Although a great deal has been said about the nature of projection in the current discourse of pop psychology, it is nevertheless a concept that seems to cause a lot of confusion. The idea behind it is that things, people and events that we are interested in carry meaning, feeling or energy to the degree that some of our essential psychic content is projected onto it.
To try to paraphrase Jung on this complicated subject – an empathizing individual wants to feel his or her own life in the object, and by an unconscious fantasy either devalues or depotentiates the object or enhances its value or importance. In this way the individual gains a feeling of control over the object.
A person with a strong thinking function can find him or herself in a frightening situation that seeks to overpower them. Their response is to think up strategies and rationalizations that allow them to hold their own in the face of an overwhelming reality that threatens to smother them. They retreat mistrustfully and ‘build up a protective anti-world composed of abstractions’. Abstraction, (a strong thinking function) according to Jung, seems to be a function that is at war with the original state of mystical identification of our early ancestors. In contrast, the individual with the empathic attitude lives in ‘in a world that needs his subjective feeling to give it life and soul.’ He or she gains power over the object by projecting values onto it.
One of the most startling examples of the nature and reality of projection is in the work of the Japanese photographer, Dr. Masaru Emoto. Dr. Emoto’s work demonstrates that when we project energy onto an object – in this case water – it has a direct effect. The water crystals are extremely responsive to the energy and will change in shape and quality depending on the nature of the projection. Given that our bodies are approximately 70% water, this might serve as a wake-up call to monitoring your own emotional state. It is clear from Emoto’s work that our negative thoughts and emotions have a direct impact on our physical being, and when we project those negative thoughts on others we are having a destructive influence on the world around us.
It should also alert us to the awareness of the reality of projections. Fundamentally, there is no objective reality that we can all agree on. In other words, there is no there, there. This was articulated by Heisenberg in his Uncertainty-Principle:
There is no objective reality in the world of interpersonal relations either. We can only see the object or the person through our own particular filters. If your filter is clouded with anger and resentment, what do you think you will tend to see? And not only that, the energy you project onto the object will start to change it to be in accordance with what you are projecting! We live in a sea of energy, but until we start to take responsibility for the reality we are generating, we will flop around like victims in a sea of unseen force-fields.
In terms of our relationships with others, our positive projections on others are rarely troublesome until, with a familiarity that often comes with the passage of time, the object or our affection or admiration begins to lose its glow. Without consciousness this can lead to disappointment and disenchantment.
Generally speaking, the negative projections are the most difficult to deal with because we unconsciously transfer our own difficult shadow material onto the other. When we begin to appreciate that what we see and judge as being out there begins in large degree within us, we can start to realize when we are assigning blame or fault to the ‘other’. If we can withdraw the projection and begin to acknowledge that the shadow material is also in us (note, I do not say solely) then we have a chance to change how we see things and to potentially change the outcome. That which angers us most in other people is most often an unmet aspect of ourselves. This is the bitter pill of projection and why it matters. [Jung, Psychological Types]