

These are what the split between the ‘real’ self and the ‘pathological’ self can look like on a day to day basis. This isn’t an absolute, because sometimes even if there is a two sided conversation going on in your head, both sides could be the illusion of pathology. But sometimes, this split is between your real self and your illusionary self, between the part of you that wants to paint pictures instead of coordinate a coat drive, the part of you that wants to write instead of watch reality television.

Why don’t we just call it the ‘good’ self and the ‘bad’ self, a split that we are all familiar with? Because we do not know what is good and what is bad. If we are identified mostly with our pathological selves, which most of us are, we may have decided that a whole host of pathological, illusory things are actually ‘good’ for us. In fact, pathology uses humanity’s desire to be ‘good’ to paralyze our souls, imprisoning us with guilt and shame and blame whenever we come to the decision that something is ‘good’ and thus something else is ‘bad’. Making judgments like this are often damaging to the soul.

Plus, it is really powerful and important to consider the pathological aspects of yourself as ‘not real’ rather than ‘bad’, since anytime we judge some part of ourselves to be bad, or bad in other people, we are just creating another place for pathology to make us feel guilty, shameful, or project those feelings onto others.

The soul has no idea what is good and what is bad for others, it can only feel what it feels for itself. As humans we possess consciousness, but we cannot be conscious about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We can just learn to notice when we are not in our feelings, in our ‘real selves’. This is what it means to fall from grace when we eat from the knowledge of good and evil.

It has taken just over three years for me to start to understand the distinction between this real self and the other in me. One of the hardest parts is accepting that this is not an understanding, but a feeling. In this sense it is not a distinction I can rationalize, but is actually a leap of faith.

The idea that there is a real you is not something that I can convince you of through argument. It is something you have to feel, over and over, until you can learn to feel the pain when it is gone, the rush when it is there, the ways that it escapes from you, the utterly personal ways it meanders through your veins. This is one of the primary gifts of the dream, every night, giving you all the experiences you need to remind you of who you are meant to be, who you have always been.